The 2020-2021 college basketball season has arrived at the month of March. When this month is over, the Final Four will be set for Saturday, April 3 in Indianapolis. Will both the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears be there? Gonzaga remains unbeaten, the only unbeaten team in major college basketball after Baylor suffered its first loss of the season this past Saturday against the Kansas Jayhawks. Gonzaga is trying to become the first unbeaten national champion since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers in 1976. Will Gonzaga go all the way, wire to wire? Or Will The Zags suffer a stunning upset? Will Baylor bounce back from its one loss and roar through the 2021 NCAA Tournament? These and other similarly intriguing questions are waiting to be answered. It’s time for March Madness at BetUS Sportsbook.
Prelude: Indiana In 1976, The Last Unbeaten National Champion
The Indiana Hoosiers are the owners of special achievement and distinction in major college basketball. They remain the last team to go unbeaten and win a national championship. The Hoosiers rolled through the 1976 tournament, having only one moderately difficult game – a five-point win over Alabama – but otherwise winning games comfortably. Remember that in 1976, there was no 3-point shot or any shot clock. Winning a game by nine points was a relatively comfortable victory back then. Indiana won five of its six NCAA Tournament games by nine points or more, four by 14 points or more. The Hoosiers beat UCLA by 14 in the Final Four national semifinals and then crushed Michigan in the championship game by 18 points.
Indiana avenged its 1973 Final Four semifinal loss to UCLA, but more importantly, the ’76 Hoosiers completed the journey the 1975 team could not. The 1975 team is viewed by many as a better team than the 1976 edition, but star Scott May got injured, a key reason Indiana lost to Kentucky in the Elite Eight. The 1976 team was motivated, and it finished the job. Gonzaga is trying to do something which hasn’t been done in the next 45 years. UNLV in 1991 and Kentucky in 2015 both reached the Final Four as unbeaten teams but lost in the national semifinals.
Gonzaga Or Baylor – Which Team Will Lose First?
The Gonzaga Bulldogs will be the No. 1 overall seed for the 2021 NCAA Tournament and will be favored to win it all on the college basketball odds. This means they will face the fourth No. 1 seed in a possible national semifinal at the Final Four, while Baylor would be bracketed to face Michigan in the other national semifinal. Baylor and Michigan will be the No. 2 and No. 3 overall seeds, in one order or another. It doesn’t matter whether one team is the No. 2 overall seed, because No. 2 and No. 3 will be in the same half of the bracket. The main thing is that they will both avoid Gonzaga until the national championship game.
Gonzaga will benefit from avoiding Baylor or Michigan until the final because the fourth No. 1 seed is a few notches weaker than Baylor and Michigan. The fourth No. 1 seed is not yet clear. Ohio State was in a position to be that team, but the Buckeyes have lost three straight games, two at home. Illinois – a team Baylor has already beaten – could be the fourth No. 1 seed. West Virginia – a team Gonzaga has already defeated – could also be the fourth No. 1 seed. Alabama, Iowa (beaten by Gonzaga), Houston, and Villanova are also in the hunt for that fourth and final No. 1 seed.
Baylor In Danger
Baylor is probably the team in greater danger of losing first – not because of seeding, but because the Bears have not dealt well with a COVID-19 pause. They have looked ordinary since returning from their pause. Gonzaga’s rhythm has not been interrupted to the same degree. The Zags figure to have a much more efficient offense than the Bears, who can get into a rut on offense and will need their defense to be almost completely flawless if an opponent can defend Baylor well in March.
Also, whereas Baylor has Jared Butler as its star scorer, Gonzaga has two primary options: Corey Kispert is one elite scorer, but Jalen Suggs is also a very tough player to defend. GU’s added options would suggest that Baylor is more likely to lose first in March Madness than the Zags are.
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