Many modern-day college basketball programs have had to learn a hard lesson: don’t go into the NCAA Tournament without a loss. Eventually, you’ll run into a team that’s bigger, quicker, deeper and more skilled than you.
Just ask Gonzaga, which entered Monday’s title game at 31-0. They left at 31-1, dropping an 86-70 decision in a game in which they never really had a chance.
But hey, we really should make this about Baylor. The Bears may have gone unbeaten and won every game if they’d played in the West Coast Conference too.
That’s not to diminish the season the Zags had. It’s just to show you that the Bears have to be considered among the best NCAA champions of all time. Size, speed, discipline, you name it. Baylor truly had it all.
On this night, Baylor looked like a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans, Gonzaga like the elementary school kids who get to play at halftime.
It was absolute blowout city. It was Baylor at its best, Gonzaga at its absolute worst. Now, the Zags will forever be known as just one of three unbeaten teams that reached the NCAA finals and lost — joining the 1961 Ohio State Buckeyes and Larry Bird’s 1979 Indiana State Sycamores.
So losing is OK before the tournament. In fact, it’s even encouraged. The goal, after all, is to play your best when it means the most. And on Monday, only Baylor did that.