Sport Chet Holmgren's Commitment Marks an Inflection Point for Mark Few's Gonzaga Powerhouse
Will Gonzaga-Baylor Live Up to the Hype? Five Keys to the Men's Title Game
Will there be a hangover for Gonzaga after its wild win over UCLA? Or should we prepare for a track meet? Five keys to the men's title game.INDIANAPOLIS — Your wish has been granted: Gonzaga and Baylor are set to duke it out Monday night for all the marbles. It’s been clear for some time that these are college basketball’s two best men's teams. There have been upsets all across the field of 68, and this has been a memorable tournament, but it may still be defined by the quality of this championship game. Coaches Mark Few and Scott Drew are close friends, who tried to schedule a game here in Indy that was, as you may have heard, canceled in December because of COVID-19.
The 2021–22 season will be a pivotal one in Spokane as the Bulldogs' ethos is tested by a new way of roster building.
Gonzaga has arrived as a super power. Is this a good thing?
With the expected news coming Monday thathas to the former overachieving little school from the West Coast Conference in the far corner of the contiguous 48, the Zags have done everything but win a national championship. (And they’ve come close on that front, making two of the last four NCAA tournament men's title games.) Their freshman class will have two SI top 20 recruits—more than recruiting juggernaut Kentucky—and three in the top 80—the same number as Kentucky.
NCAA March Madness betting: Can Gonzaga finish its undefeated season, or will Baylor get an upset?
This is the exact way a great NCAA tournament should end, with a great matchup between the two best teams on the final Monday night of the season. This year's tournament has had a little bit of everything, with a lot of upsets early, a No. 11 seed going from the First Four to the Final Four and many fantastic games, highlighted by a Gonzaga-UCLA Final Four game that immediately ranks among the best games in college basketball history. UndefeatedThis year's tournament has had a little bit of everything, with a lot of upsets early, a No. 11 seed going from the First Four to the Final Four and many fantastic games, highlighted by a Gonzaga-UCLA Final Four game that immediately ranks among the best games in college basketball history.
They are very likely to start next season ranked No. 1. Which is where undefeated Gonzaga spent the entirety of last season until being routed by Baylor in a.
Holmgren, ranked the No. 16 prospect in the nation, and center Kaden Perry, ranked No. 76. That’s a high-powered class, and it’s led by a prospect who has arguably the ever for a 7-footer. Holmgren has startling ball-handling and shooting ability, will begin to fill out his spindly frame in college, and could be the next step in the evolution of play-anywhere-on-the-court hybrid athletes.
“As unique as they come,” says one NBA scout of Holmgren. “You can’t see him through the lens of a big man. He’s a legit wing with guard skills but the reach and toughness to produce in the paint. Gonzaga will be a great litmus test for him. If he can continue to add more to his game and remain a dominant fixture on both ends, we’re talking about a franchise-altering piece at the NBA level.”
NCAA March Madness betting: Gonzaga's loss a reminder to bettors, there is no such thing as a lock
The easiest bet for the NCAA tournament, seemingly, was Gonzaga to win it all. No matter how much BetMGM lowered the odds on Gonzaga to win the championship, they couldn't stop bettors from taking the Bulldogs. More than one-third of all money bet on the NCAA champion at BetMGM was on Gonzaga. It's hard to win six NCAA tournament games, whether you're 1991 UNLV, 1999 Duke, 2015 Kentucky or 2021 Gonzaga.In the Yahoo Tourney Pick'Em, 44.6 percent of brackets had Gonzaga winning it all. No other team reached 17.6 percent. No matter how much BetMGM lowered the odds on Gonzaga to win the championship, they couldn't stop bettors from taking the Bulldogs.
Holmgren will immediately bring more eyeballs to more Gonzaga games next season. And if the projections pan out, he almost certainly is going to be the Zags’ next one-and-done player—which would be just the third in school history but the second in two seasons. If Sallis has a big season he could join Holmgren in being a college short-timers.
We’ll see how Mark Few handles the new terrain of annual roster churn, a dynamic that has contributed to boom-or-bust cycles at some blueblood programs. For several reasons, 2021–22 will be a transition point for the most consistent place in college basketball in the last two decades. Can a place that was built on counter-programming the super powers join them, while still retaining the differences that make it special?
Holmgren’s arrival announcement fell on the same day that the guy who previously was the highest-rated recruit in Gonzaga history departed. Jalen Suggs, Holmgren’s high-school teammate at Minnehaha (Minn.) Academy,that he is off to be a top-five NBA draft pick. (And to join the NFT trend along the way.)
