INDIANAPOLIS – There was another team out there that was marching through the season undefeated, that looked unstoppable at times, that had all arrows pointing toward a national title.
COVID-19 put a halt to the undefeated dream. Nothing could stop Baylor from cutting down the nets.
Not even Gonzaga.
The fresh-as-can-be Bears obliterated wobbly-legged Gonzaga’s march to its own undefeated season Monday night. It was an 86-70 runaway that brought this once-downtrodden program’s first national title back home to Waco, Texas.
Jared Butler scored 22 points and MaCio Teague had 19 for the Bears (28-2), who were ranked second or third in the AP poll all year long. But never first. That was because of one team and maybe, just maybe, because of a three-week break that put a halt to a 17-0 start and sapped some of Baylor's burgeoning momentum.
“Prior to COVID, us and Gonzaga were on the track to being undefeated,” coach Scott Drew reminded everyone in the socially distanced arena, during a TV interview, while brushing off confetti.
So maybe this blowout in one of the most-anticipated finals in memory — a meeting between teams whose own regular-season matchup in December was scrapped because of a coronavirus outbreak — shouldn’t come as such a shock.
The two losses that came after Baylor's COVID-19 break in February felt like a far-off memory come March. Then came April, and the feeling grew even stronger.