Erick Smith, USA TODAY
Published 12: 35 a.m. ET April 6, 2021
Nothing gave the influence to trouble Gonzaga earlier than the Final Four.
The Bulldogs had rolled by the regular season unbeaten and were two wins away from being the first team to finish with out a loss in 45 years.
Certain, 17 of their 30 wins earlier than Saturday had reach against the less-than-challenging West Waft Conference, but in addition they had speed by a demanding, non-conference schedule that included Kansas, Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia. All four will almost definitely be high four seeds in the tournament. This wasn’t a fluke.
UCLA pushed Gonzaga in an yarn semifinal that showed some cracks. Its defense struggled to pause penetration. Its 3-point shooting used to be off. The Bruins won the rebounding battle.
Baylor instant answered the question whether these cracks were superficial or signs of something better underneath the ground. The Bears jumped on the Bulldogs and never let up in a dominant 86-70 win that made you neglect how monumental Gonzaga has been all season.
The difference in the velocity of the teams used to be startling as soon because the ball used to be tipped. Baylor’s stress defense fully disrupted the Bulldogs on offense. The defense wasn’t any better. Bears ball handlers were driving at will and shooters were knocking down originate 3s. Baylor seemingly rebounded every lumber over and dominated the offensive boards. Gonzaga seemed gradual and flat, nearly as if that emotional additional time win against UCLA left it with out vitality.
The rating used to be 11-1 in a flash. It used to be 29-10 midway by the first half. Showing signs of the team it used to be during earlier than the last two games, Gonzaga fought support. The deficit used to be solely 10 at half. There used to be level-headed hope.
Nonetheless they would perhaps presumably perhaps not assemble it stick. Baylor kept bombing away from 3-point range. The Bulldogs may perhaps not retort with their very cling. They were held to 5-for-17 shooting beyond the arc.
When Gonzaga finally got within double figures in the second half, Baylor instant pushed the end result in 16 with nine of the following 11 points.
The dream used to be over.
Supreme proved to be elusive.
A first national championship for the college would gain to wait.
So how attain you assemble sense of this finish? This used to be a loss so total, it used to be nothing love anyone may perhaps presumably also gain anticipated when the prohibitive favorites of the tournament met in the final game.
The easy retort is that Gonzaga used to be overrated. A product of a truly easy schedule and an array of offensive ability that will perhaps presumably perhaps also weigh down very correct opponents. Nonetheless when faced with a team love Baylor – one which may perhaps presumably also exploit all its weaknesses – it fell apart.
The diversified likelihood is that Baylor after hearing all year that the Bulldogs were the solely team in the country had extra motivation to inform how correct it in truth used to be. The Bears got after them at the jump and never let up. Gonzaga used to be suffocated and after an exhausting semifinal, it never caught its breath.
The truth almost definitely lies someplace in between. It can perhaps were monumental to gain considered the Bulldogs in a bigger conference playing demanding games by January and February and into early March. Per chance that will perhaps presumably perhaps gain tested them. Per chance the game against UCLA used to be too worthy for a team with out worthy depth to soar support from in 48 hours after an already irregular tournament schedule inside the Indianapolis bubble.
Whatever the truth, these cracks were clearly in the muse of this team. They weren’t good and did not finish that manner.
It mustn’t steal away from what Gonzaga done. In most cases there’ll not be any shame in being No. 2.
Note faculties reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith