Last Monday, the 2021 Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship game took place in Indianapolis, Indiana. This game was the culmination of an uncertain season that many people thought would not even happen. Because the season did happen, it showed that despite many changes that took place to have this season, it was still able to be successful, and a champion could be crowned.
The final game of the 2020-2021 season was between the number one seed Baylor Bears and the number one seed Gonzaga Bulldogs. Up to this point in the season, Gonzaga had yet to lose a game while Baylor had already lost two games – a regular season loss against Kansas and a Big 12 Championship semifinal loss against Oklahoma State.
Going into this game, Gonzaga was attempting to do something that had not been done since 1976: become an undefeated national champion. They were also trying to win their first championship in school history. However, despite having this opportunity, Gonzaga did not get off to a good start as Baylor took a commanding 9-0 lead to start the game. By the midpoint of the half, Gonzaga found themselves down by eighteen points. While they were able to slightly close this gap, by the time halftime happened, Baylor was up 47-37. While this was not the game that Gonzaga wanted to have in the final, it was a phenomenal game for Baylor as they built a lead throughout the second half that was ultimately able to give them an 86-70 win and their first men’s basketball national championship win in school history.
Baylor guard Jared Butler, who won the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award, led the scoring for the Bears with 22 points scored followed by guard Micio Teague with 19 points scored and guard Davion Mitchell with 15 points scored.
Speaking to the media after the championship win, Baylor coach Scott Drew reacted by saying, “First and foremost, I want to thank God for blessing us with this opportunity tonight. I know the guys have worked really hard, and I’m so happy they get a chance to celebrate now. We weren’t going to have any regrets with this tournament. We wanted to leave it all out on the court. Just really blessed with the effort everyone gave us tonight.”
Reflecting on the missed opportunity to make school history and their poor start to the game, Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, “You try to do everything within your power to flip the switch. But yeah, it was tough. When they’re consistently just more aggressive on both ends, it was hard to generate rhythm. We’d score a couple of times; we couldn’t ever get consecutive stops to kind of close some gaps. Then we didn’t help ourselves — we turned the ball over, we missed free throws.”
Going into the offseason, both teams will look to make a strong comeback next season and attempt to make the NCAA March Madness Final Four in New Orleans near this time next year.