"We know what we can do, and it's going to be a great story."
That's what Aaron Harrison said back on the first of March during a press conference after losing to the SEC bottom-dweller South Carolina Gamecocks. It was rock bottom. John Calipari was losing it. These kids weren't getting it. The fans were up in arms and the Pat Forde's of the world were laughing with glee. One and Done was in its death throes and order would soon be restored to college basketball.
But Aaron Harrison knew what he and his teammates were capable of; we just weren't listening.
The unadulterated joy that I took in this weekend thanks in large part to Aaron. He shoved the dagger into the heart of the Cardinals and then did it again to the Michigan Wolverines. But it wasn't just him; his teammates have all contributed to this magical run the NCAA Tournament.
Julius Randle has learned the fine art of passing out of trouble on the block to the open man. Andrew Harrison is now looking to pass as his first option and looking to drive only when open and necessary. James Young is no longer lazy with handling the ball off the dribble or during a pass. Alex Poythress has become the energy man off the bench, grabbing rebounds, finishing around the rim and playing lockdown defense. Dakari Johnson has become an offensive weapon. Dominique Hawkins continues to enter the game as a disruptor on defense. And Marcus Lee reminded us all why he was a McDonalds All American in 15 glorious and breathtaking minutes of the Regional Finals.
And they have figured out how do these things in less than a month. How amazing is that? These are only freshmen and sophomores, only upperclassmen with three or four years of experience can go through a maturation of that magnitude.
What we are witnessing is special. We are witnessing a group of young men grow up right before our eyes. They are taking responsibility, letting go of their egos, letting their coach be a teacher, playing for one another, and rallying around an injured brother in the form of Willie Cauley-Stein.
I've watched a number of Kentucky postseason runs, but none as surprising or satisfying as this one. What they accomplished in four games is Herculean. After dispatching Kansas State, they took down 35-0 Wichita State, the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals and last year's national runner-up, the Michigan Wolverines. Who would have thought any of that would have been even remotely possible on March first?
Aaron Harrison, that's who. He is putting his money where his mouth is and his teammates are there to back him up.
Enjoy this ride, folks. Feel good about your team and your coach. Smile at the detractors and wish the haters well. Because no matter the final outcome, John Calipari, his system, his program, and more importantly, his players have been vindicated.