No. 1 seed Baylor is dancing its way into the Final Four for the first time in 71 years after eliminating No. 3 seed Arkansas from the NCAA Tournament in a frenzied Elite Eight fight on Monday night. The Bears, with their 82-71 win, became the second team to secure a spot in this year's Final Four after No. 2 seed Houston did so earlier in the evening.
Baylor did what it has done all season against Arkansas, and Arkansas did what it has done all season against Baylor, making for one of the most enjoyable and frenetic games of the postseason. The Bears jumped out to an 18 point lead nine minutes into the game and looked invincible for stretches. But Arkansas, having overcome double-digit deficits in every NCAA Tournament game before tonight, managed to cut the lead to a four points in the second half and had plenty of its own impressive runs before Baylor finally closed the deal in the final few minutes.
Half the Final Four is set. Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander recap Monday night's action on the latest episode of Eye on College Basketball.
And by Baylor, more specifically: Davion Mitchell closed the deal. The junior guard played only nine minutes in the first half, posting a whopping +16 before picking up three fouls. But the second half was all his. With his ability to attack the lane, create offense and affect the game with his defense he was able to take over down the stretch, getting 10 of his 12 points in the second half and finishing with six assists and a steal. Senior guard Macio Teague added a team-high 22 points and Jared Butler and Adam Flagler also scored in double figures.
Arkansas never led in the game after Baylor's early barrage proved unsurmountable, but it had several huge runs and did not go quietly against the Bears. The closest it came in the second half was four points (twice), but fittingly, Teague and Mitchell responded on the ensuing possessions on both occasions to build Baylor's cushion.
Here are a few takeaways from Baylor's win on Monday.
1. Arkansas played with fire one too many times
The fun of Arkansas this season -- and in the postseason -- has been that it is never truly out of a game. It trailed by 14 points against Colgate in the First Round and went on to win by 17 points. It trailed by 12 against Oral Roberts, then won by two. But when you trail by 18 points, and that team you trail is Baylor, the hill i simply too tall to climb.
"When we got down, we could've hung our heads," said Arkansas coach Eric Musselman after the game. "We played really hard. But we lacked some scoring at times, and defensively they hit some tough shots on us."
2. The Davion Mitchell show
Arkansas cut its first-half deficit to single digits before halftime after Baylor guard Davion Mitchell went to the bench with three fouls, and it changed the game's dynamic entirely. But Mitchell's return in the second half was even more impactful. He was everywhere on both ends. His quick burst got him to the cup at will, but his most impressive play was a Richard Sherman imitation of a pick-six in transition in which he scooted to the hoop for an easy lay-in.
Davion Mitchellpic.twitter.com/VrNkJeMIoy— Tyler Monahan (@TMon_19) March 30, 2021
3. Let's appreciate Scott Drew's rebuild
Coach Scott Drew took over the Baylor program in crisis after the Dave Bliss era in 2003. In his first three seasons, he posted a combined 21-53 record. Four of his first seasons finished in losing records. But Drew kept building. They made the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Then the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012. Now, for the first time under his watch, they're Final Four bound.