Over the course of a traditional college basketball season, there are teams with their fair share of highs and many others with their share of lows. After all, that is what collegiate sports are all about. The highs, and the lows.
This season and most importantly this tournament has painted that picture to the absolute peak of its poetic potential.
Ever since the tournament bracket was unveiled and people began to compare and contrast this mixed group of college teams, there was one key factor that was immeasurable to the eyes of consumers, that factor was heart.
Heading into this beautiful Saturday in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, four full rounds had been completed and this year’s Final Four was set in stone.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 4, 2021
Final Four – Game 1: #1 Baylor Bears vs. #2 Houston Cougars
The champions of the Midwest region, the University of Houston Cougars entered semi-final weekend after four straight wins over high-flying, double-digit seeds. Taking down Oregon State, Syracuse, Rutgers and Cleveland State on their path to this point didn’t have many people convinced about their ability to shutdown a top team in the nation like Baylor.
Out of the South, those Baylor Bears appeared poised to make it back to the national championship on the backs of their balanced offensive attack and in-your-face defence. They had yet to play in a close game in the tournament, and there were doubters who thought it could end up being their downfall.
— Baylor Basketball (@BaylorMBB) April 4, 2021
In a matchup where we thought rebounding could play a major part in how the game would go, it did, but not in the way it was supposed to.
Houston is a team built to dominate the glass and keep teams from winning inside. They had battered their opponents all year long and throughout the tournament by never being out-rebounded, or giving up second-chance opportunities.
On this day, none of that was working, in fact, it was working against them. The Baylor Bears made it their mission to beat the Cougars at their own game and put them away before the first half could even come to an end.
Despite a 17 point half from guard Marcus Sasser, the rest of the Cougs offense could only muster up a dismal 3 points. Down 25 points heading into the locker room, Houston could never get their back off the mat, no matter how well they actually did play in the second half.
MARCUS SASSER GOING OFF 😤
— Overtime (@overtime) April 3, 2021
For the Houston Cougars, it was a nightmare ending to an otherwise massive season for the program. Reaching the Final Four for the first time in nearly 4 decades, there is a lot to be proud of for the team and program, and they are most definitely back on the map in college basketball.
For Baylor, it was once again a group effort. 17 from Jared Butler, 11 each from snipers Macio Teague and Matt Mayer, along with 12 and huge defensive plays from Davion Mitchell. The Bears will now move on to play in their first national championship game since 1948.
Davion Mitchell beats the buzzer 🚨
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 3, 2021
Final Four – Game 2: #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. #11 UCLA Bruins
I can’t even begin to tell the tale that was this game. For so many amazing reasons, this will be a game that people look back on and call one of the greatest raw moments to transpire in the COVID-19 era of sports. Such a strange category to group things into, but I truly believe it is the perfect way to describe what happened throughout this night.
Introducing first, the MASSIVE underdog, and champions of the East region. The UCLA Bruins come into this game as David against Goliath. A team out of the first-four, a play-in game that determines whether a team on the bubble of the NCAA’s selection pool for the tournament will get a spot in the Round of 64.
From the First Four ➡️ Final Four
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 4, 2021
The Bruins went from being down eleven points to the Michigan State Wolverines at halftime of the play-in match up to the Final Four and taking on one of the best college basketball teams we’ve ever seen.
They were projected to lose by 15 points, but they most definitely had other ideas.
Onto the winners of the West region, the undefeated 29-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Led by top 3 pick Jalen Suggs at point guard and a plethora of lethal offensive weapons around him inside the paint and out, people were already prepping for a long-awaited Baylor vs Gonzaga matchup for all the marbles.
Right off the bat, you almost had a feeling while watching the opening minutes that in no way was UCLA going to roll over and die. They were embracing every second of this, and it was evident in the types of shots they were taking, and making. Back and forth the teams went all night long, changing leads and taking turns having their taste of momentum.
Here's to Juzang and Jaquez and Riley and Tyger. Played their tails off on both ends. Could not have fought any harder. Should be proud.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 4, 2021
Whenever one side took it, the other fought for it back. Gonzaga was one buzzer-beating shot by Corey Kispert away from trailing at halftime for the first time all year.
UCLA took the punches that Gonzaga had and managed to have enough life to throw some haymakers of their own. At the end of regulation, Bruins star scorer Johnny Juzang took the ball to the rim and was called for an offensive foul. While it was the right call, it was as close as it gets. They were that close to taking down goliath at the free-throw line.
The game went to OT, where Gonzaga began to carry the play and pace. With the Bulldogs up five points with under a minute to go, Jaime Jaquez dialed up a tough three-pointer, followed by a stop, to give UCLA the ball to tie the game up.
Johnny Juzang missed a tough running jumper in the paint but managed to gobble up his phone offensive rebound and lay the ball back in to tie the game up at 90.
Enter, Jalen Suggs.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 4, 2021
A player who is making sure NBA scouts think twice when selecting anybody ahead of him in the coming NBA draft, Jalen Suggs made the shot heard around the world.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs used buzzer-beating magic to defeat the cinderella UCLA Bruins, 93-90, and are moving on to the national championship game on Monday against Baylor.
A game that no basketball fan will soon forget, this is exactly why I fell in love with sports in the first place. The ability it has to make you forget about all of the bad in the world and tune into something that can put you on the edge of your seat in an instant, or even completely off of it.
For what should be an intense and hard-fought national championship game on Monday night, I believe the Bulldogs have done everything they need to in order to finish off the perfect season.
Sitting at 30-0, I’m taking the Gonzaga Bulldogs to defeat the Baylor Bears 83-75 and capture the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
Evan Power, Evolution 107.9