TCU’s Damion Baugh is a March Madness Hero

Never heard of Damion Baugh? Well, if you had a betting interest in Sunday’s back-and-forth battle between Gonzaga and TCU at Ball Arena in Denver, you’ll never forget his name.

Baugh is a Nashville native who played his junior and senior seasons of high school at Tennessee Prep Academy in Memphis. The four-star prospect signed to play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis, where he spent two seasons before transferring to TCU.

Baugh enjoyed an excellent senior campaign for the Horned Frogs, starting all 29 games he played in. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 12.6 points, 5.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game, shooting at a 33.0 percent clip from 3-point land. (He still has his COVID year, so Baugh can return to TCU next year if he wants to.)

Baugh played 37 minutes in the 84-81 loss to Gonzaga, hitting 6-of-9 field-goal attempts and 3-of-4 launches from downtown. He finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot.

With Gonzaga leading 80-73 as a 4.5-point favorite, the Bulldogs were inbounding on their far baseline with 15.6 seconds remaining. Gamblers backing Mark Few’s team had to love how they were looking at this point.

But then Julian Strawther threw a terrible inbounds pass right to TCU star guard Mike Miles Jr., who made the steal and went straight to the rim. Strawther fouled Miles, sending him to the free-throw line with 13.7 ticks left. Miles made both free throws to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 80-75.

On the ensuing inbounds pass, Rasir Bolton made a catch and before TCU could foul him, he hit a streaking Hunter Sallis in stride for a run-out dunk with 8.4 seconds remaining.

With Gonzaga ahead 82-75, Baugh quickly penetrated into the lane before dishing out to Rondel Walker, who drained a three-pointer from the right wing with 3.4 ticks left on the clock.

Gonzaga avoided foul attempts off the inbounds pass when Anton Watson quickly threw to Sallis out near halfcourt. For a fleeting moment, it appeared as if the clock would run out before the Horned Frogs could foul.

However, TCU’s Shahada Wells caused a whistle with 0.7 seconds left when he gave a foul on Sallis, who promptly hit both attempts from the charity stripe. Sallis’s dunk and subsequent free throws had seemingly sealed the spread cover for Gonzaga.

But after Sallis made his second free throw, Baugh gestured at Wells to throw the ball ahead of him so that it could bounce without him touching it, preventing the clock from starting right away. At this point, TCU’s Miles and Gonzaga’s Nolan Hickman are literally embracing with a hug in the frontcourt.

None of the Gonzaga defenders are worried about Baugh or the ball that keeps bouncing as it passes midcourt. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of observers can’t turn their eyes away. And then this happens in the clip below:

Baugh finally picks the ball up and quickly hoists a jumper (perhaps jumper is the wrong description because Baugh barely elevated), and it caught nothing buy nylon. Baugh’s shot splashed the nets, the refs counted the basket and TCU covered the spread in an 84-81 loss.

While TCU’s season ended in another heartbreaking defeat in the Round of 32, Gonzaga advanced to its eighth consecutive Sweet 16. That’s incredible consistency from Few’s program that’s still seeking its first national title in its 24th straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Only one of those came before Few took over. Dan Monson led the Bulldogs to the 1999 NCAA Tournament, where they beat my Gators by one out in Phoenix on Casey Calvary’s tip in with four seconds remaining. They lost to the eventual national champion, UConn, by a 67-62 score in the West Region finals two days later.

For the record, I was on TCU and it was a brilliant conclusion to a fantastic weekend. Like I always say, I’d rather be lucky than good every day and twice on Sunday.

I went 5-2 on Sunday to improve to 178-155 overall in college hoops this year. That’s a 53 percent clip for 7.63 units of profit (or +$763 if making $100 plays on every pick all season). You can monitor all of my documented plays at VegasInsider.

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