The college basketball team I root for lost a pretty important game last night. But you know what else happened? This:
I won’t forget that the University of Connecticut straight up outplayed us yesterday, nor will I forget what could have been had my team remembered how to make free throws. What will stand out in my mind though is the moment James Young apparently decided, “eff all these people in my way, I am putting this ball in that basket.”
Two days before that, my Wildcats managed to beat Wisconsin, win me a couple hundred bucks in bracket pools, and advance to the championship game of the Big Dance, which is great. The moment we won was incredible, but it won’t compare to this moment right here:
For the third game in a row, Aaron Harrison literally made my heart jump out of my chest. After a season of hoping that these guys might wow me, they actually did. For two weeks, they wowed me several times over, exceeding my expectations game after game. Not only did they win game after game that they were supposed to lose, they did so in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. Each game, a new young stud would emerge as the superstar of the half, pulling off plays I didn’t think imaginable.
In fact, the only reason I won any of my bracket pools is because this year I made two brackets. One, I labeled “Head” and had UK losing to Wichita State in Round Two. The “Heart” bracket had decidedly more upsets, including UK ousting the 1 seed. Once I had them beating Wichita State, I felt like we weren’t going to lose to Louisville if we beat them early in the season when we were decidedly worse. It seemed like we wouldn’t lose the round after that either, so I had the team advancing to the Final Four, assuming it was wishful thinking.
I guess that is why I am not so sad we lost. Six weeks ago, I would’ve questioned us even making it out of the first round. During the SEC tournament, I got my hopes up that this really might be the corner we’d been waiting for the team to turn. They were so young though. I don’t love the one-and-done approach to college hoops, but I don’t fault Coach Calipari for gaming the system. I do get sad to not have that wise senior leading the way. When Jarrod Polson, the lone senior on the squad, got some minutes, I was elated, even though he is far from our best player. I had to resort to naming Willie Cauley-Stein as my favorite player on the team as the sage old–sophomore.
I doubt we’ll see Stein stick around for a junior season, but I certainly wish he would. Judging by the impact this kid was able to have even when cheering on the sidelines in his paisley shirt (which is awesome, DeMarcus Cousins, so stop your hating), I think he is just the leader I would like to see stay to lead the team to another stellar season.
But if he leaves along with all our other playmakers, I won’t be too sad. Much like the result of the game, any extra time we get from these guys feels like a freeroll, the proverbial icing on the cake. But a girl can hope Marcus Lee might be that little dollop of frosting in the bottom of the container that sticks around, right?
Who knows who stays and who goes? Who knows if next year we’ll lose to Robert Morris in the NIT or make another run like this? That is the risk you take with Cal’s approach, so I am okay to live with the consequences that some season, these kids just won’t figure it out in time. Rather than expect a lot, I am going to sit back and appreciate what I got, which was my favorite tournament run I’ve ever seen Kentucky put together. Sure, watching Anthony Davis and crew decimate the field two years ago was fun, but to get to be a UK fan and experience the thrill of being a Cinderella story is probably not gonna happen again for a while. We didn’t end up with the slipper, but we had a hell of a time before things went back to pumpkin status.