Suggs’ legendary shot sets up Gonzaga-Baylor powerhouse title game

Jalen-Suggs

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrates making the game winning basket against UCLA during overtime in a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings / AP)

Is it Monday yet?

Not a phrase you’d normally say, but in the context of what will take place at 9:00 p.m. ET, it’s well justified.

At long last, the two best teams in college basketball this season will face each other when the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears meet in the NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament national title game.

This has been a hotly anticipated meeting between these two schools for four months now, ever since their Dec. 5 tilt was cancelled because of COVID-19 protocols when both schools were looking like the two best in college hoops just three games into their respective seasons.

As the campaign progressed, even as Baylor experienced a swoon because of a COVID-mandated pause, it became apparent that these two schools were in a class of their own with the Bulldogs entering the NCAA tournament undefeated and the Bears with just two losses to their name, mostly as they were shaking the rust off from their layoff.

But on Monday, at last, these two powerhouses will meet not only for a chance at a national championship — and a chance at basketball immortality on the line for Gonzaga — but also a shot to finally, truly see who is the best team in college basketball this season.

As we await Monday, however, there is still the matter of the two Final Four games that were played Saturday — and, man, was one of those contests smoking.

Here are a few takeaways from the Final Four.

The Legend of Jalen Suggs

Before you read any further, just take a look at these two clips:

The first clip looked like the defining play of the game between Gonzaga and UCLA when freshman phenom Jalen Suggs came up with an incredible sequence where he blocked a shot at the rim, saved it from going out of bounds, started a break and then threw a strike of a bounce pass to teammate Drew Timme for a dunk that put the Bulldogs ahead with under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

But as remarkable as that was, the clip below was even more incredible and is the reason why Suggs’ name is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

With 3.3 seconds left to play in overtime and the game tied at 90-90, Gonzaga coach Mark Few opted to allow his team to just inbound the ball and see what happens, despite having a timeout left. It turned out to be a genius move as the ball ended up in Suggs’ capable hands, he raced to just a little past half court and banked in an iconic game-winner reminiscent of Christian Laettner’s in the Elite Eight against Kentucky in 1992.

Suggs is a projected top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, but he appears to have something that the other top prospects simply don’t have: the impossible-to-define “it” factor.

Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham is expected to go No. 1 overall, but he isn’t the player who will be looking to lead his team to the first undefeated college season since 1976 with a signature moment that will be played on repeat until the end of time, is he?

Measurables are great and all, but Suggs has a special kind of magic that you just can’t teach and has proven his desire to will his team to victory. If you’re a GM of an NBA team and don’t want that you should probably look for another job.

Greatest college basketball game of all time?

And on the topic of that Gonzaga-UCLA game, did anyone else feel like they needed a cigarette after watching/experiencing that?

A tightly contested contest with great shot-making and star performances on both sides from start to finish, it’s games like that that remind you why the NCAA Tournament always has such allure.

In particular, because of the two competing storylines from the respective teams with the Bulldogs chasing the history of an undefeated season and the Bruins looking to become the first team in the tournament to go from the First Four to the national championship game.

And it was only made that much more intoxicating by the fact that No. 1 seed Gonzaga was was getting pushed all game long by the No. 11.

The game will always be remembered for Suggs’ heroics, but the 29 points from UCLA’s Johnny Juzang (including the tying basket he made with 3.3 seconds to play in overtime) won’t soon be forgotten, neither will the strong first half from the Zags’ Joel Ayayi and the clutch play of Timme down the stretch of the fourth quarter and in overtime, including a game-saving charge he drew near the end of regulation.

Canadian comes up clutch

And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the outstanding play from the lone Canadian left in the NCAA Tournament: Andrew Nembhard.

Nembhard, normally a key bench player, got the start for Few’s squad as the Gonzaga coach tightened up his rotation to just seven men. He was mostly used as a safety valve and a calming presence when things got a little hectic, finishing with 11 points and eight assists on 4-of-9 shooting, including a clutch step-back three-pointer that put the Bulldogs up five with about 1:14 to play in overtime.

Though he can get lost in the shuffle given just how much talent is on the Zags, there’s little doubt just how important Nembhard is to them, and he showed it against UCLA.

Oh yeah, that other game

And in case you forgot, there was another Final Four game played Saturday, a 78-58 Baylor victory over Houston in a contest that was the polar opposite of the Gonzaga-UCLA match.

Simply put, the Bears overwhelmed the Cougars, who looked like they didn’t belong and, perhaps, really didn’t as their path to the Final Four was through double-digit seeded teams and when matched up against a truly great opponent like the Bears, they had no answer.

It took a little while for them to get their motor going again, but Baylor continues to look like the dominant team that had many wondering if they were as good or better than Gonzaga near the beginning and middle parts of the season.

The dynamic duo of Jared Butler and likely lottery pick Davion Mitchell are once again playing All-American style basketball, giving the Bears the kind of offensive firepower they’ll need to hang with the Bulldogs as well as the depth thanks to a strong supporting cast with players like MaCio Teague and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Matthew Mayer coming off the bench.

Reminder, we’re getting Gonzaga-Baylor for the national championship game

Get hype! We’re actually going to see a rare best-on-best college national championship game on Monday!

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