Pete Gillen, who coached Providence to the Elite 8 and took Xavier and Virginia to the NCAA Tournament, is a college basketball analyst on CBS Sports Network. Throughout the tournament, he appears on “NCAA March Madness 360” and “NCAA March Madness Bracket Breakdown.” As told to The Post’s Steve Serby:
It is Gonzaga’s world; we’re just passing through it.
The Zags are in a league of their own. The other three teams have as much of a chance of beating Gonzaga as I had of taking junior high beauty Maryanne Guacamole to the eighth-grade prom.
All the adversity, the different COVID-19 checks and the players have to be isolated and quarantined, I think it’s phenomenal what they had to go through. I think it’s been wonderful overcoming so many obstacles to get here.
Gonzaga vs. UCLA
I was head coach at Xavier when Mick Cronin was an assistant at Woodward High School in Cincinnati. He was like a Jimmy Cagney-type guy. Sometimes when you’re not a giant kid, you get a little chip on your shoulder.
This UCLA team is a reflection of him. He changed the culture at UCLA in just two years. Before he got there, they were soft, a little bit of selfishness and chillin’ out and cool, and being pretty. He’s a barroom brawler, he’s feisty and that’s the way their team is.
Mark Few is very meticulous, no stone’s unturned; he lets the kids play. Everybody likes Mark Few. Sometimes when you win so much they hate you.
Jalen Suggs reminds me of Jason Kidd. Gonzaga’s devastating on the break. When he gets the ball, he’s like a runaway train. What UCLA has to do is send four guys back in transition defense, cover the 3-point line but get in the lane first. Forget the offensive boards, and try to draw a couple of charges on Suggs as he attacks the basket.
UCLA has to slow it down, shorten the game, make it an ugly street fight and hit 3s. Johnny Juzang has to play out of his mind like they did against Michigan. The Bruins will have to hit 12 3s to have a chance for the upset. Every time Drew Timme touches the ball, double-team him on the catch right away, and be very physical with him. He’s almost impossible to stop in the lane.
Timme’s a good-looking young man, but he might have to get a gardener or somebody to clean up that mustache.
It would be one of the great upsets of all time, for sure. UCLA takes the air out of the ball. Juzang has been ridiculous, he’s banking shots in, he’s hitting it off his head, kicking it in, field goals … He’s making shots that you dream about. Tyger Williams gets the ball to the right guys, I think he’s terrific.
Gonzaga 76, UCLA 70
Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright, would love Scott Drew, the Master Builder. To get to the Final Four, you gotta be a pretty good coach.
Kelvin Sampson is so intense, he makes coffee nervous … meticulous on all the little things. He’s one of the best coaches in the game. He’s passion, his marketing ability, his success, he’s done a great job of building up their program. Before he got there, the facilities were slipping.
It’s Baylor’s offense versus Houston’s defense. When I coached, some of my players thought defense was something you put around de house and keep out de dog and de cat. Houston is awesome on the offensive glass. Baylor has arguably the best perimeter in the country. Houston also has a Big Three on the perimeter: Quentin Grimes, Marcus Sasser and DeJon Jarreau. The difference is Houston has scoring droughts. The Bears get a bunch of steals and frustrate the Houston guards, and MaCio Teague gets hot from downtown.
Baylor 68, Houston 64
Gonzaga vs. Baylor
You might need a neck brace to watch the game it’s gonna be so up-and-down, it’s gonna be fun.
Timme is the key. Baylor has a puncher’s chance if they can slow him down and get him in foul trouble. They can’t handle Timme unless they double-team him, if they let him go one-on-one, forget about it. He’s got great feet, great hands, head fakes, his mustache gets people nervous. He’ll be a top 15-18 pick, I would think.
Baylor is the country’s best 3-point shooting team, but I like Davion Mitchell best of the three guards. He’s a tremendous shooter, but he creates for everybody too. He’s the cream cheese on the bagel for that team. I’d rather have somebody with a swagger than somebody you have to sunshine and water him to get him going.
The Bears have to disrupt Gonzaga’s offense to score off turnovers. Gonzaga can be careless with the ball. Baylor forces some bad 3-point shots and goes cold for a while. Gonzaga’s role players, Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard, step up and make some big hoops. At Oral Roberts’ basketball arena, the Mabee Center, on the floor is a phrase “Expect A Miracle.” That is what it will take for Baylor to win. Anything can happen. But anything won’t. Mark Few wins his first national championship..
I think one of Jabbar’s UCLA teams is the best of all time. Gonzaga doesn’t have a superstar, but neither did Bobby Knight’s undefeated 1976 Indiana team. When Gonzaga finishes it’s undefeated season, I think they’ll be a Top-10 team of all time.
Gonzaga 86, Baylor 81
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