I have no words for what just happened. It was ... incredible in every way. I'm sitting here trying to write, half drunk, half overwhelmed by what I just witnessed. This Kentucky Wildcats team managed a victory in the face of overwhelming odds due to the loss of a starter (forget the fact that Dakari Johnson actually starts, Willie Cauley-Stein gets the most minutes). We will miss Willie from now on — when somebody says something "pops," it's almost always a significant injury. It is what it is, injuries are part of basketball.
Congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals on an outstanding season and a great run for the seniors on this team. I cannot praise the Cardinals enough, they gave everything they had, and quite a bit more. This Cardinal team was undersized in the vertical dimension, but you couldn't measure the size of their collective heart. Respect.
So where are you now, Kentucky fans? Do you think this team a failure? I know, I know... that's not fair, and I'm just kidding. Those of you who gave up earlier are forgiven, the provocation was more than sufficient. We don't need any "true fan" tests here, we welcome everyone who loves Kentucky basketball, however cynical or skeptical. We love you. Right now, I pretty much love everybody.
Louisville missed some free throws. That is a fact. But if you think Louisville lost this game, you are flat kidding yourself. Kentucky ripped this game away from Louisville. More particularly, Alex Poythress ripped this game away from Louisville, and he did it with the kind of savagery we expect from a great player, and Alex has become a great player in the role he fills. He may well lead Kentucky to it's ninth national championship.
Yes, dear reader, I know. I know that's hyperbole, but indulge me for the nonce. We are so fortunate to have witnessed the birth of a team from a collection of talent, something that looked "inconceivable," to quote a word from The Princess Bride that seems apropos. The Cardinals had Kentucky down, and they couldn't quite put their foot on our necks. They tried, and then they tried again, and then Kentucky got up off the ground and ripped the heart out of Louisville as if performing some kind of kung-fu death blow. This is a team dominated by freshmen, and that's what happened. Yes, Louisville missed free throws, but they were ahead with less than 2 minutes to go with a team full of seniors and Kentucky took the game from them like a bully takes candy from a smaller kid. That's what happened.
I don't expect to see that again, honestly. This was kind of special. The players knew what was at stake, and what had to be done. They may not really get the depth and breadth of the rivalry, but they get the size of the moment. They've been here before on what now must seem to be an infinitesimally smaller stage. But trust me, they've been here before in their dreams, and when they were shooting balls by themselves. They've been down four in the Sweet Sixteen with a shot to win. And just like all those times, they made that shot.
I'm not going to observe anything right now, I'm just going to join the rest of you in a celebration. Tomorrow, I'll analyze this game. Tonight, I'll toast the victory of this fantastic young team that has no idea how to give up. No. Idea. They haven't given up all season, and they demonstrated, for good and all, that surrender is simply not in their vocabulary. You may beat them, even badly, but they will not surrender. Ever.
They are Wildcats. They have shown us just exactly what that means.