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Blaming Gonzaga’s WCC affiliation for NCAA championship loss is a disservice to basketball — and logic

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Blaming Gonzaga's WCC affiliation for NCAA championship loss is a disservice to basketball — and logic

What college basketball needs right now: fans in the stands coaches out on the recruiting trail, watching five-star prospects and undiscovered gems at the Nike Peach Jam, and teams traveling to play road games without fear they’ll be called off because of contact tracing. Hopefully the sport will be able to return to all of these essential elements very soon.

What college basketball does not need, ever: college football’s galling elitism.

The NCAA Tournament is an egalitarian enterprise. For all the carping about how mid-major programs do not get a fair deal, they are guaranteed each year roughly one-third of the field — one-third of the opportunities to compete for a national championship. Some, such as the Loyola Ramblers in 2018, advance extremely near to claiming that title. The Gonzaga Bulldogs came so close so often and invested so much in pursuing excellence they were able to outgrow the mid-major label.

For all they accomplish, though, there still are some willing to destroy logic in the attempt to shove them back into that category.

MORE: Baylor reminds Gonzaga of how tough it is to win it — and them — all

The Zags continue to compete in the West Coast Conference. They have won or shared its regular-season championship in 20 of the past 21 seasons. They have not missed an NCAA Tournament since 1998.

And if that was where it all stopped — entering the tournament, going home quickly — perhaps there would be a case that remaining as a WCC member is an impediment that cannot be overcome. The Zags still were alive in March Madness 2021, though, as it steamrolled into April for the Final Four.

They still were alive at 9:18 p.m. Monday, carrying a perfect record into tipoff of the NCAA championship game. It was the second time since 2017 they got that far in the tournament. They came close to winning the title in 2017, a one-point game against North Carolina with 50 seconds remaining turning into a six-point Tar Heels victory. The Zags were beaten soundly, this time, by an extraordinary Baylor team that performed at the peak of its game.

A lot of people watched what occurred and came to this conclusion: Playing in the WCC didn’t prepare the Zags for the tournament. They weren’t battle-tested. That’s why they lost. Not the 10 3-pointers the Bears made, or their 48.5 offensive rebound percentage, or Gonzaga All-American Corey Kispert’s suddenly wayward shooting.

But no, it was Pepperdine’s fault.

Mercifully, no one among America’s sporting media was foolish enough to propose this theory to Gonzaga coach Mark Few following the loss to Baylor, so I have no quotes from him to decorate this column. I have only facts, which should scream loudly to everyone that “battle-tested” is a myth. The Zags’ difficulty in winning the NCAA championships comes down to — and this may be hard to grasp — it is difficult to win an NCAA championship.

MORE: Breaking down the 1-minute, 36-second stretch that ended Gonzaga’s title hopes

Since 2015, when the Zags advanced to the Elite Eight with Kyle Wiltjer as their star player, Gonzaga has won more NCAA Tournament games than any other program.

Its 20 NCAA victories are more than two-time champion Villanova (17), more than North Carolina (16), more than Duke (15), more than Kansas and Kentucky (13 each) and more than Wisconsin (10). That’s right. You line up the blue bloods, the recent major-conference powers, and Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament success — while supposedly being hindered by the WCC — exceeds everyone.

In that six-tournament period, it took the eventual NCAA champion to eliminate them three times and a Final Four entrant to eliminate them twice. They have reached two Final Fours in that period. Only Villanova, North Carolina and Michigan State can say the same. These are some of the teams Gonzaga has defeated in that time: Florida State, Iowa, West Virginia, Creighton, Ohio State, USC, UCLA (twice).

Oh, and Baylor.

The Bulldogs have reached six consecutive Sweet 16s. No other active college team can match that streak. In fact, since the tournament expansion to 64 teams in 1985, only three other times has such a streak been achieved: twice by Duke, and once by North Carolina.

If the Zags are not properly prepared for the NCAA Tournament, then who on Earth is?

MORE: Baylor ends Gonzaga’s perfect season with a Texas-sized storybook finish

The two highest-rated conferences according to the NCAA’s NET system in 2020-21 were the Big Ten and Big 12. They produced 16 NCAA tournament bids between them, but only two teams that advanced as far as the Sweet 16. Their experience suggests that being “battle-tested” actually might be a detriment in pursuit of a championship ring.

The dismissal of Gonzaga is a product of the elitism that bleeds over from college football, which is so entrenched in its aristocracy that it refuses even to allow programs to earn championship opportunities on the field, whether they come from the wealthiest conferences or beyond. In the College Football Playoff invitational, teams do not earn their positions in the tournament. They are, universally, selected.

A Gonzaga never would stand a chance in such an operation, but the Zags are welcome in college basketball. The game’s most rational fans understand their value, their talent and their achievement.

