INDIANAPOLIS – This is truly a tough call. Both teams have outstanding guard lines and Gonzaga figures to have an edge inside with forward Drew Timme.
We’ll stay in the backcourt and give the nod to junior Davion Mitchell, the national defensive player of the year. Junior Jared Butler has been a mainstay on All-America teams and leads the team in scoring (16.6), but Mitchell isn’t far behind (14.0) and he’s first in minutes (33.0) and 3-point percentage (45.3).
Mitchell, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder who played his freshman year at Auburn, can be a game-changer at both ends of the court. He’s considered by many as the top on-ball defender in the nation. His nickname is “off night” because usually the player he defends has an off night. He had 56 steals.
Mitchell is difficult to contain on dribble penetration with his speed, strength and perimeter shooting ability (62 made 3s). He’s been steady in five tournament games, scoring between 12 and 16 points. He’s coming off an 11-assist performance against Houston.
The backcourt matchups should be terrific. Both teams have flexibility with their defensive assignments, but it figures to be Mitchell lining up against Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs, Butler against Andrew Nembhard and senior MaCio Teague on Joel Ayayi.
“Both (Mitchell and Suggs) are extremely competitive, both are so talented and both the bigger the moment the better they play,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “It’s a blessing going into a game knowing we have the best defender in college basketball.”