Now for the One We’ve Been Waiting For

What a long strange trip it’s been.

After a Bill Waltonish, did we really swallow the brown acid, twirly bird stop and start season we have been forced to watch from our recliners, we get to the One We’ve Been Waiting For.

Ali vs Frazier.

Lily vs. Chuck, Spike & Samuel L..

Attila the Hun vs Hannibal Barca.

Godzilla vs. Kong.

Gonzaga vs. Baylor.

But, oh my, how about Saturday night’s prelude?

First there was Ken Starr U. going all Rowdy Roddy Piper on the Cougs.

During that opening half anschluss by Baylor’s Bears, Doc called, wondering whether Houston coach Kelvin Sampson might get in touch with his inner Guy Lewis and be able to try to stem the tide by throwing a towel on the court, and drawing a T?*

*If you’re too young to understand the reference, go watch Doctors of Dunk vs. Phi Slama Jama, Albuquerque ’83. 

In its semi-final smackdown, Baylor looked, well, let’s be frank here, UN BEAT A BLE. Kind of like, for example, ‘Nova in ’16, when they nudged the Sooners by 44 on the last Saturday of the season.

And then there was that other semi-final.

Think Duane and Eric riffing on “Layla,” Nureyev in, oh, anything. Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”

Recency bias registers like Bob Ryan passing a note to a colleague during UK/Duke regional final, “Greatest tourney game ever?”

So, even though it was after midnight, hoopaholics across the land were so pumped, sleep was impossible so they turned on Sportscenter for more. Even that they were talking about Embid and ’76ers, it wasn’t a buzz kill.

Greatest ever? Not sure about that. Did you watch UVa vs. Purdue regional final in the Yum!? There are others.

Buuuut, Bulldogs surviving the Bruins is in the conversation. And by its very self made this slog of a season worthwhile. Which sets up the last Monday night we’ve wanted all along.

The Bruins and Zags both played incredible D. Yet, UCLA was 34/59 from the field, 58%. Many old school mid range Js. Gonzaga was 37/63 from the field, 58%, mostly treys and in the paint.

The undefeated favorites were out of sorts early on. Thanks, let’s be fair, to Mick Cronin’s excellently executed defensive plan. Yet the dudes from Spokane grabbed a wafer thin lead at intermission.

Midway through the 2d, Mark Few’s charges pulled away by seven, at 64-57. But in just two minutes, the Bruins were back within a digit, and led by one with 6:08 to play.

The teams were trading haymakers, giving no quarter. It was a game for which clichés were invented.

In OT — Could it have been any other way, we of course ask rhetorically? — the Zags started strong. And, though we should have known better, seemed in some sort of control, after an Andrew Nembhard triple pushed them ahead 90-85 with 1:17 to go.

It was, as we now know, answered –Of course, it was answered — by a Jaime Jacquez Jr. threeball.

Then Johnny Juzaing’s follow of his own miss.

Then, you know, that Jalen Suggs thingie.

On a day, when I actually saw three cowpokes on horses riding down Nanz Avenue at High Noon — Looking for Marshall Will Kane, were they? — I couldn’t imagine anything curioser happening.

Yet, the night time was the right time.

So, with Stanford vs. Arizona to somewhat sate us Sunday evening, we count down to Monday night.

Palmer vs. Nicklaus.

Evert vs. Navratilova.

Celtics vs. Lakers.

Yes, Naismithius has caused his countenance to shin upon us.

Gonzaga vs. Baylor.

— c d kaplan