Yesterday’s game between the Baylor Bears and the Gonzaga Bulldogs pitted the #9 team in the country (Baylor) against a Gonzaga team that has struggled to match the competition early in the season as they work their way through one of the more challenging pre-conference schedules you’ll see. Having lost to San Diego State (now a top-10 ranked team), Kansas State, Illinois, Washington State and Notre Dame already, the Bulldogs could only boast a 5-5 record coming into Saturday, and their best win was against unranked Marquette. In contrast, Baylor was rolling along in an undefeated season after their first seven games, although none of their prior opponents appeared in the top 25, and only one (Arizona State) even came from a major conference.
With this context, both teams had something to prove. For Gonzaga’s part, they needed to show that they could prevail in a significant matchup and help their flailing tournament resume with a quality win. With Xavier, Oklahoma State, and Wake Forest all to come on their pre-conference schedule, Gonzaga was in dire need of a reversal of fortune before things got out of hand. On Baylor’s side, the perspective was that they needed to prove their legitimacy as a top team in the country rather than continuing to ride on the success of last season’s Elite 8 squad.