The national championship game in the 2021 men’s NCAA tournament is upon us, with Gonzaga and Baylor finally meeting after their scheduled matchup in Dec. was cancelled due to Covid. Now we finally get the game everyone wanted to see, and it comes with the added bonus of being for the ultimate prize.
Gonzaga enters the game undefeated, trying to become the first men’s team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to run the table and win the championship. That’s easier said than done, especially against Baylor, who went 27-2 this season and blew out No. 2 seed Houston in the Final Four. These have been the two best teams in men’s college basketball all year.
Despite all this success, there’s still a lot most people don’t know about Gonzaga and Baylor, and that’s okay. Nobody likes a know-it-all anyway. So let’s dive into the schools a bit to help fill in your knowledge before the championship game.
Where is Gonzaga? Plus four other things to know about the school
Where is Gonzaga located?
Every single March people are extremely interested in where Gonzaga is located. Search results skyrocket for people wondering where Gonzaga is every year, and only dropped off in 2020 because the tournament was cancelled.
Do you know? Without Googling, can you pick out where Gonzaga is located?
- Olympia, Washington
- Tacoma, Washington
- Salem, Oregon
- Spokane, Washington
- Medford, Oregon
Answer: It’s Spokane, Washington
What’s the history of the school?
Foundered in 1877, the Catholic university was established by Jesuit missionary Joseph Cataldo who was basically concerned Protestants would have the opportunity to proselytize to Native Americans before the Catholics had a chance. Starting with a series of school houses, eventually the educational mission expanded to the college, and struggled with funding. Local government would only assist with funds for the school if Cataldo promised it would be “whites only,” which ran in direct opposition with his dream of giving Native Americans a Catholic education, so he eventually convinced Rome to help with the funding, touting his concern that Protestants and Methodists would build a school before the Catholics, if given the chance.
Outside of sports, who are some of their notable alumni?
Bing Crosby graduated from Gonzaga, as did former Washington governor Christine Gregoire.
Who is the best basketball player to play for Gonzaga?
Gonzaga has sent dozens of players to the NBA, but unquestionably the biggest star to have played for the Zags is Basketball Hall of Fame inductee John Stockton.
How successful has Gonzaga been lately?
Gonzaga has advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in the last six NCAA tournaments. They reached the national championship game in 2017, and lost a close contest to North Carolina. Mark Few has been the program’s head coach since 1999 and has never missed the NCAA tournament
Where is Baylor? Plus four other things to know about the school
Where is Baylor located?
Most people have a pretty good understanding that Baylor is in Texas, but as we all know, Texas is massive. This has led to the same proliferation in interest about where the school is every March, though perhaps not the same levels as Gonzaga.
Do you know where Baylor is?
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- Waco, Texas
- San Antonio, Texas
- Fort Worth, Texas
- Plano, Texas
Answer: It’s Waco, Texas.
What’s the history of the school?
Also a private school with religious roots, Baylor was established in 1845 by the Union Baptist Association. They believed that Texas needed a chartered Baptist university, and petitioned the state for an act of congress to establish the school. The Union Baptist Association decided to name the school after Judge R.E.B Baylor, an ordained minister, judge and key member in proposing the school and pushing it through congress. The first group of students were expected to attend chapel as part of the educational schedule, and that tradition lasts today at the school.
Outside of sports, who are some notable alumni?
We’ve got a pretty big list of notable people outside the sports world who attended the University. Willie Nelson, Jeff Dunham, Trey Wingo, and Rand Paul.
Who is the best basketball player to play for Baylor?
On the men’s side it’s been a bit of a wasteland, to be honest. However, Baylor’s stellar women’s team has given the WNBA Brittney Griner, who is destined to be a Hall of Fame inductee.
How successful has Baylor been lately?
Baylor basketball had only made one NCAA tournament appearance since 1950 when Scott Drew got the job in 2003. He has turned the Bears into a consistent tournament team ever since, with the program reaching March Madness in six of the last seven tournaments. Drew had previously led the team to the Elite Eight twice in 2010 and 2012, but this is the school’s first time in the Final Four since 1950.
Incidents inside the Baylor athletic department
Any discussion of Baylor athletics has to include two major incidents which have occurred over the past 20 years. Most recently a wide ranging probe into the university found systemic problems with how allegations of rape and sexual abuse were handled inside the football department. The scandal resulted in the firing of head coach Art Briles, and the firing of Ken Starr as university president. More information on the wide ranging issues inside Baylor at the time can be found here.
In 2003, Baylor basketball was penalized by the NCAA after forward Patrick Dennehy was murdered by his teammate Carlton Dotson. Dotson killed Dennehy following an argument in which both men were firing guns in the Waco area. The investigation into the player’s disappearance led to Dotson being arrested and sentenced to 35 years in prison, while the subsequent inquiry by the NCAA turned up numerous problems inside the program, which Baylor was penalized for. Head coach Dave Bliss was fired as a result, with Scott Drew taking over. Drew remains Baylor’s coach today.