5 things to know ahead of Baylor’s matchup against Gonzaga for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

Baylor guard Matthew Mayer, left, celebrates as he walks off the court at the end of a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game against Houston, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Baylor won 78-59. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) (Darron Cummings, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

As Baylor readies to take on Gonzaga in Monday’s NCAA Men’s Championship, here are a few nuggets for you to ready yourself for the big game.

1. No matter what happens tonight, there will be a first-time men’s basketball national champion after Monday night.

Neither Baylor nor Gonzaga have ever won the national championship for men’s basketball. The Bears last reached the championship game in 1948. The last time they reached the Final Four was 1950. They came away from both years without the championship prize. Gonzaga reached the title game in 2017 but lost out to North Carolina in that season. Both schools will look to make history on Monday night. On a side note, Baylor has won three national titles for women’s basketball, but this would be the first for men’s hoops if Baylor gets it done on Monday.

2. Baylor and Gonzaga were originally scheduled to play each other earlier this season in December, but that game was canceled.

This championship game could have been a sequel. It could have been a rematch. We could have had an idea of what to expect. But their previously scheduled game on December 5 was canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests. That game was not re-scheduled until fate intervened for this NCAA Championship matchup.

3. It is not out of bounds to say this may be the best on-paper matchup in recent NCAA Championship history.

Gonzaga hasn’t lost this season. They’re 31-0. Baylor has only lost two games all year. They’re 27-2. These two teams have been ranked one and two, next to each other, in 15 of the 17 AP polls this season. No two teams meeting up in the men’s basketball title game have ever spent that much time next to each other atop the polls in a single year. And these two teams have been building up for Monday’s climactic moment before this year. The two programs are a combined 115-8 over the last two seasons. In other words, both teams are excellent and have been excellent before this season.

4. Gonzaga isn’t just seeking history with winning its first men’s basketball national championship. There’s the quest for a perfect season.

While this wouldn’t be the first time there has been a perfect season in men’s collegiate basketball, the accomplishment is certainly a rarity. It’s been 45 years since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers under Bobby Knight finished their season 32-0. Those Hoosiers absolutely dominated the 1976 championship game, beating Michigan 86-68.

5. Both Baylor and Gonzaga have dominated so much that neither has played in many close games this season.

Gonzaga’s obviously still perfect, but their dominance goes beyond that. Their Final Four thriller against UCLA was only the second time all season they had a game decided by single digits. Clearly, they proved on Saturday they could still handle that pressure. For Baylor, they are 6-1 in games this season decided by single digits. But other than their 81-72 win over Arkansas in the Elite Eight, they hadn’t needed a close battle since January 18, when the Bears defeated Kansas 77-69, and even that game was mostly a double-digits affair until a three-pointer in the final seconds.

Gonzaga is on a 35-game winning streak. Baylor is on a 23-game winning streak.

Buckle up. This should be good.

About the Author:

Born in Canada but raised in Houston, Howard joined KPRC 2 in 2021 after five years at ESPN. Before that, Howard was a reporter on Houston Rockets and Houston Astros game broadcasts. Among the events that Howard has covered on site: the NBA bubble and the Basketball Hall of Fame inductions for both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He's H-town proud!