No Wisconsin, part Duke

I thought I would feel better this morning, but this is proving a little harder to swallow than I thought it would be when I went to bed last night.

After so much success against Kentucky Saturday night, our hopes of a national championship for Wisconsin were dashed last night. Duke got the best of them for the second time this season.

Sigh. It sort of has the feeling of the Royals losing Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, with Alex Gordon on third base in the bottom of the ninth inning. … Then again, I consider myself pretty lucky to have had the chance to see two of my home teams reach the championship games in their respective sports within the last year. Plus, I can count on the Packers to be a Super Bowl contender for as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy and sticking around, but I digress …

Much like the day of Game 7, I found it hard to concentrate on much else yesterday. The girls and I met at home after school and work. Then I took Phoebe to her gymnastics class at 7 and anxiously sat through it, knowing the game was tipping off around 8:15 – and I had set the DVR to record it, knowing I was going to miss the first part of it. Phoebe’s class ended at 8, we came home and it was my night to put her to bed. By 8:50, with both girls in bed and settled, Kates and I settled on our living room couches and started watching the game with the national anthem and introduction of the starting lineups. We zipped through the first half commercial-free and caught up to real time about midway through the halftime break.

They opened the second half well and took a nine-point lead with 13 minutes left in the game. All was well.

Then the freshmen, Grayson Allen and Tyus Jones, took over for Duke, and when Allen tied it at 54-54 with an off-balance jump shot, my heart started to sink with the feeling that the game was changing in Duke’s favor. Wisconsin held in, but the momentum was pretty much in Duke’s favor the rest of the way.

Even then, I said at halftime that Wisconsin should have had a five or six-point lead at that point. They were relying a little too freely on outside shots that weren’t falling. And they missed some key opportunities inside. They weren’t aggressive enough driving to the basket. Sam Dekker was off. As one CBS analyst said afterward, it wasn’t the same Wisconsin team that beat Kentucky Saturday night …
On Monday, Wisconsin opened the game uneasily. Sam Dekker’s first shot was an air ball, and Nigel Hayes dropped his first pass. The Badgers missed 12 of their first 18 shots, falling behind, 21-17. After driving for a layup attempt midway through the first quarter, Winslow looked at Cook and mouthed, “They’re soft.”
Then again, Duke fans could have said a lot of the same things had Wisconsin won the game. Duke missed a share of opportunities in the game also that could have helped them put away Wisconsin sooner.

And there’s no need at this point to even touch the ball that supposedly didn’t roll of the fingertips of Duke’s Justise Winslow.
Two minutes, probably dozens of views of multiple angles of replays and three highly trained officials, deemed good enough to be reffing in the biggest game of the year, disagreed with all three CBS analysts, all of Twitter and every American watching. Even a non-delusional Duke fan had to know this ball was out on Winslow.
It hurts, but it was still a darn fun game to watch. And a darn fun run to watch with the Badgers.

Here's a good read about the team by the Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot. ... And from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ...
The Badgers will have to settle for a 36-4 mark, a runner-up finish and the knowledge that they took their followers on a magic ride and captivated others with a mix of on-court wizardry and off-court goodwill.
At the same time, it's hard for me to begin to think what the future looks like for Badger basketball. To me, Dekker seems like a guy who is wise enough to stick around and finish what he started, but then again I'm not wearing his shoes.

And so another college basketball season ends, and I’ll wait to see what the next season holds. The chills covered my body the second “One Shining Moment” tipped off, and I felt as though I was holding back tears as the highlight reel played out.

Bring on the baseball. The Royals won 10-1 yesterday, while the Brewers lost 10-0. And the Cubs opener, by fans’ accounts, was a disaster.

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