This year’s men’s NCAA basketball tournament started out chaotic as hell, which felt fitting after a year of living in COVID drained all of us of any sense of predictability. But coming into the Final Four, thing started to feel less volatile: aside from 11-seed UCLA, the rest of the lineup—Baylor, Houston and Gonzaga—was straight chalk.
Once again UCLA was asked to rescue all of us from The Natural Order of College Basketball, and Johnny Juzang and the Bruins gladly stepped into the role of the havoc squad against top seed Gonzaga. The Bulldogs haven’t felt like a team of destiny, but more like an inevitability: All but one of Gonzaga’s 30 wins this season came with a double-digit lead. Against UCLA, their biggest lead of the game was seven points. After pulling Gonzaga into overtime, it looked like UCLA was pushing for another session of bonus-round basketball after Juzang got in the lane for a fadeaway, then got the putback bucket to tie.
And then this:
The fuck, man? Are you KIDDING me with this shot, Jalen Suggs? Seriously? He just … did he fucking teleport 30 feet? How? HOW? I am still not over this! I demand a congressional inquiry!
For that brief window of like six seconds, it felt like Juzang was the hero of prophecy. Juzang was playing out of his mind the entire game, and winding down the last seconds of OT by getting his shot and rebound against multiple defenders? It felt like The Moment. You know what it is. It’s the stuff the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments are built on, the things that make us come back and watch game after game, even when we know college sports is a terminally fucked enterprise built on the backs of free labor. I was prepared to dissect Juzang’s Moment for weeks.
And then, before anyone could take a damn breath, Suggs gets the inbound in stride with three seconds on the clock and he evaporated everything. Three seconds, three dribbles, and all of a sudden he’s folded time and space and standing on the scorer’s table, victorious.
Look, I don’t know if I can root for Gonzaga in a broad sense, but they’re definitely favorable over the perpetually crime-adjacent Baylor in Monday’s championship game. But in beating UCLA, Gonzaga brought a little bit of chaos back. Always root for chaos.