It’s up there for me.
Notre Dame challenged Kentucky throughout the entire game.
It had all of the components of the perfect college basketball game.
It had freshmen. Kentucky played portions with a team full of them. Bonzie Colston pitched great relief innings for the Irish off the bench.
Pat Connaughton may go on to have a solid pro baseball career, but I’ll remember him for the two handed dunk to go up two possessions with fourteen minutes left to play. The Irish 5-0 run felt like 15-0.
Yes, there were runs. But not many. The game rarely left the comfort zone of a one or two possession game. Six was the largest lead.
It had seniors. 23-year-old Jerian Grant’s father Harvey looked on proudly from the sidelines. Jerian had nothing to hang his head about as his air-ball sealed the loss with no time remaining.
The game had NBA pros. Not only are guys like Cauley-Stein, Towns and Lyles locks for Kentucky, but a star was born nationally for Notre Dame. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zach Auguste play in the league someday. He finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, but showed top tier athleticism when throwing down some missed shots for dunks.
It had story-lines; real-life story-lines, as all players and coaches provide. We all know about how much class Mike Brey carried himself with in paying tribute to his late mother with this magical run. If you didn’t know, Betty Brey passed away as the tournament began. She was 84 years old and a former olympic swimmer.
Watching this game felt like watching the desperate blows exchanged between heavyweight fighters. The last time I felt this way watching a college hoops game was in 2010 when Butler outlasted K-State before its national title game run.
It had: elation. Kentucky is the team that “forgot” to cut down the nets after capping its undefeated season with an SEC crown. That’s a direct quote from Coach Calipari during the selection show. His team was so anxious to move forward to the bracket, it got onto the bus, plane, etc. without cutting the nets. However, that was not the case in Cleveland. Carl Anthony-Towns couldn’t even answer the post-game question about preparing for Wisconsin, because his mind was still processing that amazing win. Players hugged, danced, raced up the ladder and took selflies at the top. This team savored the moment. It was great to watch.
The championship games of 1998 (UCONN, Duke) and 2005 (UNC Illinois) maybe the best games I’ve ever witnessed when it comes to the highest stakes of college basketball.
In most recent memory, Arizona Wisconsin 2014 was the next-best contest. And we were served to a rematch also on Saturday night, but it was not as competitive.
I cannot wait to see Kentucky Wisconsin and, then, hopefully, Kentucky Duke.