With the 2021 calendar 12 months simply over midway by means of, it is already been an eventful 12 months in faculty basketball. From the return of the NCAA Event after its 2020 hiatus to the evolution of latest guidelines permitting first-time transfers rapid eligibility, the game has given us a lot to unpack.
The COVID-19 pandemic arguably hit faculty basketball as laborious as any sport because it worn out a whole postseason. That unhappy actuality from 2020 made us recognize the return of some normalcy for March Insanity in 2021, even when the pandemic’s affect was nonetheless current in some ways. Issues ought to solely enhance from right here as arenas return to full capability and faculties resume regular nonconference schedules for the 2021-22 season.
However earlier than we glance too far forward, our writers are going to mirror on the primary half of 2021 for this week’s version of the Dribble Handoff by choosing their favourite tales of the 12 months up to now in faculty basketball.
Baylor wins first title
My favourite story from the primary half of this 12 months is the obvious story from the primary half of this 12 months — the one which resulted in Scott Drew reducing nets within the state wherein he was raised, the one which resulted in Baylor’s first nationwide championship in historical past. Man, what a narrative. The concept that Drew inherited a traditionally irrelevant basketball program overrun with scandal (after one participant murdered one other participant) and slowly constructed it into one thing respectable, after which into one thing wonderful, is arguably the best Level A-to-Level B climb by any coach at one faculty within the historical past of school athletics. And it must be famous that Drew did not win this nationwide championship with a bunch of five-star prospects, however as an alternative because of the event of a number of gamers who initially enrolled at different faculties — specifically Jared Butler (Alabama), Davion Mitchell (Auburn), MaCio Teague (UNC Asheville) and Adam Flagler (Presbyterian).
It must also be famous that Baylor’s path to this nationwide championship featured the Bears beating the Large East champions (Villanova), American Athletic Convention champions (Houston) and the beforehand perceived finest crew within the nation (Gonzaga) all by double-digits to complete 28-2 on the season and 54-6 over a two-year span that features the shortened 2019-20 marketing campaign. Once more, what a narrative. And the truth that Baylor will now open subsequent season within the high 10 of the CBS Sports activities High 25 And 1, even after dropping 4 starters, is a reminder that Drew and his workers have this program on as strong floor as actually some other program within the sport. — Gary Parrish
Single-site NCAA Event
Parrish is correct. Baylor profitable a nationwide title in males’s faculty basketball is one thing particular. That is an enormous story, inarguably one of many largest in sports activities for 2021. And my man KB’s acquired some good factors on 31-1 Gonzaga straight beneath. However for me, I am going to go broader on my favourite story amid this wretched pandemic. COVID-19 pressured a scenario upon the NCAA that we’ll virtually actually by no means see once more in our lifetimes. Holding single-site tournaments in males’s and girls’s basketball had some surprising enchantment. It was additionally, in a sensible sense, the one strategy to efficiently stage a 64 and 68-team championship occasion.
Then there was the on-the-ground camaraderie between the groups. Although they did not co-mingle, they noticed one another in resort hallways, ballrooms and extra. Coaches advised me the 2021 NCAA Event had a vibe alongside the traces of being the perfect AAU match of all time. I used to be available in Indianapolis for the ultimate 4 rounds of the match. That was the finest metropolis wherein to carry this type of match. Not less than there was restricted fan capability as properly. Watching NCAA Event video games in Hinkle Fieldhouse is one thing I am going to always remember, and the identical goes for ping-ponging backwards and forwards for 4 straight days watching each Candy 16 and Elite Eight sport in particular person, which is one thing that clearly just isn’t potential in a standard NCAA Event.
So for the unprecedented and historic nature of the 2021 tourney, that is why it is my decide. And I’ve additionally been advised by sources that the NCAA will contemplate going to a single-site format for the Candy 16 and Elite Eight in future years. Spider out the primary weekend across the nation, then have one metropolis host the regionals, and one other host the Ultimate 4. Make the match a good greater vacation spot occasion than it already is. — Matt Norlander
Baylor will get its roses because the 2021 nationwide champion, however Gonzaga was the story of the 2020-21 season. The Zags have been the preseason No. 1 crew and so they carried that distinction with a bullet all the way in which to the title sport, changing into the primary crew since 1978-1979 Indiana State to have an undefeated file (31-0) main into the NCAA championship (earlier than falling 86-70 to Baylor).
Gonzaga was dominant in opposition to non-Bears foes because of its top-rated offense led by lottery prospects Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs, and spearheaded down low by mustache-donning Drew Timme. It completed the 12 months ranked No. 1 in scoring margin. No natty to point out for it, however years from now we’ll keep in mind Baylor’s title and Gonzaga’s near-perfect season in the identical breath. — Kyle Boone
Vital teaching modifications
After a 2020 offseason that featured little or no motion on the teaching carousel, the 2021 cycle took a wrecking ball to varsity basketball’s energy construction. Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski saying their retirement plans was not a celebratory event for the game (although there have been certainly some Duke and UNC haters happy concerning the growth). However their selections represent a altering of the guard that can reverberate for years to return, and it is a change that ought to give faculty basketball followers pleasure over what a brand new period on Tobacco Street will convey.
To make certain, the 2 legends are merely handing the whistle over to assistants with Hubert Davis taking up for Williams instantly and Jon Scheyer taking up for Krzyzewski after this season. However the departures of two of the game’s winningest coaches of all time has the potential to make the ACC an absolute free-for-all within the years to return whereas additionally giving extra oxygen to new energy brokers on the nationwide degree.
Bidding farewell to Williams and Krzyzewski is bittersweet, nevertheless it’s vital on a number of ranges and thrilling as a result of it represents a brand new daybreak for 2 of the game’s high manufacturers. Plus, the farewell tour with Coach Okay throughout the season forward has the potential to convey some particular moments. — David Cobb