2021 NCAA Tournament recap

2021 NCAA Tournament recap
April 14
12:57 2021

Once again, the Men’s NCAA Tournament was full of intrigue, heartbreak and upsets. The Baylor Bears were the last team standing and cut down the nets as the 2021 National Champions.  

The Bears easily handled the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the national championship game, winning 86-70. This was the first national championship in the history of the men’s program. The Bears dominated the game from start to finish, as there was never really a doubt about who would win.

The loss by the Bulldogs put a damper on an otherwise tremendous season. They were attempting to finish the season undefeated, however, they came up one game short. They would have been the first team to finish the season undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.

The championship game was just the icing on the cake to a tournament that was filled with unpredictability, which is why the men’s NCAA tournament draws so many eyeballs to the screen every year.

The UCLA Bruins were probably the biggest surprise of the entire tournament. The Bruins started as a First Four team and began their tournament against Michigan State. Their run lasted all the way until the Final Four, where they lost one of the best games in recent memory to Gonzaga in overtime.

After beating Michigan State, something many people didn’t think was going to happen, UCLA reeled off victories against BYU and Abilene Christian to make it to the Sweet 16. Many thought their run would be over against second seeded Alabama, but the Bruins had other thoughts.

The Bruins easily handled the Crimson Tide and won a tight ball game against the Michigan Wolverines to make it to the Final Four. If not for a legendary shot by Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, the Bruins could have been in the championship game.

Oregon State was another surprise team from this year’s tournament. The Beavers came in as a 12 seed and I personally didn’t think they would make it out of the first round, to be honest. They dominated Tennessee in their first game and then took out Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State in the round of 32.  

Next they dispatched fellow Cinderella team Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16. They were picked to lose, especially since Loyola Chicago had just beaten No.1 seeded Illinois in the previous round.

Those were not the only surprising upsets of the tournament. Other teams such as Ohio, Abilene Christian, North Texas and Oral Roberts pulled off victories against much higher seeded teams. The unpredictable nature of the tournament is to be expected, especially with a one-and-done format, but what is not easily predictable is which teams will be upset. That is why the tournament brackets will always have people filling out multiple sheets.

I was really surprised by how easily the Bears handled the Bulldogs in the championship game. I was leaning toward Baylor as the probable winner; based on how deep they were, I thought the top players from Gonzaga would negate some of that depth.

Suggs, Drew Timme and Corey Kispert were three of the most talked about players in the country. All three were Wooden award finalists for the Bulldogs, versus only one for Baylor. Even though Gonzaga received most of the press, I felt the Bears were the better team and they showcased that during the championship game.

I did not have a horse in the race, but if I’m being honest, I was kind of rooting for Gonzaga to win. For some reason I have always liked Mark Few as a coach and I wanted to see him win a national championship. He has come close a couple of times; he has just never gotten over the hump.

Few took over the Gonzaga program in 1999 and during that span, he has turned the program into a topnotch mid-major program. His overall record is 630-124 and is 306-31 in West Coast Conference play.

Over the last decade, Few has attracted better players and has made a couple of Elite Eight appearances and two title games. Even though they lost both national title appearances, the Bulldogs aren’t going anywhere. They will lose Suggs to the draft and Kispert to graduation, but Few is bringing in two of the best freshmen of the 2021 class with Hunter Sallis and Chet Holmgren. 

What I question is whether Gonzaga needs to move to a Power 5 conference to better prepare them for tournament play. Yes, they play a tough non-conference schedule every year; however, they dominate their conference and are not really tested for months until tournament time.

I think if they joined the Pac-12 for instance, they would face tougher competition more regularly and once tournament time comes around, they would not be surprised by a team with superior athleticism.

Either way, it was a great tournament and can’t wait until the pandemic is put under control so teams and players don’t lose games and we can have a full season as fans.  

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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