When a meeting between Gonzaga and Baylor scheduled for Dec. 5 was canceled less than two hours before tipoff due to COVID-19 issues, it was a big blow to college basketball. The nonconference game was going to be to be a showdown between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country that would generate a buzz for the sport after the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament left fans yearning for championship-caliber competition.

Despite some initial indication that the schools may work to reschedule the meeting, an arrangement was never reached. However, four months to the day after that cancelation, the Bulldogs and Bears are still No. 1 and No. 2 in the country and are getting to play after all.

Gonzaga’s only other appearance in the Final Four or championship game came in 2017. The Zags again had one of the best records in the country — 37-1 to be exact — but came up short against No. 1 seed North Carolina in the title game. Now, coach Mark Few gets his shot at the elusive trophy in his 22nd year as coach in Spokane.

Baylor, meanwhile, is back in the national title game for the first time in over 70 years. The Bears were runners up in 1948 when they lost to Kentucky in a tournament that featured just eight teams. Now, Baylor looks to add the first title to its trophy case after years of success in conference and in the tournament, but just without ever being able to break through.

After nearly two years without a fresh champion in college basketball, this long-awaited showdown between Gonzaga and Baylor has all the makings of an all-time classic game for the sport. Here are some storylines to watch as we prepare for the action.

History on the line

Gonzaga is seeking to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976. If the Bulldogs can do it, there will surely be endless debates over where they fit among college basketball’s all-time great squads. Yes, the Zags play in the relatively easy West Coast Conference. But they rolled through one of the nation’s toughest nonconference schedules and have won all but two of their games by double-digits.

If Gonzaga wins, its margin of victory against Baylor could be a critical factor in determining its ultimate legacy. The Bears have widely been regarded as the second-best team in the sport for much of the season, and a dominant victory against a quality foe in the national title game would go a long way toward cementing the legacy of this Gonzaga squad.

Baylor’s groove

Nothing will be easy about playing this Baylor team, though. The Bears have found their stride during the NCAA Tournament after a brief regression following a 21-day break between games in February because of COVID-19 issues. The Bears’ systematic destruction of No. 2 seed Houston on Saturday was nothing short of incredible. 

Baylor led that game 45-20 at halftime and looked unbeatable. Both of these teams look unbeatable when they are at or near their best, and Baylor has appeared to be at its best during long stretches during this NCAA Tournament.

Hunt for history

Gonzaga lost to North Carolina in the 2017 national title game, and Baylor lost to Kentucky in the 1948 national title game. Those two contests account for all of the national title game appearances of the two programs. Both have been on the rise under long-time coaches, but neither has reached the pinnacle yet.

If 22nd-year Gonzaga coach Mark Few or 18th-year Baylor coach Scott Drew can be the coach to finally push their squad over the hump, they will be steeped in eternal lore on campus.   

2021 March Madness live stream

Date: Monday, April 5 | Round: NCAA Tournament championship game
Live stream: March Madness Live

National Championship

Monday, April 5
Lucas Oil Stadium

9:20 p.m.

(1) Gonzaga vs. (1) Baylor

CBS (watch live)

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