An Epic Finish to the Madness

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Brayton Bowen, Reporter

After a flurry of upsets and canderellas, the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four and the National Championships did not disappoint. For only the second time in NCAA history, a 15 seed (Oral Roberts) clinched a Sweet 16 berth. Unfortunately for Oral Roberts, their “cinderella” run ended in their Sweet 16 clash with third seeded Arkansas. Unlikely matchups such as an eight vs twelve seed and six vs seven seeds meeting in the Sweet 16 made this March Madness made this March exceed expectations.

 

For the Saturday 3/27 games, (1) Baylor defeated (5) Villanova 62-51, (3) Arkansas topped (15) Oral Roberts 72-70, (12) Oregon State continued their deep run with a 65-58 victory over (8) Loyola IL, and lastly for the Saturday games, (2) Houston ran over (11) Syracuse 62-46. The only real surprise in the Saturday games is (12) Oregon State making an unlikely run into the Elite Eight.

 

On Sunday 3/28, the first overall seed Gonzaga rolled over (5) Creighton 83-65, Michigan stampeded (4) Florida State 76-58, (6) USC solidified their spot in the Elite Eight with a victory over (7) Oregon 82-68, and the highly unlikely cinderella run from (11) UCLA continued with their upset over (2) Alabama.

 

In the Elite Eight, (1) Gonzaga toped (6) USC 85-66, (1) Baylor defeated (2) Houston 78-59, (2) Houston edged out (12) Oregon State 67-61, and once again, the (11) UCLA beat (1) Michigan to reach the Final Four as an 11 seed. Which if it wasn’t for the 11 seed Loyola Chicago cinderella run in 2018, UCLA reaching the Final Four as an 11 seed would have been the first 11 seed to reach the Final Four since VCU (Virginia Commonwealth) in 2011.

 

The Final Four, as anticipated, did not disappoint in any way. The first game of the Final Four was a contest between (1) Baylor and (2) Houston. Many thought that Houston had the “easiest road to the Final Four ever.” That thought deemed to be true as the Houston Cougars got defeated 78-59. A balanced attack by the Baylor Bears with five double-digit scorers, led by NBA bound guard Jared Butler put the game out of reach from the start for the Cougars.

 

The other Final Four contest was between (1) Gonzaga and (11) UCLA. This game was crazy to say the least. The game was close for the entire 40 minutes of regulation, and the entire overtime period. UCLA guard Johnny Juzang made a layup with 3.3 seconds left in overtime to tie the game at 90. This seemed to many that the contest would go into another overtime. But, the potential number one overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Jalen Suggs had other plans. Suggs took the inbound pass and sprinted up the floor and tossed up a heave from just a few steps in front of the half-court line, and banked the shot in as time expired. This shot put Jalen Suggs’ name in the NCAA tournament history books forever. Junior Will Swartz said, “The shot by Suggs was the greatest shot that I have ever witnessed, and I have watched a lot of college basketball.”

 

The National Championship was an extremely anticipated matchup between the number one overall seed Gonzaga, and the number two overall seed Baylor. Both squads have extremely good coaching staffs and multiple NBA prospects. Baylor was in control for almost the entire game, leading 47-37 at half, and winning by a final score of 86-70. Guard Jared Butler lead the Baylor Bears in scoring with 22, followed by MaCio Teague with a 19 point effort. For Gonzaga, their shot at a perfect season came up one game short. For what seemed like the most balanced team in a long time, only one player was really able to get it going for the bulldogs was Jalen Suggs with a 22 point output. The next highest scorer for Gonzaga was two players with 12 points each. The Baylor Bears are the 2021 NCAA basketball National Champions with a final record of 28-2, and the runner-up Gonzaga Bulldogs finished their amazing run with a final record of 31-1.