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Suggs’ legendary shot sets up Gonzaga-Baylor powerhouse title game – Sportsnet.ca

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Is it Monday yet?

Not a phrase you’d normally say, but in the context of what will take place at 9:00 p.m. ET, it’s well justified.

At long last, the two best teams in college basketball this season will face each other when the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears meet in the NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament national title game.

This has been a hotly anticipated meeting between these two schools for four months now, ever since their Dec. 5 tilt was cancelled because of COVID-19 protocols when both schools were looking like the two best in college hoops just three games into their respective seasons.

As the campaign progressed, even as Baylor experienced a swoon because of a COVID-mandated pause, it became apparent that these two schools were in a class of their own with the Bulldogs entering the NCAA tournament undefeated and the Bears with just two losses to their name, mostly as they were shaking the rust off from their layoff.

But on Monday, at last, these two powerhouses will meet not only for a chance at a national championship — and a chance at basketball immortality on the line for Gonzaga — but also a shot to finally, truly see who is the best team in college basketball this season.

As we await Monday, however, there is still the matter of the two Final Four games that were played Saturday — and, man, was one of those contests smoking.

Here are a few takeaways from the Final Four.

The Legend of Jalen Suggs

Before you read any further, just take a look at these two clips:

The first clip looked like the defining play of the game between Gonzaga and UCLA when freshman phenom Jalen Suggs came up with an incredible sequence where he blocked a shot at the rim, saved it from going out of bounds, started a break and then threw a strike of a bounce pass to teammate Drew Timme for a dunk that put the Bulldogs ahead with under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

But as remarkable as that was, the clip below was even more incredible and is the reason why Suggs’ name is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

With 3.3 seconds left to play in overtime and the game tied at 90-90, Gonzaga coach Mark Few opted to allow his team to just inbound the ball and see what happens, despite having a timeout left. It turned out to be a genius move as the ball ended up in Suggs’ capable hands, he raced to just a little past half court and banked in an iconic game-winner reminiscent of Christian Laettner’s in the Elite Eight against Kentucky in 1992.

Suggs is a projected top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, but he appears to have something that the other top prospects simply don’t have: the impossible-to-define “it” factor.

Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham is expected to go No. 1 overall, but he isn’t the player who will be looking to lead his team to the first undefeated college season since 1976 with a signature moment that will be played on repeat until the end of time, is he?

Measurables are great and all, but Suggs has a special kind of magic that you just can’t teach and has proven his desire to will his team to victory. If you’re a GM of an NBA team and don’t want that you should probably look for another job.

Greatest college basketball game of all time?

And on the topic of that Gonzaga-UCLA game, did anyone else feel like they needed a cigarette after watching/experiencing that?

A tightly contested contest with great shot-making and star performances on both sides from start to finish, it’s games like that that remind you why the NCAA Tournament always has such allure.

In particular, because of the two competing storylines from the respective teams with the Bulldogs chasing the history of an undefeated season and the Bruins looking to become the first team in the tournament to go from the First Four to the national championship game.

And it was only made that much more intoxicating by the fact that No. 1 seed Gonzaga was was getting pushed all game long by the No. 11.

The game will always be remembered for Suggs’ heroics, but the 29 points from UCLA’s Johnny Juzang (including the tying basket he made with 3.3 seconds to play in overtime) won’t soon be forgotten, neither will the strong first half from the Zags’ Joel Ayayi and the clutch play of Timme down the stretch of the fourth quarter and in overtime, including a game-saving charge he drew near the end of regulation.

Canadian comes up clutch

And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the outstanding play from the lone Canadian left in the NCAA Tournament: Andrew Nembhard.

Nembhard, normally a key bench player, got the start for Few’s squad as the Gonzaga coach tightened up his rotation to just seven men. He was mostly used as a safety valve and a calming presence when things got a little hectic, finishing with 11 points and eight assists on 4-of-9 shooting, including a clutch step-back three-pointer that put the Bulldogs up five with about 1:14 to play in overtime.

Though he can get lost in the shuffle given just how much talent is on the Zags, there’s little doubt just how important Nembhard is to them, and he showed it against UCLA.

Oh yeah, that other game

And in case you forgot, there was another Final Four game played Saturday, a 78-58 Baylor victory over Houston in a contest that was the polar opposite of the Gonzaga-UCLA match.

Simply put, the Bears overwhelmed the Cougars, who looked like they didn’t belong and, perhaps, really didn’t as their path to the Final Four was through double-digit seeded teams and when matched up against a truly great opponent like the Bears, they had no answer.

It took a little while for them to get their motor going again, but Baylor continues to look like the dominant team that had many wondering if they were as good or better than Gonzaga near the beginning and middle parts of the season.

The dynamic duo of Jared Butler and likely lottery pick Davion Mitchell are once again playing All-American style basketball, giving the Bears the kind of offensive firepower they’ll need to hang with the Bulldogs as well as the depth thanks to a strong supporting cast with players like MaCio Teague and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Matthew Mayer coming off the bench.

Reminder, we’re getting Gonzaga-Baylor for the national championship game

Get hype! We’re actually going to see a rare best-on-best college national championship game on Monday!

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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