The NCAA men’s basketball tournament hasn’t really been all that exciting this year. Sure, there have been upsets, and a handful of close games, but particularly in a year without Duke and Kentucky in the field at all, and several other traditional powers in the doldrums, not to mention the whole tournament being just in Indiana because of the pandemic, it’s really been a pretty blah edition of March Madness.
Until Saturday night.
Does one great game with one amazing finish redeem an entire tournament? Absolutely, and that’s what Gonzaga-UCLA was, with Jalen Suggs lifting Gonzaga to its second national title game appearance in school history with a banked-in buzzer-beater three from near half-court, right after UCLA had tied the game with 3.3 seconds remaining.
It’s immediately there on the pantheon with Christian Laettner, Kris Jenkins, Richard Hamilton, Bryce Drew, and anyone else you want to include among the biggest shots the tournament has ever seen. And it came at the end of an incredible, back-and-forth game between the undefeated team still looking for its first title after all these years and 11-time champion but also 11-seed and a team that had to play in this year’s First Four before advancing to the Final Four. Not to mention what UCLA did to Gonzaga in their regional semifinal 15 years ago, the Heartbreak City game in which the Zags blew a 17-point lead.
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Bringing it full circle? Adam Morrison was on the radio call Saturday night.
It’s Gonzaga-Baylor for the title on Monday, but it’ll take something really special to make this tournament memorable for something other than Gonzaga-UCLA.
Jose Berrios struck out 12 Brewers over six hitless innings, and Taylor Rogers struck out the side in the seventh, but Tyler Duffey allowed a one-out single to Omar Narvaez in the eighth and Minnesota wound up settling for a combined one-hitter as Alex Colomé worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes took the loss, after having his own no-hit bid broken up with one out in the seventh inning on a Byron Buxton home run, after which Burnes was immediately pulled.
Rocco Baldelli called it “not a fun decision” to pull Berrios after the Twins got the lead, but at 84 pitches through six innings, Berrios wasn’t sticking around to finish it, not in his first start of the year. And, really, combined no-hit bids are fine and fun, and cool team efforts, and the Twins almost got it done. As it was, they got the 2-0 victory.
It’s taken a while, but there’s definitely understanding now that it’s not worth it to push a pitcher too far just to chase a no-hitter.
So, on Saturday, I wrote about the Thunder’s 37-point loss to the Suns being overshadowed by Golden State’s 53-point loss to the Raptors, and the fact that the NBA was only two 30-point games away from matching last season’s entire total of 40. It didn’t even take until Saturday night’s West Coast games to get there, with the Knicks beating the Pistons by 44 and the Jazz squeaking past the Magic by 46.
I wrote about how with the compressed schedule and other circumstances of this season, it’s easier for teams to take such beatings, and “Just get the game over with and move on to the next one. Although, the way things are going, if you’re Cleveland, Oklahoma City, or Golden State, that might just be another 30-point loss.”
Cleveland only lost by 15 points in Miami, and Golden State had the night off, but the Thunder sure did take another 30-point loss.
They lost by 48 to the Trail Blazers, 133-85.
That’s a two-night total of 273-188, a combined margin of 85 points. It’s starting to make sense why they tried to dress like the Hawks in February.