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Baylor had to wait a year to reach the Final Four – and Houston paid for it

Baylor had to wait a year to reach the Final Four – and Houston paid for it

INDIANAPOLIS – If you think about it, no one waited over Baylor. Everyone in college basketball lost after the NCAA Tournament was canceled on March 12, 2020. It was a terrific day and a mere month for so many players, coaches and fans. Many of them progressed, however, either by choice or by force.

Dayton’s Obi Toppin was forced to join the NBA Draft, knowing he would be selected in a prominent position and the Flyers entered a rebuilding season. The Udoka Azubuike center in Kansas was unacceptable, and the Jayhawks had a fine season, which is no exception. Gonzaga Filip Petrusev chose to become an American professional in Europe, but this year the Zags were great without him, as they were last year (Elite Eight), the previous year (Sweet 16) and the previous year (Four Final).

MORE CRAZY MARCH: Live scores | Updated parentheses | TV schedule

If last year’s tournament was a parenthesis, their team would have grown to another No. 1 pick. And there are the Bears, who haven’t had a team like this since the 1950s, at least: Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague, and Mark Vital. The quartet, who was at the heart of last year’s team, took Baylor basketball to places they had never traveled before and then they had nowhere to go. When they each decided to return for another season, they ordered each other not to let the window close.

So no, they weren’t wasting their chances of competing in the 2021 Final Four. They got it right with convincing victories in the first four rounds of the tournament, and while that was the goal, it wasn’t du goal. The Bears are enough to win the NCAA Championship. Two seasons in a row have been enough to win. That’s precisely the reason why he was kicked out of the Houston gym or, indeed, Lucas Oil Stadium.

Coach Scott Drew reminded his players before Saturday’s start that last year’s three seniors – Freddie Gillespie, Devonte Bandoo and Tristan Clark – “were in the stands, and they had that opportunity as much as they wanted, but they were here to cheer us on,” Drew said. k Sporting News-i. “Moments like that make you think and think that you feel really bad for guys who haven’t had that opportunity and never will. But at the same time, you feel happy this year for these guys.”

All-American Jared Butler scored 17 points for the Bears when they won 78-59 against the Cougars. Davion Mitchell was taking turns fighting his rear neighborhood pair to destroy all the Houston guards. The Bears shot 57% from the field and 53% with 3 points.

BAYLOR-HOUSTON: Score updates, highlights of the Final Four game

“Being here now, it’s like,‘ Hey, we lost what we lost last year, ’” Butler told Sporting News the day before the game.

Houston arrived in the regional finals when it won 12 seeds in Oregon State, Syracuse No. 11 in the Sweet 16 and 10 seeds in the Rutgers in the second round, and then it was remembered that the harder the climb the team progressed in this event. Baylor was a big part of the No. 1 ranking in this game.

There was no blow to Houston’s effort to score, but it was amazing how Baylor’s defense annoyed the Cougars. The Bears have not been exceptional in this tournament, or in the Big 12 Championship, nor in the conference game, nor in the weeks leading up to the COVID break that consumed so much in February. Entering Saturday’s game, 11 of the last 15 major opponents to face the Bears scored at least one point per possession, as KenPom.com’s level of defensive effectiveness dropped from No. 1 to No. 44 on Selection Sunday.

The biggest drop, of course, was after that three-week hiatus. Their defense gave West Virginia 89 points to the Bears, who won a regular Big 12 season in overtime in early March. They gave 83 to Oklahoma State in the conference tournament, including 25 to all-American Cade Cunningham. Against NCAA Sweet 16’s Villanova, Drew felt compelled to extend a game in the middle of the second half, which provided enough play and kept the Bears alive.

On Saturday, Davion Mitchell was awarded the title of Player of the Year as Naismith’s Defensive Player of the Year, the whole team embraced what made the team great a year ago and earlier this year, making baskets became common enough to make the nation’s toughest defensive team optional.

Mitchell started the game against Houston goalie DeJon Jarreau, with the idea that Mitchell would use his unique ability to stop the offense from starting at the point of attack. The Cougars did a pretty good job on their own, however, so when guard Marcus Sasser held on for four points in the first ten minutes of the game, Drew changed Mitchell’s role. That was the last thing we saw around Sasser. Or Pumak.

With all of American Quentin Grimes missing five shots in his first half, Sasser scored 17 of the Cougars ’20 points at the break.

In the first half they were unable to attack Baylor on the boards, as they had Oregon State, as their too many failures were 3 points, which created long rebounds for Justin Gorham, Reggie Chaney and Fabian White. The bears would also have been able to handle this, but were not forced to prove it.

“I definitely thought in Wisconsin, we played a lot better. And Villanova, in the second half, we were very good,” Drew said. “We were great in Arkansas, and good in other areas. And tonight, Houston doesn’t give you anything; you have to be very good. That first half was as good as any team can play against Houston. I certainly don’t think we’re where we are. if we are, I can’t see the difference. “

Drew said last March he told Bears that the tournament was canceled because for him, like all other coaches who expected him to be in the tournament, it was one of the most difficult tasks he had to complete as a coach.

Hearing that message, Butler said it was “like a tornado that hit our town and destroyed everything.” We couldn’t understand, we couldn’t understand, ”he said.“ I don’t think the end of COVID was a big reason for everyone to come back. We all looked at our options, we wanted to see where we were in our basketball career. And each of us thought that returning was the best option. And I think it was the best option, for sure. “

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