Two Minnesota Natives Shine During The Challenging Dance of Corona

The Stanford Women’s basketball team and Baylor Men’s basketball team, after what some may conclude as the most unique college basketball season of all time, are national champions. From extended hotel stays, to daily covid tests, these teams made it work and fought until the end to take home the 2021 NCAA basketball titles.

A season with ups and downs concluded on Monday night with a dominating performance by the Baylor Bears Men’s basketball team over the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs. On the Women’s side of the bracket, the Stanford Cardinals Women’s basketball team took down the Cinderella story Arizona Wildcats on Sunday night in the national championship. Two teams left their respective bubble locations with the crown, and two left broken hearted. But, that’s not to say that the two losing teams didn’t make history as well. 

The Gonzaga Bulldogs were 31-0 heading into Monday night’s championship matchup, with a chance to complete the perfect season. The last team to complete a perfect season was the throwback Indiana Hoosiers in 1976 led by head coach Bobby Knight. Ironically, this year’s NCAA tournament for the Men’s bracket took place all around the state of Indiana. 

After the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament, college basketball couldn’t afford losing another “event cost of 800 million,” said Alan Blinder, writer for New York Times. From locations like Butler University’s historic Hinkle Field House, to the ancient Assembly Hall, the NCAA tournament bounced around Indiana, concluding in the place the one and only Jim Nantz stated as “Peyton Manning’s home,” at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Heroic moment after heroic moment, the 2021 NCAA tournament did not disappoint the anxious fans, after two years of waiting. Gonzaga Bulldogs 5 star recruit out of high school, Jalen Suggs, was a story coming into the tournament, but after his battles in march, the Minnesota native may have just landed himself a lock as a top 3 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. 

Suggs made play after play all tournament long, but in a revenge matchup in the final four between Gonzaga and UCLA, he made the play of the century. “Everyday in shoot around we shoot half courters, I haven’t been making my half courters, but I got it with confidence, put it up, man it’s crazy I can’t come to words right now,” Jalen Suggs moments after nailing the shot to keep Gonzaga’s perfect season alive. “This is the greatest unit I have ever been apart of. All these guys fight. We are so together when we are out here on the court.”

Travel down south to San Antonio for the Women’s bracket, and another Minnesota native was born in the bubble of the NCAA, Paige “Buckets” Bueckers. The freshman phenom was terrific all season for the Uconn Huskies. Bueckers became the first freshman to win the player of the year award. “It means everything to me to win these individual awards, but it’s a true testament to our whole team,” Bueckers explained shortly after finding out she was the winner of the Wooden Award. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work.”

The two Minnesota stars, Jalen Suggs and Paige Bueckers, grew up sharing the rock, clocking shots, and shuffling wins on the court. After Bueckers and the Huskies went down in its final four matchup, she reached out to Suggs to give him a confidence boost ahead of his first final four appearance.

Paige Bueckers was also part of the controversy in the bubble surrounding the differential between the men’s and women’s weight room set-up. 

The men were provided a restructured ball room, transformed into a high quality weight room. The women, on the other hand, were given a rack of dumbbells and a few yoga mats. “It was very unfair treatment and it just shows stereotypes in men’s and women’s fitness and athletics,” Jackie Bonee talked about the weight-room controversy. “They clearly didn’t give as much to the women, and I am sure they train just as hard and could have used all of the same stuff as the men.” A video and picture of both weight rooms were leaked early in the tournament which quickly sparked heat in the media about the stereotypical inequality in men’s and women’s fitness. 

The 2021 NCAA tournament will be remembered forever as the dance during corona. Not only will the two national champions, Baylor Bears and Stanford Cardinals, be ecstatic about the crown they captured in april, but the rest of the 2021 field of NCAA basketball. 

Senior guard for Gonzaga, Corey Kispert gave his final words on the challenging and unforgettable 2020-21 college basketball season, “There can be a lot of good that comes out of a bad situation… Joy doesn’t come without a little suffering.”