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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s Final Four win over UCLA

31-0, one to go.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-UCLA at Gonzaga IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs and UCLA Bruins gave us all a gift on Saturday night. That was one of the greatest games ever played in the history of college basketball. Full stop.

Both these teams demonstrated tremendous composure throughout the game and particularly down the stretch as they matched bucket for bucket. Neither team blinked. What a tremendous basketball game for a phenomenal tournament. But only one team gets to advance to the national championship, and that team is Gonzaga. See you all on Monday night.

  1. JALEN SUGGS—YOU ARE A LEGEND!!!!!! What a way to etch your place in the history of college basketball. We’ll see the highlight of that shot in every March Madness promo for the next 30+ years, and it’s going to make us happy every single time.
  2. Mick Cronin’s brand of basketball isn’t my cup of tea. But you have to tip your hat to him and his squad for embracing who they are and understanding what they need to do to compete in this game. There hasn’t been a team all season long that has been able to hang with Gonzaga for 40 minutes until this game. The Bruins took it even further and were step for step with Gonzaga for 44 minutes and 57 seconds, but in the end they couldn’t keep up with Jalen Suggs.
  3. As the conductor of the Ayayi Express, Joel’s dominance in this game filled my heart with joy. He does everything so well, and the Zags lose this game without him. I’ve said this repeatedly this year, but he’s the ideal example for any young basketball player to model their game after. I fancy you, Joel.
  4. The Bruins needed to play a perfect game to beat Gonzaga, and they nearly did. While the Zags looked to push the pace whenever they could, the Bruins didn’t take the bait and maintained their tortoise-like offensive pace while scoring at an extremely efficient clip. At the other end of the floor, they successfully mucked things up to disrupt Gonzaga’s screen actions and crowd passing lanes inside the arc. The Bruins also matched Gonzaga’s physicality on the glass and were quick to the 50/50 balls. They did everything they had to do to put themselves in a position to advance to the national championship game. Jay Bilas nailed it on the head with his post-game comments when he said that UCLA would have beaten any other team in the country with its performance on Saturday night. The Zags are just special.
  5. Gonzaga’s defensive execution was not at the level we saw against USC. There were a number of possessions with a late or missed rotation due to either a lack of communication or a brain fart that resulted in the Zags losing track of someone. I simply couldn’t understand Gonzaga’s insistence on helping off of Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez to dig and double in the post, but in the end they made just enough plays to pull this one out. Also, I would be remiss not to commend Juzand, Jaquez, Tyger Campbell, and the rest of their squad. They were all excellent.
  6. UCLA excels at taking care of the ball, and while the Zags forced them into five turnovers in the first half they could have certainly used some more. I would have liked to see the Zags use its press more often early in the game to see if they could manufacture more transition opportunities and encourage a faster pace of play. UCLA beat the press twice in the first half and the Zags just completely went away from it. I feel like they should have mixed it in a little more throughout the game to try and flip control of the tempo.
  7. It was unfortunate timing that halftime arrived right as Corey Kispert was heating up late in the first half. He’s been solid, but not spectacular, during the tournament and has been searching for his stroke. Now having shot 5-18 from the three-point line in the last two games, Monday night would be a perfect time for him to explode and close out his college career in the best way possible. If he’s feeling any frustration, I hope he’s able to just let it go and play freely in his final game in a Gonzaga uniform. Also, his dunk late in the second half was NASTY.
  8. Jalen Suggs did a nice job defending Juzang one-on-one at the start of the second half. He played tight and disciplined and didn’t give Juzang any space. His work on that coverage was immensely helpful to the Zags in cleaning up their defensive execution, but he made a curious decision with just under three minutes left when he left Juzang open at the arc, and one pass away, to double Cody Riley in the post. Cody Riley?! No disrespect to Riley, but if he beats you he beats you and under no circumstances do you leave Juzang open to help on him. Despite that mental error, Suggs came right back on the next possession with the sequence second-best sequence of the tournament. His block of Riley at the rim that led to a breakout where he threaded the needle on a transition bounce pass through traffic to a streaking Timme was SPECIAL, SPECIAL BASKETBALL. And that wasn’t even his best play of the night!
  9. The courage of Drew Timme to slide up to take a charge on Juzang’s drive at the end of regulation is truly incredible. That is ultimate belief in yourself (and a little too much faith in referees to make the right call...I’m legitimately amazed they got it right). It was only fitting for Timme to seal the deal in overtime.
  10. Great move by Mark Few not to call a timeout after Juzang tied it up at 90-90 with 3.3 seconds left. Gonzaga’s decision to just go was true to their character, but also caught the Bruins on the back foot and allowed Suggs to get a clean catch on the move. Suggs took advantage and got up the floor quickly to put himself in position for an iconic moment. The rest is history.

Bonus: Enjoyed this bit from Jay Bilas this morning