March Madness Elite Eight Day 1 Reaction: Baylor might be able to knock off Gonzaga
We’ve got our first two tickets punched to the Final Four. The first day of the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Tournament is officially in the books, and Houston and Baylor are moving on. We’ve got the second day of the Elite Eight coming up, so be sure to check out our March Madness hub to stay on top of everything that goes on. Also, be sure to check out our picks on the side and total for every single game in the tournament.
But before you start thinking about Tuesday’s wagering, let’s take a look back at what just happened and digest the main takeaway. In my opinion, that’s Baylor looking like a legitimate threat to Gonzaga’s national title hopes. Here’s why:
You can’t beat Baylor’s backcourt
This is really turning into a legendary college basketball backcourt fo Baylor. They’ve got an unbelievable abundance of fantastic guards, as any one of Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, or MaCio Teague can dice you up at a moment’s notice. Teague dropped 22 points on Arkansas, and I don’t think even Houston’s elite defense has the horses to slow them down.
Assuming they advance past Houston to the title game, I don’t see how Gonzaga will considering the Bulldogs have been susceptible to elite lead guard play. Even in their win over Creighton they couldn’t contain Marcus Zegarowski as he scored 19, and in their win over Oklahoma they let Austin Reaves go off for 27 points on 11/17 shooting. If Gonzaga lets something similar happen here in this potential matchup, they won’t be so fortunate to escape with such easy wins.
Butler, Mitchell, and Teague are all so dynamic that it’s not a huge deal if one of them is having an off night. That’s a luxury the vast majority of college hoops teams, which often rely on one lead guard to carry them, don’t have.
Their defense is playing on a new level
Baylor’s defense wasn’t quite as good as it should have been during the regular season, but it was always clear they had the athletes necessary to step it up when they needed to. That’s exactly what they’ve done in the month of March. They held Wisconsin to just 63 points in the Round of 32, and then smothered Villanova by only allowing them to score 51 in the Sweet 16.
In the Elite Eight, they held an Arkansas team averaging 82.4 for the season to 72. Gonzaga has a historic offense, but if there’s any team in the country with the athletes required to hold them in check, it’s Baylor. Sophomore forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is really coming along, and he has the strength to hang with Drew Timme in the post.
Mark Vital, the 6’5 behemoth who weighs 250 pounds, will also provide some much-needed physicality to help in a Gonzaga matchup. Limiting Gonzaga’s offense will be a herculean task for any team, but after what I’ve seen in the past few games, I think Baylor might just do it.