Editor's note: Treat this as an open thread for the Duke-Wisconsin game.
Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats play in the Final Four against the Wisconsin Badgers with a chance to move to 39-0, breaking their own 38-0 record set just last weekend. The Wildcats have a chance tonight to do something of historical import, and set a new mark for success in NCAA basketball. It’s been a heady season for Kentucky and its fans.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that no matter what happens tonight — win, or lose — this group of young men has set a standard at Kentucky that should be remembered forever. They have sacrificed for each other, and the team, despite their prodigious individual talent. They have meshed together in ways that many if not most of the sports commentariat openly doubted from the beginning of the season until about halfway through conference play. Through it all, there has been no acrimony, no acting out, no pouting or unfortunate body language.
All there has been is winning.
But winning isn’t guaranteed, and in order to dispatch the Wisconsin Badgers tonight, these young players for Kentucky are going to have to actually achieve John Calipari’s dream for them as college basketball players — become the best version of themselves. They have already accomplished that in the classroom, and in media relations and relationships with each other and the community, but now, they must accomplish it on the basketball floor.
Let us keep in mind that this team is one game from non-existence, and two games from history. No matter the outcome of tonight’s game, this team has at most two more games before they are torn apart by the needs of their families, and their futures. Whether it is tonight at the Final Four, or Monday in the national final, we will never see them together again on the basketball floor after either their first loss of the season, or their ultimate victory.
In the latter case, they will live forever in college basketball history. In the former, they will join 1975 Indiana, 1991 UNLV, 1999 Duke, 2005 Illinois and 2008 Memphis as great basketball teams that weren’t able to grasp the brass ring. 2015 Kentucky will always be remembered by Kentucky fans — we live and breath our teams here — but to the average sports fan, and even average college basketball fan, 2015 Kentucky will be a footnote, a trivia question if they fall either tonight or Monday night. A cruel fate, to be sure, but sports, particularly college basketball in the one-and-done era, is as cruel as an ancient Roman arena in that regard.
I want to ask you all, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, to follow Coach Cal’s advice — become the best version of yourselves as fans. Kentucky is a huge, diverse fan base that loves their team, and college basketball in general. Let’s show our true blue blood, and become like the team we have spent this wonderful season enjoying. Let’s be the best version of ourselves we can be — supportive, fair, just in thought and deed, accurate, open-minded, reasonable and kind. We can embrace our role and become the best versions of ourselves just as the team is focused on becoming the best version of themselves. At A Sea of Blue, that is de rigueur, but hopefully, other fans of the Blue and White will embrace this concept as well.
Let us respect our opponent just like we ask our team to do, and our fellow college basketball fans as well. Let us show our dedication not just to our team and to our school, but to the sport, to our fellow fans, and to our fellow human beings. Let us treat this game and the magnitude of it with the respect it is due regardless of how it turns out for the Wildcats, or the other participants.
Finally, enjoy the game tonight. Win or lose, this is what we live for — the biggest games on the biggest stage. Sometimes, and all of us have experienced this, the best team does not win in an single-elimination tournament. Regardless, we absolutely must remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. This may, God forbid, be the last Final Four involving Kentucky that some of us ever see. So let’s live this day as though it is our last, and enjoy these young men for every moment they remain a coherent whole, whether it be for tonight, for tomorrow, or in victory or defeat on Monday. Because no matter what, this team lives on for a maximum of two more games, and then it will cease to exist except in our memory, and possibly the memory of College basketball history.
Now, let’s get this done. Go, ‘Cats!