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2021 National Championship Breakdown: Gonzaga vs. Baylor

2021 National Championship Breakdown: Gonzaga vs. Baylor

In January, many viewed Gonzaga and Baylor as the clear top two teams in college basketball. Baylor has rounded back into form after a COVID shutdown threw them off track. During the NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga and Baylor have certainly looked like the best teams in the country. The 2020-21 college basketball season will conclude with a massive Gonzaga versus Baylor National Championship showdown. This could be one of the most anticipated NCAA Tournament National Championship games in the past 10-15 years. Will Gonzaga be the first undefeated champion since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, or will Baylor grab their first national title?

Gonzaga’s Keys

Gonzaga is looking for their first national title in program history. The ‘Zags barely survived in Saturday night’s Final Four game against UCLA. Thanks to Jalen Suggs‘ game-winning half court buzzer beater, Gonzaga is one win away from a national championship. To defeat Baylor, Gonzaga will need to clean up a few things.

First off, Gonzaga needs to rebound better against Baylor. The Bulldogs had outrebounded every opponent in the NCAA Tournament. However, UCLA had six more rebounds than Gonzaga in the Final Four. Meanwhile, Baylor had a great rebounding performance in their dominate Final Four win against Houston. Houston ranks 10th snagging 40 rebounds per game. Baylor outrebounded Houston by five in the Final Four. Also, Baylor is averaging 12.3 offensive rebounds per game in their last three games. Clearly, Gonzaga will be challenged on the glass against Baylor. Winning the rebounding battle was one reason Gonzaga had been so dominate this March. If Gonzaga is to win a National Championship, they must rebound better.

2021 National Championship Breakdown: Gonzaga vs. Baylor
Gonzaga’s head coach Mark Few (Photo via BuffaloNews.com)

Furthermore, Gonzaga needs to sure up their perimeter defense. In the Final Four, Gonzaga allowed the Bruins to shoot 8/17, or 47.1%, from three. UCLA was close to defeating Gonzaga due to hot-shooting and good rebounding. This season, UCLA shot 37.4% from three, which ranks 34th. For comparison, Baylor leads the country shooting 41.2% from three. In addition, Baylor has been hot the last two games shooting 48.7% from three. Baylor is averaging nine made threes in their past two games. Further, Baylor shot 45.8% from three against Houston’s great defense. Houston ranks 15th holding opponents to only 29.9% from three. Gonzaga could be in danger if Baylor’s hot three point shooting continues. Therefore, Gonzaga must play fantastic perimeter defense.

Baylor’s Keys

For Baylor, they comfortably won their last two games. Baylor has shown their versatility by getting to the Elite Eight while struggling from three. However, Baylor is now knocking down threes again alongside a stifling defense. To defeat Gonzaga, Baylor needs plenty of bench production and must win the turnover battle

Baylor could have one of the best benches in the country. Their bench is led by Adam Flagler and Matthew Mayer, both average over eight points per game. Flagler typically averages nine points per game, but is averaging 11 points in his last three games. In addition, Flagler lit Villanova up in the Sweet Sixteen with 16 points. Also. Mayer typically averages 8.3 points, but is averaging 10.5 points in his last four games. Mayer scorched Wisconsin in the Round of 32 with 17 points. Furthermore, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua has been great off Baylor’s bench in their last two contests. Tchamwa Tchatchoua is 6/8 in his last two games, and had 11 points with six rebounds against Houston. Between Flagler, Mayer and Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Baylor has the depth advantage in the National Championship. Baylor’s bench must come up huge against Gonzaga.

Lastly, Baylor needs to win the turnover battle. Ranked seventh, Baylor forces 17.1 turnovers per game. Villanova and Wisconsin were the top two teams in regards to fewest turnovers per game. However, Baylor forced 16 Villanova turnovers and 14 Wisconsin turnovers. In the Final Four, Baylor only forced 11 turnovers versus Houston. The Bears must get back to creating chaos on the defensive end. Gonzaga rarely turns the ball over, they are averaging only 11.2 turnovers per game in the NCAA Tournament. Forcing turnovers will be a tall task for Baylor in the National Championship.

Players to Watch

The 2021 National Championship will be star-studded. Gonzaga has three All-Americans in Corey Kispert, Drew Timme, and Suggs. Baylor has two All-Americans in Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell.

For Gonzaga, Timme has averaged 25 points in his last four games while shooting 66.7%. The 6-foot-10 forward has been a force down low. Also, Kispert averages 18.8 points per game and shoots 44.5% from three. However, Kispert has not had a 20+ point game since the first round. Lastly, Suggs is a talented NBA prospect that had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the Elite Eight. In addition, Suggs had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds in the Final Four.

For Baylor, Butler has struggled in the NCAA Tournament. However, Butler finally erupted against Houston in the Final Four with 17 first half points. He was a deadly 4/5 from three versus Houston. Mitchell has been outstanding all tournament. He shot only 4/11 versus Houston, but was 3/6 from three. Also, Mitchell consistently set up teammates with 11 assists and 0 turnovers in the Final Four. Mitchell is mostly known for his defense, he is even nicknamed “off night”. Recently, Mitchell was named the defensive player of the year. Mitchell will likely guard Suggs, this will be a fantastic matchup.

Prediction

Gonzaga’s head coach Mark Few and Baylor’s Scott Drew have built these programs from the ground up, and look to get their respective program’s their first national title.  All season, many wished for a Gonzaga versus Baylor national championship. That wish has been fulfilled, hopefully this national championship is a instant classic. Certainly, the potential for a classic game is there with both teams ranking top four in points per game. Also, both teams have star power and like to play at a fast pace.

As of 4/4, Gonzaga is favored by 4.5 points. Gonzaga has been a double-digit favorite all tournament, this shows just how good Baylor has been recently. If Baylor continues to shoot well from three and forces turnovers, this will go down to the wire. Ultimately, Gonzaga is ultra-talented and this will likely prevail. The Gonzaga versus Baylor National Championship tips Monday at 9:20 p.m. on CBS.

Prediction: 86-84 Gonzaga

 

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