This is correct. It’s really not complicated. The facts cannot be disputed, only ignored.

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Anthony Edwards has no idea who Alex Rodriguez, potential Timberwolves owner, is

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Anthony Edwards has no idea who Alex Rodriguez, potential Timberwolves owner, is

Anthony Edwards, meet Alex Rodriguez: Your potential future boss. Oh, and only one of the most singularly talented, charismatic and controversial MLB players this millennium.

As Rodriguez and e-commerce billionaire Marc Lore continue to finalize a deal with current Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to take over the Minnesota franchise, reporters began asking current players their thoughts on their potential new boss.

But Edwards, the rookie out of Georgia, has no idea who Rodriguez is, as this exceptionally funny video showcases:

MORE: Rodriguez, Marc Lore negotiating deal to buy Timberwolves

Hey, at least he’s honest. And the explanation that he simply doesn’t watch baseball — as if only MLB fans know Rodriguez — is pure comedy. It’s not as if Edwards doesn’t understand the sport of baseball, either. In the video below, he describes how he was talented enough as a multi-athlete star to play in MLB had he decided to take that career route:

To be fair, Edwards, 19, wasn’t even born yet when Rodriguez began his MLB career in 1994 with the Seattle Mariners. And he was just 15 years old when Rodriguez hung up the cleats for the final time after the 2016 season.

Still, you’d think he would have at least heard of someone who was a 14-time All-Star selection, three-time AL MVP, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner, among other accolades. And that’s to say nothing of his controversial PED use, which cost Rodriguez the entirety of the 2014 season due to suspension.

Look at it this way: If Rodriguez ends up gaining ownership of the Timberwolves, Edwards will have plenty of future opportunities to learn more about his new boss.

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Aaron Rodgers has perfect response for ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants who whiff on Packers question

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Aaron Rodgers has perfect response for 'Jeopardy!' contestants who whiff on Packers question

Who are the Green Bay Packers?

Only one of the most historic franchises in the history of the NFL, owner of 13 championships and four Super Bowl victories and the current team of “Jeopardy!” guest host Aaron Rodgers. Oh, and a question on Tuesday’s episode.

MORE: ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant leaves guest host Aaron Rodgers laughing with troll-tastic response

Unfortunately, all three contestants whiffed on the question after Rodgers’ introduction: “In the 1960s, these Midwesterners earned five NFL championship trophies.” Rodgers, of course, referred to Vince Lombardi’s Packers, who won titles in 1961, ’62, ’65, ’66 and ’67 — the latter two Super Bowl victories.

To make matters worse, one of the contestants then managed to correctly guess the Boston Celtics as the team to win the NBA title every year from 1959-66.

At the very least, it afforded viewers the opportunity to watch Rodgers show off his comedic chops. He clearly has picked up a few tricks from his discount double check and State Farm ad appearances. It certainly will do nothing to curb his enthusiasm for hosting the show full-time — while also serving as quarterback for the Packers.

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Jake Paul accused of sexual assault by TikTok star

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Jake Paul accused of sexual assault by TikTok star

YouTube personality-turned-boxer Jake Paul has been accused of sexual assault.

Paul’s accuser, Jasmine Paradise, posted a 20-minute YouTube video on Friday in which she claimed Paul sexually assaulted her at his Team 10 house in Los Angeles. Paradise is a TikTok star with more than 525,000 followers.

In the video, Paradise focused on events she said occurred in June and July 2019; she said she met Paul at his home in July of that year after visiting his house several times with friends starting in June. In the video, Paradise said she and Paul had several awkward encounters at first, but that one night he pulled her into a corner of his studio area and began kissing her. She said she “was fine with that. I did think he was cute.”

Afterward, however, Paradise said Paul took her into his room and began to show frustration at her reluctance to have sex with him. She said he forced her to have oral sex after she told him “No” several times.

“Sex is very special and very important to me,” Paradise said in the video. “But I haven’t had sex with that many people. Normally, everybody respects me when I don’t want to do sexual things, so I thought that it was fine if I went in his room. I thought it would be fine to kiss him, because I thought he would stop if I didn’t want to do anything else.

“He didn’t ask for consent or anything. He knew I didn’t want to do anything with him because he said, ‘If nothing is gonna happen, what’s the point?’ Then he shoves himself in me.

“That’s not okay. On no level at all is that okay.”

Paradise also posted several text conversations between her and Paul, as well as photos and videos of her at his Team 10 house, as proof of her allegations in the video.

Daniel E. Gardenswartz, Paul’s lawyer, said his client “categorically denied” Paradise’s claims in a statement (via the New York Post).

“Our client is aware of the recent allegation against him. While others have already begun to debunk the claim alleged against him, our client categorically denies the allegation and has every intention of aggressively disproving it and pursuing legal action against those responsible for the defamation of his character.”

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