Let’s Talk About March Madness

Image+courtesy+of+Click2Houston

Image courtesy of Click2Houston

Adam Matos, Staff Writer

And so it goes. Another March Madness has wrapped itself up and left us with a lot to talk about. For starters, I would like to congratulate every team that made the tournament; it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to even make the Big Dance. My bracket, like every year, didn’t turn out as successful as I hoped it would but what can you do? My championship game prediction was spot on this year so I am happy about that. The rest of my bracket wasn’t so lucky; let’s just say I didn’t expect 15 seed Oral Roberts to knock off one of my Final Four competitors in the first round. I did however have Gonzaga winning this game to complete the perfect season. I was rooting for Baylor but like so many of my contemporaries and sports betters, I thought Gonzaga simply couldn’t lose. But they did. 

Baylor beating Gonzaga is FAR from an underdog story. The Baylor Bears were the 1 seed after all and had a record of 28-2. Stars Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler absolutely went off in the tournament leading to almost nobody being able to stop their offensive firepower. Mitchell is an amazing on-ball creator. I was watching some of the shots he was hitting and some of them were just the smoothest handles into a swift jumper; his game could definitely translate to the next level. Baylor’s defense was also smothering. The saying goes, “Defense wins championships,” and it just did. Gonzaga was averaging 90+ points in their games this season and Baylor managed to hold them to an mere 70. For many teams that wouldn’t be very embarrassing, but for a team who had as much hype and as high expectations as Gonzaga, calling their championship performance a disappointment would be an understatement.

I do have to talk about Gonzaga’s season, they did have an amazing one. Some people might say, ‘it doesn’t mean a thing without the ring’ but making it to the National Championship is a feat in itself. Almost all college basketball fans know Jalen Suggs, he is currently ranked in the NBA’s mock draft as going in the top 3 picks. For good reason, even before he hit that insane half-court buzzer-beater to beat UCLA, Jalen Suggs was putting up consistent numbers and being a glue guy, keeping this amazing Gonzaga team together.  Suggs reminds me of a Tyrese Haliburton-type player, they are both point guards with incredibly high IQs of the game of basketball and lots of potential. He also has some flashes of Jason Kidd and Lonzo Ball because of his passing and playmaking potential. Suggs pulls off some passes that most players wouldn’t even see on the floor. Even though Suggs is an amazing player and without a doubt deserves a high lottery pick in the NBA Draft, I was most surprised by the amazing showing of some of Gonzaga’s lesser-known players. 

Not many people besides die-hard college basketball fans know players like Drew Timme and Joel Ayayi but they put up incredible performances in the NCAA tournament. Timme, especially at some points, played like Gonzaga’s best player. He is a fantastic high IQ and energy player and although he might have some problems translating to a more fast-paced NBA game, he reminds me of a Domantas Sabonis-type. Timme also shows some defensive promise as well as an inconsistent, yet workable, three-point shot. I believe that Timme could find himself as an early second-round pick in the NBA draft or even a mid-to-late first-rounder based on his tournament play. Ayayi is also a very athletic guard and shows lots of defensive promise. He could find himself as a late first-round pick as well. Gonzaga has 4 players that are almost without a doubt going to be picked in the NBA Draft along with other players who could find themselves as one of the later picks in the second round. Although Gonzaga’s season this year didn’t bring home the championship, many players had and will continue to have great opportunities to show they are worthy of a roster spot on an NBA team. 

The craziest thing and most unexpected in my opinion about this tournament was UCLA making it to the Final Four. I did not expect them whatsoever to be able to make it this far and almost pull off a huge upset against Gonzaga. Johnny Juzang averaged 21.6 points over his team’s five-game run that came to an end against Gonzaga. Juzang was one of the most surprising players from this tournament and if you watched the UCLA-Gonzaga game, Juzang and his teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. simply could not miss. They were taking pull-up jumpers and three-pointers– and hit a lot of them. Gonzaga did a great job guarding the basket, but UCLA had some great shooters and that kept them in the game. Both Juzang and Jaquez played phenomenally and if they keep it up they could be seen as combo guard projects that could end up as a consistent role player on an NBA team. That UCLA-Gonzaga game was without a doubt the most classic game of this tournament and I’m so glad I was able to watch it live. If you haven’t gotten the chance, go check out the highlights, they’re just as entertaining.

I can’t talk about every team, although I wish I had that patience so I’m gonna wrap it up here. UCLA, Gonzaga, and Baylor are all going to be great teams next year even though some players will be testing their skills on the next level. This tournament was an interesting one, especially since only a small number of fans could attend games. But I would say it did not disappoint, and although it’s over now, many college stars broke out onto the scene and will become names that you will see over and over again once they become stars on the NBA level.