The Final Four is set and while it’s tempting to just give it to Gonzaga, you still have to go through the motions. And Baylor may still have something to say about it.
Gonzaga was simply overwhelming against a very talented USC team. People who thought maybe defense was a weakness had to rethink that after watching what the Zags did to USC. And the offense was absolutely surgical.
We thought that USC’s potent athleticism might have change things but no. Gonzaga’s athleticism is pretty good too. And their basketball intelligence is off the charts. We started to think about historically great teams and wondered how they might do against this one. You can make up your own mind. Here’s the short list.
- UCLA ‘69
- Indiana ‘76
- UNC ‘82
- Georgetown ‘84
- Duke ‘92
- UCLA ‘73
- Duke 2001
You probably need one of those players that Coach K has a 12-letter word for like a Laettner, Walton or Jordan, or else someone is going to need to have a transcendent game. They have an answer for everything they’ve seen so far.
Which makes the UCLA game interesting.
This is not UCLA ‘69 or ‘73, when Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or Bill Walton were just so overwhelmingly dominant.
But it is a team people, including us, continually underestimate. We honestly didn’t think they could stay with Michigan but they did, and at least slightly ahead for most of the game. We were surprised at how normal Michigan looked because at times this season that team just looked incredible. UCLA wrangled them back to earth. Mick Cronin has done a brilliant job and has made UCLA relevant again in a big hurry despite some serious problems with his roster.
Do they have a chance against Gonzaga?
It’s hard to see it but the one thing they have going for them is a very strong will and you should never underestimate that.
The Final Four thus comes down to the West Coast vs. Texas and we’ll get one of each in the championship game as the winner of the Gonzaga-UCLA game gets the winner of Baylor-Houston.
Gonzaga is still the heavy favorite, but all the other teams have what UCLA has shown: immense will and a refusal to accept defeat.
Gonzaga really has not had a punch in the nose all season so we can’t really gauge how they would react to serious pressure. UCLA has been admirable this tournament but we’re not sure they can provide it. The winner of Houston-Baylor might.