Gonzaga Takes On Baylor in the N.C.A.A. Men’s Tournament Final
Gonzaga is attempting to be the first team since 1976 to win a national championship and go undefeated. Baylor stands in the way. Here’s the latest.,
Gonzaga is attempting to be the first team since 1976 to win a national championship and go undefeated. Baylor stands in the way. Tipoff is at 9:20 p.m. Eastern, with the game televised on CBS.
When Roy Williams retired last week after 33 seasons as the head coach at North Carolina, there was widespread speculation about who would fill the shoes of a man who won three N.C.A.A. championships at one of the top programs in the country.
That speculation ended Monday, hours before the national championship game, when the school named Hubert Davis, 50, as Williams’s successor. Davis, who helped lead the Tar Heels to the 1991 Final Four and most recently served as Williams’s associate head coach, becomes the first Black head coach in the program’s history.
Davis was set to be formally introduced during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead this program,” Davis said in a statement.
“I love this University. I played here, I earned my degree here, I fell in love with my wife here, I got married here, I moved here after I retired from the N.B.A. and I have raised my family here,” he added. “I am proud to lead this team, and I can’t wait for all that comes next.”
Several teams in the Big 12 have also been busy on the coaching carousel. Oklahoma on Friday named former Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser as the successor to Lon Krueger, who retired at 68. Krueger was one of just three coaches (along with Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino) to lead five universities to the N.C.A.A. tournament. Moser, 52, went 188-140 (.573) in 10 seasons at Loyola and led the Ramblers on a surprise run to the Final Four in 2018, with an assist from Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, and then a round of 16 appearance this season.
The Moser news came on the same day Kansas signed Bill Self to a lifetime contract and one day after Texas hired Chris Beard away from Big 12 rival Texas Tech.
Self won a championship in 2008, but Kansas has recently been under N.C.A.A. scrutiny in the wake of the federal government’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. Self’s contract contains a clause that the university will not fire him for cause “due to any infractions matter that involves conduct that occurred on or prior to the date of full execution of this agreement.”
Beard led Texas Tech to the 2019 championship game, where the Red Raiders lost to Virginia. He began his career as a graduate assistant at Texas.
Texas Tech has had several players enter the transfer portal, and it’s possible some of them could follow Beard to Texas.
In the Big East, Marquette replaced the fired Steve Wojciechowski with Shaka Smart, who grew up in Madison, Wis., and has ties to the area. In six seasons at Texas, Smart failed to win an N.C.A.A. tournament game, and this year the No. 3-seeded Longhorns were stunned in the first round by No. 14 seed Abilene Christian.
At DePaul, the school is replacing Dave Leitao with longtime Oregon associate head coach Tony Stubblefield. The Big East will now have six Black head coaches among 11 men’s basketball teams.
Gonzaga is seeking to become the first men’s team to finish unbeaten since Bob Knight’s Indiana club went 32-0 on the way to the 1976 national championship. The Bulldogs are also seeking their first N.C.A.A. title, though they have had plenty of deep tournament runs. They lost in the 2017 title game to a North Carolina team coached by Roy Williams, who announced his retirement on Friday and had three titles in his career.
Coach Scott Drew and Baylor are also seeking their program’s first national championship. The Bears are appearing in the title game for the first time since 1948.
“Amazing, we’ve worked hard through this struggle of a season but we stayed together,” guard Jalen Suggs, a Gonzaga freshman, said in a television interview after draining the game-winning shot in a 93-90 victory over U.C.L.A. late Saturday night.
“I can’t put this one into words, turning dreams into reality and now we get ready for Baylor,” Suggs said. “They’re a tough team.”
Even though Gonzaga has not lost since Feb. 22, 2020, against Brigham Young, the Bears have history on their side. This is just the fifth time since the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll began in the early 1960s that the teams ranked No. 1 (Gonzaga) and No. 2 (Baylor) will meet in the title game. Each of the previous four games were won by the team ranked second: Cincinnati over Ohio State in 1962, U.C.L.A. over Michigan in 1965, UConn over Duke in 1999 and Duke over Arizona in 2001.
Led by Drew Timme’s 25 points, Gonzaga put up 56 points in the paint against U.C.L.A., and the Bears will have to have an answer for that. Baylor is led by experienced guards and wings, and its frontcourt players Mark Vital and Flo Thamba are solid if not spectacular.
Baylor is led by an all-American junior guard, Jared Butler, who had 17 points in the semifinal rout of Houston, and another junior guard, Davion Mitchell, who dished out 12 assists with 11 points as the Bears won, 78-59. After last year’s tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, both Butler and the senior guard MaCio Teague tested the N.B.A. draft waters but opted to come back for another shot at the title.
“That was one of my goals, and I know some of my teammates’ goals, just to leave a legacy at Baylor, create Baylor as a blue blood,” Butler said.
Larry Bird’s Indiana State team was 33-0 entering the 1979 title game against Magic Johnson and Michigan State.
Michigan State featured not only Johnson, then a sophomore, but also Greg Kelser, a 6-foot-7 forward who was later chosen in the first round of the N.B.A. draft.
“We felt that our zone could affect them,” Johnson said on CBS before the semifinal games. “We double-teamed Larry every chance we got and we were able to pull off the victory,” 75-64.
Bird averaged 28.6 points, 14.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game during his junior season after averaging 30 points as a sophomore and nearly 33 as a freshman. In the national semifinal against DePaul, he made 16 of 19 field-goal attempts and had 16 rebounds and nine assists.
Johnson, like many others in the basketball world, was hoping for a Gonzaga-Baylor final entering the Final Four.
“Gonzaga is such a well-balanced team, they can shoot from the outside, they got great inside players,” he said. “And that’s what we say with Baylor, they were dominant inside as well as outside.
“The best two teams in college basketball were Baylor and Gonzaga all season long.”
Jalen Suggs is expected to be among the top three picks in this year’s draft on July 29.
Only one player in the last decade has won an N.C.A.A. championship and gone on to become the No. 1 pick over all: Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in 2012.
The Oklahoma State freshman point guard Cade Cunningham and the Southern California freshman 7-footer Evan Mobley are expected to be among the top picks along with Suggs, with many mock drafts projecting Cunningham at No. 1.
But Brian Sandifer, the director of the Grassroots Sizzle program for which Suggs played, believes the Minnesota native, 6-foot-4, deserves to be the top pick in part because of his history of winning. As a quarterback for Minnehaha Academy, Suggs’s team went 25-1 and appeared in two state championships, winning one. He was recruited by Ohio State and Notre Dame, among others, to play football.
“Jalen Suggs is the best player in the draft, period,” Sandifer said in a phone interview. “I’ve never wavered from that. If you watch how they play and you do the resume checks on all the kids, Jalen Suggs has won at every level that he’s played, football, basketball, whatever.”