Dribble Handoff: Biggest and best college basketball storylines through the first six months of 2021

With the 2021 calendar yr simply over midway by, it is already been an eventful yr in faculty basketball. From the return of the NCAA Match after its 2020 hiatus to the evolution of latest guidelines permitting first-time transfers rapid eligibility, the game has given us lots to unpack.

The COVID-19 pandemic arguably hit faculty basketball as onerous 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 Madness in 2021, even when the pandemic’s influence was nonetheless current in some ways. Issues ought to solely enhance from right here as arenas return to full capability and colleges 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 yr up to now in faculty basketball.

Baylor wins first title

My favourite story from the primary half of this yr is the obvious story from the primary half of this yr — the one which resulted in Scott Drew slicing nets within the state during which he was raised, the one which resulted in Baylor’s first nationwide championship in historical past. Man, what a narrative. The concept 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 glorious, is arguably the best Level A-to-Level B climb by any coach at one faculty within the historical past of faculty athletics. And it ought to be famous that Drew did not win this nationwide championship with a bunch of five-star prospects, however as an alternative due to the event of a number of gamers who initially enrolled at different colleges —  particularly Jared Butler (Alabama), Davion Mitchell (Auburn), MaCio Teague (UNC Asheville) and Adam Flagler (Presbyterian). 

It also needs to be famous that Baylor’s path to this nationwide championship featured the Bears beating the Massive East champions (Villanova), American Athletic Convention champions (Houston) and the beforehand perceived greatest group 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 Top 25 And 1, even after shedding 4 starters, is a reminder that Drew and his workers have this program on as strong floor as actually every other program within the sport. Gary Parrish

Single-site NCAA Match

Parrish is correct. Baylor successful a nationwide title in males’s faculty basketball is one thing particular. That is an enormous story, inarguably one of many greatest in sports activities for 2021. And my man KB’s obtained some good factors on 31-1 Gonzaga instantly beneath. However for me, I will go broader on my favourite story amid this wretched pandemic. COVID-19 pressured a state of affairs upon the NCAA that we’ll nearly definitely by no means see once more in our lifetimes. Holding single-site tournaments in males’s and ladies’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 instructed me the 2021 NCAA Match had a vibe alongside the strains of being one of the best AAU event of all time. I used to be readily available in Indianapolis for the ultimate 4 rounds of the event. That was the greatest metropolis during which to carry this type of event. Not less than there was restricted fan capability as effectively. Watching NCAA Match video games in Hinkle Fieldhouse is one thing I will always remember, and the identical goes for ping-ponging forwards and backwards for 4 straight days watching each Candy 16 and Elite Eight recreation in particular person, which is one thing that clearly isn’t potential in a traditional NCAA Match. 

So for the unprecedented and historic nature of the 2021 tourney, that is why it is my decide. And I’ve additionally been instructed 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 Closing 4. Make the event a good larger vacation spot occasion than it already is. Matt Norlander

Gonzaga’s run

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 group and so they carried that distinction with a bullet all the best way to the title recreation, changing into the primary group since 1978-1979 Indiana State to have an undefeated report (31-0) main into the NCAA championship (earlier than falling 86-70 to Baylor). 

Gonzaga was dominant towards non-Bears foes due to 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 yr 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 adjustments

After a 2020 offseason that featured little or no motion on the teaching carousel, the 2021 cycle took a wrecking ball to school 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 absolutely some Duke and UNC haters happy concerning the improvement). 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 carry.

To make sure, the 2 legends are merely handing the whistle over to assistants with Hubert Davis taking on for Williams instantly and Jon Scheyer taking on 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, however 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 carry some particular moments. David Cobb

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