Elite Eight reaction: Gonzaga answers Baylor’s service hold
March Madness has provided us with some true madness throughout this NCAA Tournament. And it’s exactly what we deserve, too, having missed out of the festivities on 2020. Upsets abounded in the first few rounds of the Big Dance, with double-digit seeds winning games left and right. One of those double-digit seeds has won its way to the final—and whereas most teams require only four victories to reach the national semifinals, the UCLA Bruins were relegated to the First Four in this Big Dance and have already won five games.
Let’s break down what happened in UCLA’s upset of the No. 1-seeded Michigan Wolverines in addition to Monday’s opening contest between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and USC Trojans.
The West was won with ease
Although Illinois was outstanding for much of the season to at times swindle the public into enthusiasm for its National Championship chances, the 2020-21 college basketball campaign has generally been all about two teams and two teams only. Basically since day one, Gonzaga and Baylor have been on a collision course for a national title game that is suddenly less than a week away. Now they are just one round away from making it a reality.
In tennis speak, both powerhouses have been holding serve with ease in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears took care of Arkansas on Sunday to put the ball back in Gonzaga’s court, and the Zags had no trouble answering one day later. In fact, they made an even bigger statement than that of Baylor. Facing a USC team that had been positively destroying its opposition, head coach Mark Few’s squad dominated the entire way for an 85-66 victory.
Gonzaga’s offense was downright scary, just as it has been all season long. Three different players scored at least 18 points against the Trojans, led by Drew Timme’s 23.
Does UCLA have a chance?
UCLA’s run to the Final Four was incredible. It needed overtime against Michigan State just to make the field of 64, got past BYU and Abilene Christian, survived another overtime thriller against No. 2 seed Alabama, and then upset No. 1 seed Michigan on Monday night.
Incredible is what the Bruins will have to be on Saturday if they want to have any shot at stunning Gonzaga. What they also need is production from multiple sources other than Johnny Juzang on the offensive end. Juzang had 18 of his team’s 27 points at halftime against UM and he finished with 28 of their 51. Nobody other than Juzang and Tyger Campbell had more than four. That’s right; UCLA won the basketball game even though only two players scored more than four points.
I don’t care how good the defense is or how slow the pace of play is or how good Juzang is on Saturday; you aren’t going to compete with Gonzaga unless a lot players are scoring a lot of points. With Jules Bernard less than 100 percent physically, that is a task that will much easier said than done.
Take nothing away from UCLA (or Houston, for that matter) but it’s just hard to see anything other than Gonzaga vs. Baylor on Monday night.