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The men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament has come to an end, with the Baylor men and Stanford women standing alone as champions. While one could (correctly in our opinion) argue that the Badgers gave the Bears the toughest game in the Tournament, that is not what we are here to discuss today. We are here to talk about tournament MVPs.
Baylor and Stanford’s domination was pushed in no small part by each team’s star power. According to fans around the country, Stanford’s Haley Jones’ was picked by 51 percent of fans as the MVP. Arizona’s star guard Aari McDonald earned 27% while UConn freshman Paige Bueckers took 15 percent.
I voted for McDonald, the diminutive spark plug for everything the Wildcats do on offense. While Jones is undoubtedly a worthy choice, going for 24 and four against South Carolina and 17 and eight in the title game, I think that McDonald was the more valuable player to her team. I think there is a distinct difference between MVP and MOP (who would definitely be Jones imo) and when McDonald wasn’t on the court you saw how Arizona’s offense could become stagnant.
On the men’s side, it was a fellow champion picked as the most valuable player in the Final Four. Baylor’s Jared Butler was tapped as the men’s Final Four MVP, receiving 52 percent of the vote. Butler topped UCLA’s Johnny Juzang who earned 20 percent and Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs with 14 percent.
The roster construction of the Bears is so impressive. Scott Drew mined the transfer portal expertly and he built a team of long, talented defenders that could also shoot the lights out from three. Watching them play basketball was a joy and their best player was Butler. While he wasn’t super efficient shooting-wise against the Zags, Butler scored 22 points and had seven assists compared with zero turnovers. He also dropped 17 against Houston in the semifinals while also collecting five rebounds, four assists and two steals. He was 8-of-14 from three in the Final Four too. Just an amazing all-around performance.
Baylor’s run to the championship was overshadowed through much of the season by Gonzaga’s attempt at perfection. However, the Bears put together a dominant season by any standard. But that still isn’t enough, according to fans around the country, to rank them among the game’s elite.
Baylor is undoubtedly a very good team, but I’d argue that Gonzaga would beat them in a seven game series (not that any of that matters). To truly be considered an “all-time great” champion I kinda think you have to be, at a minimum, the best team in your season and while Baylor beat Gonzaga in the title game, I still think the Zags are the better team.
Turning the page to next season, fans expect to see much of the same at the top of every top-25 list. According to the survey, 33 percent of fans believe Gonzaga should be ranked number one to start next season. This time the Bulldogs beat out Baylor, who finished with 31 percent of the vote.
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