College Basketball

Big night of college basketball proves the field of contenders chasing Gonzaga is deep

March 2

For the majority of the 2020-2021 season, it has looked like a two-horse race for college basketball's national title.

There was Gonzaga, there was Baylor and there was everybody else. But if Tuesday's slate of games was any indication, there are plenty of contenders who could derail the No. 1 Bulldogs' quest for an undefeated season and their first national championship.

By the end of Tuesday night's big games, No. 3 Baylor and No. 4 Illinois proved that they are both strong enough to cut down the nets in April.

Coming off of their first loss of the season – to No. 13 Kansas – the Bears traveled to Morgantown to get back on track against No. 6 West Virginia, which currently is in third place in the Big 12.

Baylor escaped with a 94-89 overtime win and made history in the process.

The win gave Baylor its first outright Big 12 title and notched its fourth top-10 win of the season, three of which have come in conference play.

The game between the Bears and Mountaineers had the feel of a Final Four matchup and once again showed the strength of the Big 12, a conference that now boasts seven ranked teams.

Over in the Big Ten, No. 4 Illinois made the trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. to battle the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines.

It was announced before tip-off that Illinois would be without national player of the year candidate Ayo Dosunmu. That proved to be no problem for the Fighting Illini, who led by as much as 28 points on their way to a 76-53 win.

This marked the Illini's fourth win of the season over a ranked opponent and second consecutive win over a ranked opponent without Dosunmu – they toppled No. 25 Wisconsin on Saturday.

On top of that, it was Illinois' first road win ever over a team ranked in the top two.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga has occupied the top spot in the AP Poll since the preseason and has done nothing to relinquish its hold.

As Mark Titus broke down on "Titus and Tate," the Bulldogs haven't just been impressive, they have been dominant.

"Sixteen of their 24 games they won by 15-plus. They’re not just winning by double-digits, they’re wiping the floor with everybody. To the point where if Gonzaga is up five at halftime people freak out and they’re like ‘oh my God, they suck.’ And then they win by 26."

In fact, the Zags' only game of the season played within single digits was against West Virginia, an 87-82 win in December.

But as FOX Sports' betting analyst Sam Panayotovich pointed out recently, there are smart bets in the field of contenders that aren't the Bulldogs or the Bears.

Tuesday night showed West Virginia and Illinois might be worth the gamble.


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