Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/2021: Baylor Dominated the Mental Game, A Farewell Toast, Easter Leftovers

 1. I tried and tried this season to imagine what might happen if Baylor and Gonzaga ever played each other in a basketball game. Every time I did so, I tried to think of ways Gonzaga could possibly keep the aggressive Baylor Bears off the boards, how they could stop the Bears from scoring, whether from distance, mid-range, or at the tin, and how they could run their offense effectively with the quick, tenacious Baylor Bears in their collective grill all game long, cutting off passing lanes, disrupting offensive sets, and making it difficult to get the ball inside. 

In my imagination, I had a hard time seeing Gonzaga capable of corralling Baylor, but, as a Zags fan, I wanted to hold out hope that my imagination was too limited, that I was just anticipating a Zags' defeat so it would be easier to see it happen when it did, so I tried to think of this game in terms of what problems Gonzaga might present for Baylor.

Once this game was no longer playing out in my mind, but was actually occurring on the maple, I quickly learned that Gonzaga was outmatched, outmanned, out everything in every facet of the game. Gonzaga presented no problems for Baylor. 

Baylor's quick, strong, tenacious, unrelenting defense rattled the Zags. They looked to me like they were suddenly in a dimension of playing basketball that was alien to them. Baylor didn't pressure the Zags in the full court, but once Gonzaga crossed the timeline and tried to get into their offense, Baylor aggressively contested everything they did, rocketed them out of any sense of comfort, and just plain disoriented and dominated the Bulldogs. While disorientation is a mental experience, it also evidenced itself in the Gonzaga's physical play. Their ball handling suffered, their passes were not crisp (were even wild sometimes), and. their shooting was tentative, especially early on. The mental disruption translated into physical sluggishness. 

If you've ever doubted the body-mind connection, this game could help you remove your doubt. Baylor owned Gonzaga mentally, confused and overwhelmed them, and the Zags' bodies showed it. The Baylor pressure on both ends of the floor shrank the Zags while Baylor's bodies seemed to grow quicker, more athletic, and more muscular as their confidence grew and they established their superiority. 

The Baylor offense was aggressive, versatile, and unrelenting. Gonzaga couldn't stop Baylor from scoring from beyond the three point line -- at one point Baylor had outscored Gonzaga 30-3 from three point land. Baylor's players also made determined drives to the basket, shot well from mid-range, and, when they did miss, more often than not got rebounds on offense and put up second and third chance shots and scored. 

Baylor creamed Gonzaga in this championship game: 86-70.

This game had no suspense. From the get go, when Baylor raced immediately to a 9-0 lead, when Gonzaga didn't score their first point until nearly four minutes had passed, it was clear that Baylor was a superior basketball team, that Gonzaga was stunned by how strong, quick, tenacious, and proficient the Bears were, and that Baylor would win this game handily -- which they did.

2. I was less disappointed by this game being a blow out than I was really impressed with Baylor's performance. As I've written before, I love college basketball as a sport more than I am a fan of any one team and I marveled at everything Baylor did tonight. 

So, as the team received its trophy and as CBS showed its annual "One Shining Moment" video, I poured myself a rum and coke. I toasted Baylor. I wished Gonzaga had not been so discombobulated tonight.  I thought back on how much fun I've had watching games this season, not really wanting to let go of watching college basketball. The college season provides about five months of deep pleasure for me. I look forward to having it back in November. 

3. I had some leftover Persian Roasted Chicken and leftover roasted potatoes and yams with roasting juice and I heated it all up and ate it over a bowl of jasmine rice. It was a delicious and satisfying pre-game meal. 

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