Former All-American Compares Gonzaga Bulldogs to 1980–81 Isiah Thomas-Led Indiana Hoosiers

Published 04/05/2021, 4:00 PM EDT
Mar 9, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24), guard Julian Strawther (0), guard Jalen Suggs (1) and forward Drew Timme (2) celebrate after defeating the the BYU Cougars in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


The stage is set for the 2021 March Madness final. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will take on the Baylor Bears as both teams battle for their first-ever NCAA title. Both have finished as the runner-up once before, but today, one team will walk away as the champion.

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The Bulldogs come in as the favorites after a superb run so far. Except for their Final Four win against the UCLA Bruins, they have won every game in double digits.

That shows how dominant they have been in the tournament. Many critics often scrutinize the Bulldogs since they play in a weak West Coast Conference. But these performances have proved otherwise.

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NCAA analyst Rashad Phillips recently compared them to the 1980-81 Indiana Hoosiers, who went on to win the title. He said that their defense, guard play, and their resilience make these two teams similar.

This Gonzaga team has a glow about them that reminds me of the @IsiahThomas 81 Hoosiers. Stout defense, great guard play, and resiliency. Can the Zags finish the deal? Can Suggs mirror the great Isiah Thomas? Can Drew Timmie become the Christian Laettner? #TalkSoon pic.twitter.com/F2ZaBzv43F

— Rashad Phillips (@RP3natural) April 4, 2021

Can the Gonzaga Bulldogs win the NCAA title like the 1981 Indiana Hoosiers?

The Hoosiers had the legendary Isiah Thomas leading them. He was the heart of the team, averaging 16 points and 5.8 assists per game. They had a strong team with multiple players being able to contribute, instead of relying on just a couple of players. The Hoosiers overcame all odds as they went on to win the NCAA title as a #3 seed.

In the semifinal, they beat the #1 seed Louisiana State, and then beat the #2 seed UNC Tar Heels in the final. The Hoosiers haven’t won an NCAA tournament since then.

As Phillips pointed out, the Bulldogs also have a lot of guard play. Center Drew Timme may be their leading scorer, but Jalen Suggs, Andrew Nembhard, and Joel Ayayi are crucial for their team. They have the #1 offense in the country, but that often shadows their defensive ability.

Finally, they are a resilient team that never gives up. Against the Bruins, the Bulldogs would have been eliminated had it not been for a clutch charge from Timme. Despite being on the verge of losing, they kept their composure and earned the win.

Apr 3, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrate making the game winning shot against the UCLA Bruins in the national semifinals of the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The major difference between the two teams would be their situation. The Hoosiers were the underdogs during their run, while the Bulldogs are the favorites.

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That bears extra pressure on them, but they have shown that they can deal with it well. It promises to be a very exciting game, and the Bulldogs will be expected to come out on top.

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Aaron Mathew

1469 articles

Aaron Mathew is a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. A graduate in Mass Media from Xavier’s College, Aaron has been a part of EssentiallySports since May 2020 where he covers both NBA and NCAA basketball news, and has also covered NBA 2K. In the past, Aaron has worked at the Sports Desk of Mumbai Mirror.

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