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Baylor defeats Gonzaga, earns first men’s basketball national title

Baylor forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua dunks over Gonzaga in the second half. (Darron Cummings/AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — Baylor, which spent the early part of the century as a men’s basketball hellscape crawling with skulduggery and worse, spent Monday night as a brilliant, kinetic credit to its sport. It became the 37th different college to win a national championship, and it carved out a starring presence in future discussions about who has made the highest climbs from the lowest depths.

Baylor’s 86-70 win — which followed a fast start with leads of 9-0, 23-8 and 35-16 — cemented an NCAA men’s tournament in which it never really had to hyperventilate. Baylor (28-2) gave the record books some editing. The Bears placed Gonzaga (31-1) as the third team to go all the way to the final night unbeaten and then lose just once — after Ohio State in 1960-61 and Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in 1978-79 — and they prevented the Bulldogs from becoming the first team since Indiana in 1975-76 to spend a season free of losing.

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Men’s bracket | Women’s bracket

Way-too-early top 25: Kentucky, North Carolina, Houston, Gonzaga, Arkansas and Duke should be in the mix again next season.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk: Kansas forged the biggest comeback in the 83 championship games to date to beat North Carolina and win the men’s national title.

Gamecocks dominate: The women’s national championship is officially heading back to Columbia, S.C., for the second time in program history after a wire-to-wire 64-49 victory by South Carolina over Connecticut.

Mike Krzyzewski’s last game: Coach K’s career ends with joy and agony in college basketball Armageddon.

One day, two title games: A decade after Title IX, a battle for control of women’s basketball split loyalties and produced two national champions.

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