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Best March Madness Moments: The Jalen Suggs buzzer-beater

The shot heard around the world.

UCLA v Gonzaga Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As March Madness is almost here, we take a trip down memory lane and look back at some of the best viral moments in NCAA tournament history. Here is the Slipper Still Fit’s take on the memorable Jalen Suggs shot:

The NCAA Tournament is full of great shots. That is what happens when you pit 64 teams against each other in a single-elimination grind of pain and glory. Every year, there is “One Shining Moment,” and the list of all-time buzzer-beating shots grows and grows.

One of the most memorable shots in NCAA Tournament history is, of course, the famed Christian Laettner shot at the buzzer to lift Duke past Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Officially, that was surpassed last season by Gonzaga’s very own Jalen Suggs.

UCLA v Gonzaga Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

In hindsight, a buzzer-beating shot from just a shade past half-court is the only fitting way the Gonzaga and UCLA Final Four match in 2021 should have ended. The Zags, undefeated at 30-0, had steamrolled the competition throughout the NCAA Tournament, winning the first round through the Elite Eight by an average of 24 points. Until Saturday, April 3, the Zags looked like a ruthless, unstoppable buzzsaw.

UCLA, on the other hand, landed in the NCAA Tournament as a play-in 11 seed riding a four-game losing streak. Their NCAA Tournament run was a thing of gutty play punctuated by big performances from the likes of Johnny Juzang, Jamie Jaquez, and company. UCLA won their play-in game over Michigan State in overtime. They needed overtime to dispatch Alabama in the Sweet 16 and then narrowly defeated Michigan 51-49 in an Elite Eight defensive grinder, a game in which Juzang scored over half their points.

From Gonzaga nation, many had their eyes set on the overall prize—the seemingly inevitable game against the Baylor Bears in the National Championship. UCLA was a good team but not one suited to compete with Gonzaga’s relentless style of offensive play. The Bruins were primed and ready to prove Gonzaga wrong.

Here are a few stats to cement why the UCLA and Gonzaga Final Four game last season is one of the best and most exciting NCAA Tournament games ever played.

The box score was littered with heroes. Juzang, who tied the game in overtime with seconds remaining scored 29 points off 12-of-18 shooting. Jaquez added 19. Tyger Campbell had 17 points, seven assists, and just one turnover. Cody Riley scored 14 points, hitting key jump shot after key jump shot.

On the Gonzaga side, Drew Timme scored 25 points off 11-of-14 shooting. Joel Ayayi was a master of his trade, adding 22 points. Andrew Nembhard and Jalen Suggs combined for 14 assists to just four turnovers.

In a game of this caliber, it is unfortunate that someone has to lose. Suggs, the highest-rated recruit to ever come to Gonzaga (at that point), a bonafide one-and-done star in the making, was the fitting poster child for the shot. It was so natural, it shouldn’t have been anyone else.

The Zags practice late-game situational half-court shots all the time. Mark Few said he knew it was going in. Suggs said the same as well. It is an easy thing to say when the shot actually goes in. His decision to not call a timeout and let Suggs take the game over will go down as perhaps his greatest in-game coaching decision of his career.

The shot represented something a bit more grand, however. For the entire season, college basketball had tried to plow its way through an unprecedented global pandemic. Teams were shut down for weeks at a time throughout the season. Games were canceled mere hours before tip-off due to COVID. The entire NCAA Tournament was changed to be housed in one city to establish a virus-proof bubble as best as possible.

Most everyone in America had spent the past year in some sort of isolation, to varying degrees. The world was (still slightly is) in a weird place. For 40 minutes, everyone was brought together to watch the glory of basketball in the greatest tournament out there. Roughly 15 million people turned into CBS to watch the game, the first basketball contest to crest 10 million viewers since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

And if you hopped on Twitter, it appeared the entire world was watching.

And finally, because it is required, including this all-time golden tweet: