I was rooting for history. I was rooting for perfection. As Kentucky and Wisconsin took the floor in Indianapolis on Saturday night, I was a part of Big Blue Nation.
Why? Because I wanted to see something that I may never be able to witness the rest of my life, a perfect season. That is why I decided to work in sports. To be able to sit back and watch a special team accomplish something truly historical. Kentucky was looking to become just the 8th team in Division I NCAA Men’s basketball history to go undefeated in a season. But as the Badgers and Wildcats took the floor and the epic battle got underway, Saturday night looked to be different.
It was the Badgers who were the aggressor. It was Kaminsky and Dekker that took it to Kentucky. Bo Ryan and his staff had a great game plan. Instead of playing scared, they were playing to win. They finished a plus-12 on the glass and had 12 more free throw attempts. They played as a unit and even when Kentucky took a 4 point lead with 6:35 left in the game, they did not blink. Instead, it was Kentucky who got tentative. They went over 5 minutes without a point and had 3 empty possessions in which they incurred shot clock violations. For a team that was so brilliant at executing when they pressure was on, I witness the Wildcats melt under the pressure. It was Wisconsin who carried the action and were the better team for long stretches of the game.
Give the Badgers the credit they so very much deserve. They are a veteran team that used last year’s loss to Kentucky in the Final 4 as motivation to drive them to this opportunity on Saturday evening. In this era of college basketball, it is all about the one a done college player. Wisconsin is the antithesis of today’s college trend. They are superbly coached and talented. But they are about maximizing effort and playing together as one. It is about player development.
Two years ago, Frank Kaminsky averaged 4 points per game. This year, he was the player of the year in college basketball. So, as Wisconsin secured their 7 point victory by out-executing the perfect team down the stretch, it hit me. Wisconsin did accomplish something historical. They defeated the previously undefeated Wildcats.
They had to wait 12 months to enact revenge for last year’s last second loss and they took full advantage of the opportunity. They were more physical and tougher, both mentally and physically. What John Calipari and Kentucky did accomplish is nothing to scoff at We may never have another undefeated team in college basketball in my lifetime. But to the victor go the spoils. Wisconsin was just flat out better and now take on Duke for their shot at a national title.