In this era of the coronavirus and the new protocols for athletes playing in the games (as well as the amount of spectators who can come to games), we should consider ourselves extremely lucky to even be able to watch any sports contests at all.
That’s why this Saturday, December 5th is going to be as big a deal as any in college basketball.
While college basketball fans were denied the chance to watch a national championship game last year because of the coronavirus, this Saturday they may get a possible preview of what the end of this years college season could bring.
Mark Few from Gonzaga began to build the foundation for a powerhouse in the beautiful mountainous landscape of Spokane over two decades ago. Now that powerhouse seems due for a national title.
In the past few years, Baylor University has been a prominent name in college basketball…. mainly for the product that their women have been able to showcase for many years under Kim Mulkey.
Now Scott Drew is in a position that Mark Few was in a couple decades ago. His task being to build a dynasty in the deserts of Waco, Texas.
This Saturday will be the penultimate matchup of two basketball programs who have made their mark as legitimate national recruiting programs who bring in major talent.
The funny thing is….. there isn’t an ACC, a SEC, a PAC 12 or a BIG TEN in front of their names. The banners they carry are from the West Coast Conference and the Big 12.
Last years #1 vs #2 meeting saw the Kentucky Wildcats defeat the Michigan State Spartans in the State Farm Champions Classic as Cassius Winston from Michigan State scored 21 points in the loss. And if anything stings from the onset of the coronavirus from last March, it’s the loss we should feel of not being able to see Cassius Winston see if he could do a Mateen Cleaves and lead the Spartans to the national championship. While #1 has faced #2 over 40 times in college hoops history, this will be around the 27th time it has happened in the regular season dating back to 1949 in the AP Poll. All other times #1 has faced #2 in the NCAA Tournament. And what’s more? The top ranked basketball team in the land has fell to the lower #2 ranked team.
In the NCAA Tournament, one of the most famous meetings of a #1 vs #2 was when the North Carolina State Wolfpack led by David Thompson defeated John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins 80-77 in double OT in the national semifinals.
Back in 2013, a #2 Michigan State team defeated the #1 ranked Wildcats of Kentucky when Keith Appling and Gary Harris led the Spartans with 22 and 20 points respectively over a Wildcat team composed of Julian Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, James Young and the Harrison twins.
In 2008, it was the battle of the Volunteer State as #2 Tennessee defeated ##1 Memphis with guard Chris Lofton and forward Wayne Chism leading the Volunteers over the Memphis Tigers and Derrick Rose.
In the history of #1’s playing #2’s, the programs of North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke and UCLA are the blue bloods of college basketball for two reasons: they love the spotlight and they love to win.
The Blue Devils have played for #1 six times, the Tar Heels have played seven times, the Wildcats have played eight times and the Bruins of UCLA? They have been in a clash for the top spot 9 times.
When you think of #1 playing #2 in college basketball’s history…. it isn’t just about the team that won. Think of the great basketball minds to have coached in these games. People such as John Wooden (UCLA and now deceased), Dean Smith (UNC and now deceased), Adolph Rupp (Kentucky and now deceased), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke). Even John Thompson (Georgetown) and his Hoyas played in at least three #1 vs #2 battles…. those being in the brawling Big East of the 1980’s.
So while college basketball history says that #1 vs. #2 speaks a lot about the success of a program during that time frame, #1 vs #2 in college basketball history also shows programs that are not just a fluke on the national scene.
Teams who play in these and other big profile games on an annual basis are here to stay.
The past few years we have seen programs such as North Carolina, Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky among others to make their mark as the teams to beat year in and year out. These marks are made in games such as what will take place on Saturday in Indianapolis.
The fact that this #1 vs #2 game is being played in the hoop junky Heaven of Indianapolis, Indiana says it all.
College basketball has been missed. Basketball fanatics in Indiana miss the sight of high level basketball being played in their state. There may not be many fans in the stands….. but just know that if this was a normal game under normal conditions? We might be playing it in the dome.
While fans do help to make a great atmosphere, this number one vs number two battle between Gonzaga and Baylor will be played with a passion like none other.
Coronavirus may be keeping fans away and at bay for the moment…. but college basketball fans will want to tune in Saturday for what could be Gonzaga vs Baylor – Part I in each team’s run for the title.
Number 1 vs Number 2.
There is more at stake than you think.