All I can say about that game is that it took at least one year off my life. The first thing that I need to say about this is that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the greatest offensive basketball team I have ever seen in college, and they played well enough to win this game. When you play this game, that’s all you can do — deal with what was before you. I am so amazed at what the Irish were able to do, I must lament the fact they cannot join us in the Final Four and try us one more time. They deserve it. They earned it the only way you can. But the format must deny it to them.
That doesn’t lessen my respect for Notre Dame one iota. They are such a fantastic Irish team, and they played basketball that if you weren’t impressed with them, you need to go find someplace else to comment, because here at A Sea of Blue we don’t suffer fools gladly.
I cannot console Notre Dame fans, and I won’t try. I will only tell them that was magnificent, and they should be, and I know they are, proud of their basketball team. They were marvelous, and the fact that they had to run into Kentucky in the Elite Eight is a mini tragedy that can only happen in the NCAA Tournament. Well played, Irish. God bless you for an outstanding, unforgettable effort.
For Kentucky, I could praise, and damn them all day. But I don’t think that’s appropriate at this point, we’ll deal with all that tomorrow in the postmortem. Right now, what I want to talk about is the desire that this team showed. When Kentucky was down inside 3 minutes, this game had become one of those games that Kentucky fans will never forget, no matter who else does.
Kentucky remembers great games against foes who barely think about college basketball, and sadly, Notre Dame is among them. There is a hard-core nut of Irish fans who love basketball and love the greatness of their mens and women’s teams, but mostly what they think about is football. Don’t worry. We will remember this great team for you, just like we remember Adrian Dantley and Kelly Tripucka. We never forget great teams, or great players. Grant, Connaughton, Auguste, Jackson. We’ll never forget what you did here. You are now part of our history, just as much as John Wall, and Ralph Beard, and Jamal Mashburn. You join the ranks of our unforgettable opponents, even Christian Leattner and Grant Hill. You’ve earned it.
The time has come to mention Aaron Harrison. The three-point shot he made in this game is almost identical to what he did against Louisville last year, and Wisconsin, and Michigan. Aaron will live in Kentucky lore, no matter what the outcome of this tournament, as one of the greatest clutch players ever to wear the uniform, and he is in exalted company.
I think, at this point, we just need to take a deep breath and enjoy our fourth Final Four in six seasons. That’s a magnificent record, no matter what the outcome. I love what this team has done, and college basketball should love it as well. This was proof perfect that experience does not defeat skill as an axiom, even if it sometimes can. This time, it came close.
38-0, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation. Final Four. Relish it.