INDIANAPOLIS — The Final Four gifted college basketball its most dramatic finish of this March Madness so far as Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs hit a buzzer-beating, half-court, overtime heave to punch the Bulldogs’ ticket to the title game.
“I’ve always wanted to run up on the table like Kobe and D-Wade,” smiled the freshman after making the biggest shot of his life. “That’s the first thing I did. That’s something you practice on your mini-hoop as a kid.”
“It’s been crazy how many he’s made in practice, last second shots,” continued Bulldogs’ head coach Mark Few. “I was staring right at it saying, ‘that’s in,’ and it was.”
The big question about Gonzaga before this tournament began was, in a way, have the unbeaten Zags been too good, not tested in late-game, dig-deep scenarios?
You can’t ask that question anymore.
“We’ve probably worked more on end-game situations than I ever have because I knew we needed that,” explained Few.
Baylor certainly needed no late-game heroics in the other National Semifinal. The Bears dominated their way into the title game.
“You never plan on that,” said Baylor head coach Scott Drew. “You plan on it going down to the wire. If you’re blessed and play really well, you get a couple of those special nights.”
In a way, this championship matchup appears almost preordained. Gonzaga and Baylor were scheduled to play a game in Indianapolis in December. Both teams were even in town, but COVID forced them to cancel, and the two head coaches had a press conference in the Circle City to make the announcement.
“As we were riding back,” Drew explained of his time with Few. “We were like, ‘If we end up playing this game in the Final Four or the championship game, that sounds like a better idea.'”
It’s a welcome outcome for both parties, now with an NCAA title on the line.
“We got a short duration here to get ready for just a terrific Baylor team,” said Few.
Nothing but terrific teams make it to this point, but only one will be crowned a champion on Monday night.