NCAA Tournament Notebook: The Basketball Gods give us the final we always deserved
On Dec. 5, we were supposed to see a matchup of No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Gonzaga in Indianapolis. But, the game had to be canceled due to COVID-19 issues.
The basketball gods took note of that. And, they wanted to make sure us lowly fans got to see the matchup between the 2 teams who entered the year as the near-consensus top-2 teams in the nation.
Oh, you don’t believe in the basketball gods? Well, how else do you explain this incredible shot by Jalen Suggs to down UCLA 93-90 in overtime and send the Bulldogs to the title game?
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) April 4, 2021
That’s inexplicable if you don’t believe. Suggs is one of the best players in the nation, yes, but to hit that shot in that moment — he’s now an instant legend. We’ll be talking about that shot for years, regardless of whether Gonzaga wins or loses on Monday night.
The shot got the Titanic treatment, because of course it did:
Even Mark Few and Suggs himself said they knew the shot was going in when it left Suggs’ hands:
What an incredible moment for a great coach and an exciting freshman star. That shot will go down in Gonzaga lore for decades to come.
On the other side of the bracket, Baylor gave us the blowout we expected. The Bears absolutely dominated the Cougars from the opening tip, cruising to an easy 78-59 victory. In a column I wrote for Saturday morning, I said Houston needed to get to 15 offensive rebounds to win. The Cougars only snagged 14 against Baylor. Meanwhile, I said the Bears needed to hit 10 3s to win. They hit 11.
There ya go.
The Bears can beat you in so many different ways. Yes, Jared Butler led the way with 17 points, but the star of the game was fellow guard Davion Mitchell. Mitchell did something that hasn’t been done since 1987 in his 12-point, 11-assist performance:
Give a lot of credit to the Houston Cougars. No, this game obviously didn’t go the way they would have liked, but this team has shown a lot of fight and skill all season. Quentin Grimes is a great player. DeJon Jarreau showed his toughness playing through a hip injury. And, Marcus Sasser was one of the breakout stars of the tournament.
Kelvin Sampson has built a winner in Houston. Under his leadership, the Cougars are going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Now, back to that Gonzaga-UCLA game, which was an all-time classic. It only went to overtime because of this controversial charge call:
Nice crossover by Juzang to get by Suggs. Great job by Timme of stepping up to take a charge. pic.twitter.com/SQ5chbypkB
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) April 4, 2021
Wait, did I say controversial? I meant obvious. Timme was camped out there. He had time to build a fire and make a s’more before Johnny Juzang plowed into him.
I absolutely hate the charging call in college basketball. Reward players for playing actual defense, in my opinion. But, this was absolutely, 100% a charge. Kudos to the ref for making the right call in the big moment.
This Gonzaga starting 5 was once again incredible. Timme had 25 points to lead the way. Joel Ayayi had 22 points. Suggs had 16. Corey Kispert scored 15. And, last but not least, Andrew Nembhard scored 11.
That group has been dominant all year. Will it last 1 more game? They danced with defeat on Saturday night but pulled through when it mattered most in overtime. We’ll see if Baylor is up to the challenge. The Bears have their own fearsome group of guys to be reckoned with, particularly in the backcourt.
Oh, and if you need any additional reasons to watch this game as an SEC fan, there will be plenty of familiar names on the floor on both sides:
SEC transfers will represent 30% of the starters in the national championship:
-Jared Butler (Alabama)
-Davion Mitchell (Auburn)
-Andrew Nembhard (Florida)
Basically, the SEC can claim this title.
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) April 4, 2021
It’s going to be an all-out battle for the title on Monday night. In a way, it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t get the game on Dec. 5. Now, we’re coming into this game without any history between the 2 sides.
The entire season has been building to this moment. It should be a championship game for the ages!