It was set up to be a storybook finish for Gonzaga. A season finale for the preseason No. 1 Bulldogs facing preseason No. 2 Baylor, with the championship on the line. Monday night was supposed to be one last showcase en route to becoming the first undefeated men's title winner since 1976.
Then Baylor's 3-pointers started dropping. And dropping. And dropping. All while Gonzaga's did quite the opposite. Ten minutes in, it was 29-10 -- Gonzaga's largest deficit of the season. The fairy tale ending was either going to end in the largest comeback of any team in a national championship game, or with a crushing loss to a team primed for sports immortality. And, well, you know the rest: Baylor 86, Gonzaga 70.
A near-perfect season ends with a 31-1 record. A bid for perfection ... poof. Gone.
Baylor blows out Gonzaga in shocking, dominant fashion. A championship edition of Eye on College Basketball recaps the national championship game.
"It's a really, really tough one to end a storybook season on," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "I told the guys 'You make it this far, you're 31-0 going into the last one, there's absolutely nothing you should ever feel bad about.'"
Gonzaga becomes the third team in title game history to take a loss after entering the game undefeated, joining Indiana State in 1979 and Ohio State in 1961. Undefeated teams in the championship game are now 7-3 all-time.
There are no moral victories for the runner-up. Not ever, and not for a team as great as Gonzaga was. So for Few, it's a crushing blow that deals him his second runner-up finish in the last four complete seasons. And for his players, it's adversity … for the first time all season. His Gonzaga team hadn't known defeat for 410 days before it was met with swift cruelty on Monday night in Indianapolis.
"It's obviously a feeling these guys had never had to address and deal with," Few said. "But I think the nature of it tonight probably made it -- I mean, it's not easy but, again, as a coach you just try to give them as much perspective as you can. And as is usually the case with everything, time will lend them the best perspective."
Time and history will be on the Zags' side. Baylor played a marvelous game. Afterwards, Few could only tip his cap. But let it not take away from the accomplishments of this all-time great team that, as fate would have it, fell to another great team that played one of its most inspired games all season. In the pantheon of all-time great teams that did not win a championship, Gonzaga may now and forever be the face.
This win will define Baylor basketball, and it will reshape the legacy of coach Scott Drew. This loss, for Few and for Gonzaga basketball, will not and should not define them.
"It's been a fantastic season," Few said. "They'll look back on this season as something amazing and incredible."