Gonzaga's nightmare title game shows difficulty in going undefeated
Gonzaga coach Mark Few walked off the floor for the second time in his career as the losing coach in the national title game on Monday. After Gonzaga’s heartbreak in 2017 in a foul-plagued game against UNC, these Zags weren’t in Monday night’s title game for a dribble. Baylor won 86-70, and no one would have blinked if that was 96-70 or 106-70 considering the game’s tenor. This wasn’t an instance of Gonzaga collapsing under the pressure of being undefeated, as it entered the game on the cusp of becoming the first team in 45 years to complete a season without a loss.
This is the double-edged sword of super-power status. Gonzaga now has access to the kind of bluechip recruits everyone covets, the kind of players who for decades have migrated to the power schools. Talent matters, and Few wants to coach elite talent just as much as Bill Self and John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski want to.
But these also are players Gonzaga used to relish playing against and beating—and the kind of recruits that tend to come and go quickly. In a sport that has increasingly adopted a “get old, stay old” mantra as the path to success, there is risk in trending the other way. Consider: A total of two Rivals five-star recruits played in the ’21 men's Final Four: Suggs and Houston’s Quentin Grimes, who started his career at Kansas in 2018.
Programs that pulled in the top six 2020 freshman recruiting classes, per Rivals, combined to win zero 2021 NCAA tournament games. Kentucky, which had the No. 1 class, endured its worst season in nearly a century. Duke, with the No. 2 class, also failed to make the tourney. Teams with the No. 4 and 5 classes, Auburn and Arizona, both took self-imposed postseason bans—but the Tigers wouldn’t have made the tourney and the Wildcats would have been a bubble team. The only two that made it were North Carolina (with the No. 3 class) and Tennessee (No. 6), and they both were routed in the first round.
Baylor reminds Gonzaga of how tough it is to win it — and them — all
The Bulldogs were trying to complete an undefeated championship season. The Bears emphatically made them 0 for 2 on that front in the final game of the season.It looks like All-American center Drew Timme forced into a guarded turnaround jumper from 14 feet because his teammates neglected the shot clock and left him stranded with no recourse but to fire a shot that had little chance.
Years ago, Duke and Kentucky moved to the forefront of one-and-done recruiting. While it has paid some dividends—the Blue Devils won the 2015 natty and the Wildcats did the same in 2012—it’s hardly a recipe for consistent national title contention. Neither school has made a Final Four since they both were there in ’15, and the process of climbing off the one-and-done hamster wheel is tricky.
If Gonzaga is going to get into the realm of consistently recruiting five-star talent, the challenge will be finding the roster-building sweet spot—mixing the instant-impact freshmen with a veteran nucleus. It worked splendidly last season, with the addition of Suggs elevating a team whose four other starters were an average of 21.5 years old.
Few already has mastered two of the most important recruiting trends of the 21st century: foreign players and transfers. So it stands to reason that he could also can thrive with centerpiece freshmen coexisting with veterans. But it’s been 10 years since he had a team that primarily started two freshmen (Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell in 2011–12). This will be a new wrinkle for a wait-your-turn place.
Gonzaga’s entire ethos was built as an anti-entitled program. The ball is shared. The egos are sublimated. There are star players, but mostly there is a star team. Recruiting five-star players who will bend to the program, instead of having the program bend to them, will be the trick.
Chet Holmgren, college basketball's No. 1 recruit, commits to Gonzaga
Gonzaga basketball secured a major commitment from Chet Holmgren, the nation's top recruit. Even after a tough loss in the national championship game, hopes are high for Gonzaga to be a top team next season. The Bulldogs took a big step forward in their pursuit of a championship today when C het Holmgren, the nation's top recruit, announced his plans to play collegiately at Gonzaga this afternoon on SportsCenter. Holmgren picked Gonzaga over a star-studded list of final schools that included Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Memphis. This also marks the first time that Gonzaga has landed the consensus No.
. Few said during the NCAA tournament run that Suggs was like every other freshman, unloading bags from the team bus and embracing a leadership hierarchy that honors the older players. Goodness knows Suggs played with the hunger of a walk-on, constantly hitting the floor for loose balls.
Holmgren and Sallis may have the same attitude, willing to let junior Drew Timme and senior Andrew Nembhard set the tone (provided both return to school). They may all play well enough together to lift the Zags to that elusive national title next spring.
Ultimately, this upcoming season is a pivot point for Gonzaga. Assistant Tommy Lloyd,, is gone after more than two decades in Spokane. Senior Corey Kispert, in so many ways the Zag of all Zags, has graduated. In comes the most highly touted recruiting glass in school history.
A different Gonzaga is emerging. Different can be good, perhaps even better, but there also can be a downside to the recruiting terrain the Zags are entering. The metronomic consistency of the Mark Few Era will be even more impressive if it continues through this transition phase.
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