Dancing By Theirselves: Gonzaga Wins It All!

With the Final Four matchups set, a memorable run is pitting two NCAA Basketball powerhouses against two teams vying for their first title since piecing together their respective teams. One side of the coin has the #1 seed Dayton Flyers from the East Region going up against the #1 Kansas Jayhawks from the Midwest Region. From the West the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs will face-off against the South Regions #3 Michigan State Spartans. At stake is a spot in the NCAA Basketball Championship Game.

In the first matchup Dayton goes up against Kansas for all the marbles. Coming into this matchup, Dayton has never gotten this close to the title game since 1967, where they defeated North Carolina to reach the big game where they fell to UCLA. Recently, the closest they’ve sniffed was this game, but since falling to #1 Florida in 2014 in the Elite Eight, it has been nothing but a string of first and second round exits.

For Kansas, their last title was won in 2008. There has been mixed results and in 2016 and 2017, they fell in the regional finals and haven’t been as consistent as past teams. The consistency was not there, but this year they gutted through with the talent on the roster. You can never discount their ability to get into the ears of any prospect in the nation and year after year, they flex the ability to do just that.

On the opening tip, it gets a little chippy. Trash-talk central as the bigger dog begins to chat it up and bark before the initial tip-off. Dayton comes in focused and ready for a fight and they basically punch Kansas in the mouth from the get-go. Despite Kansas controlling the opening tip and scoring on the opening possession, the Flyers never wavered. Devon Dotson controls the flow of the game throughout as his teams builds a near insurmountable lead at the half. Dayton goes into the half down 14–56-70. They surely looked dead in the water and the buckets weren’t there for them, but they persisted on.

To open the second half, Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher take the Jayhawks to school. Three after three, a heat check was inevitable, but they kept hitting when they needed it the most. There were perfect sequences throughout from the Jayhawks, but they were shut down by stifling defense and double-teams from the reinvigorated Flyers team. Eventually momentum began to swing in Kansas’ favor as they get key blocks from Azubuike that turned into a quick 5-point swing. Two driving layups and a free throw tie the game at 81 each with just under two minutes remaining. Dayton makes a stop on the defensive side of the ball and converts it into three points. Kansas attempts to answer with a few precious seconds remaining, but Toppin flies in to swat a desperation heave to help Dayton advance. 87-84 Dayton.

For the second contest, it pitted #1 Gonzaga against #3 Michigan State. Like the other side of the bracket, it is for a spot in the championship game. Both teams have has memorable runs, but the underdog was the higher seeded team Gonzaga. Since their formation in 1907, they have been big dance 22 times with one trip to the big dance that ended up not being meant to be as they fell to North Carolina. For Michigan State they ended up getting into the Final Four but they fell to Texas Tech in 2019. From a talent standpoint, the Spartans have the slight edge. Winston is a monster and a playmaker and Gonzaga has to be ready to combat their talent and depth.

Upon the opening tipoff, Michigan State controls the ball and gets a quick shot up to take the lead. This game was back and fourth with Petrusev kept them in the game for the half. This game felt like it was all Michigan State up until the Bulldogs came storming back just before the half, effectively seizing the momentum for them and the lead. To open the second half Gonzaga leads 51-50, but the Spartans open up on a 11-0 run to rattle their opponent. The combination of guards, bigs and depth really exposed Gonzaga as the began to wear down. Time out Gonzaga. After a fiery speech during the time out, the Bulldog players embrace the challenge of defeating Goliath. David drew out his stone and began working.

Possession after possession, they slowly begin to claw back into the game, forcing Izzo to a timeout to attempt to stop the bleeding while clinging onto a 77-73 lead. The time was right and Petrusev seized the moment as he ripped Winston and took it straight to the rack. On the ensuing drive, he forced a bad pass from Winston again and he found Woolridge on the wing for a corner three to take the lead 78-77. Winston answered back with a dunk from the baseline, but the damage was done. Petrusev hit another open player for another three and they never looked back. The firepower was enough and the Spartans could not overcome it as they fall 86-81.

In the Championship Game #1 Gonzaga will face #1 Dayton. Overmatched with talent, the big stage once again was too big for the Flyers. The Bulldogs controlled the game from the beginning and the Flyers never came close to getting back in the game. By halftime the game was very much over with Gonzaga shutting down the offense by holding them to 29% shooting from three and 33% as a whole. The whole team rebounded from that sluggish start against Michigan State and put on the performance worthy of a title run.

The second half was much more of the same. Timely buckets coupled with suffocating defense. Dayton was still very much dead in the water. In the waning minutes, they successfully create havoc as they try to storm back with a 10-0 run to make the final score look pretty. They showed heart stopping Gonzaga as the game clock hits zeroes as they fall 91-67. Gonzaga finally gets over the hump and they secure their first title!

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