The only opponent Gonzaga could not beat was its last. The previously-undefeated Bulldogs took their first loss of the season, falling 86-70 to No. 1 seed Baylor on Monday in the NCAA Tournament championship game.
In a stunningly lopsided season finale the Zags never once led in, Gonzaga's season ends with a 31-1 record and with Baylor -- 73 years removed from its last national championship game appearance -- celebrating its first-ever men's basketball title.
Baylor ascended to the top of the sport with style, too, jumping out early to a 9-0 lead. Which turned to 11-1. Which turned into 29-10 less than 10 minutes into the game. It marked the largest deficit Gonzaga faced all season.
Despite this, Gonzaga had its share of runs, cutting the lead to 10 by halftime and to nine points in the second half. But Baylor had a bigger share of runs, led by 10 made 3-pointers and buttressed by a big game on the offensive boards that gave it 18 more shot attempts. Its lead after dipping to single digits ballooned to as many as 20 in the second half, as Baylor sucked the life out of the only team that never looked lifeless all season.
"They came out and they fed off of each other. We got off to a great start," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "And then defensively, we're pretty good."
Baylor blows out Gonzaga in shocking, dominant fashion. A championship edition of Eye on College Basketball recaps the national championship game.
Baylor guards Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Jared Butler -- long the staples of success for this team -- fittingly led the way for the Bears with a combined 56 points and 12 assists. Butler was the catalyst behind the sharpshooting effort that did not cease, as he went for 22 points with a game-high four 3-pointers and seven assists. He became the first player in a men's national championship game to produce at least 20 points and seven assists since Carmelo Anthony did it for Syracuse in 2003.
Here are a few takeaways from Monday night's grand finale.
1. Gonzaga's place in history
Gonzaga became the first undefeated team since Indiana State in 1979 to enter the title game and lose, pushing undefeated teams in the national championship to 7-3 all-time.
The loss complicates the legacy of a team that otherwise was trending towards sports immortality. Win, and it would be the first since Indiana in 1976 to become an undefeated champion. Lose, as they did, and they're now one of several great teams -- 1991 UNLV, 1999 Duke and 2015 Kentucky to name a few -- that were dominant yet unable to go the distance.
An unassailable resume this team would have had with a win to top it off in the finale, but by every metric this team's place among great college basketball teams is etched into stone.
2. Baylor's shooting, extra chances the difference
Gonzaga's historically efficient offense took a tiny step back from its regular dominance, as the team finished 25-of-49 from the floor and 5-of-17 from 3-point range. But -- like the rest of the game -- the outcome was a credit to Baylor acting as the aggressor. The Bears made 10 3s on the night but four of those came in the opening 10 minutes, with Teague's triple at the 10:09 mark building their lead to 19 points.
When Baylor is that hot from the field, it has been difficult to beat. But when you combine that with extra opportunities -- Baylor took 18 more shot attempts than Gonzaga, in part by grabbing 16 offensive rebounds -- it's a formula Gonzaga in the end could not crack.
"Baylor just beat us in every facet of the game tonight," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "The aggressiveness and the athleticism of Baylor just had us on our heels. Usually when you're the most aggressive team you're going to get the calls, you're going to make the plays. They were just clearly way more aggressive than us pretty much the entire night."
3. A rebuild complete
On Aug. 22, 2003, Baylor introduced Scott Drew as its next men's basketball coach. A wide-eyed Drew vowed he did not come to the university just to go to the NCAA Tournament; he "came to win games" in the NCAA Tournament.
"We came with a chance to win the national championship," he said.
When he said that, it was a pipe dream. A Baylor player only months before his hire had murdered another player. The team hadn't achieved a winning record in two seasons. And yet he built, and built, and built. An NCAA Tournament appearance in his fifth year. Elite Eights in 2010 and 2012. And finally, a Final Four and national championship in 2021. What he started nearly two decades ago culminated Monday night in Indianapolis as one of the most successful, and unlikely, rebuilds in all of college athletics.