On Wisconsin!

Holy moly, they did it. Wisconsin beat Kentucky in the Final Four tonight, ending Kentucky's bid for a perfect season and claiming a spot in Monday night's national championship game.

Just as I predicted when I filled out my bracket, thank you very much. 

All week long, rightly so, the national media were categorizing tonight's game as a title bout, and it totally lived up to the billing. Already the guys on Sportscenter are calling it one of the greatest college basketball games. 

On the other hand, it also seemed as though the national media was barely giving Wisconsin a chance of winning the game. Meanwhile, me and every other Badgers fan who has paid any attention to this team believed Bo Ryan and Wisconsin had the DNA to knock off John Calipari and Kentucky.
Yes, the Wildcats were undefeated: 38-0 entering Saturday’s Final Four rematch at Lucas Oil Stadium, the well-earned favorites to win a ninth national title. But if you thought Wisconsin was going to be intimidated, was going to quake before Kentucky’s mountainous frontcourt and its N.B.A.-quick guards, oh, boy, were you wrong.
Even now as I'm watching the postgame and Sportscenter, the so-called experts are debating Kentucky's place in history as the greatest game. I don't buy it. 

Only when Kentucky went up 5-0 - emphasized with an ally-oop and dunk - to start tonight's game did some doubt creep into my mind. Then Wisconsin came right back to tie it and take a lead, and I thought, Oh yeah, this is going to be Wisconsin's night.

I stood pat in front of TV, cheering and pumping my fists for most of the first half, turning away to do other tasks only during the commercials and whenever Kentucky players were shooting foul shots. Phoebe wanted to watch some of the game with me while Kates put Faye to bed, and we let her even though it was past her bed time, even on Easter eve with a big day tomorrow. I put Phoebe to bed at halftime, and told her as I tucked her in to dream of a Wisconsin victory tonight. Man, is she going to be happy tomorrow - especially since she had Wisconsin winning this game in her bracket, too.

Once the second half began, I couldn't look away if I tried. Wisconsin came out again and clearly played as the better team, even though Kentucky stayed close. The Badgers are too patient, so efficient, so fundamentally sound. 

Yeah, there were some bad calls by the referees. Yeah, Wisconsin should have been slapped with a shot clock violation.

But Kentucky never took advantage. Wisconsin continued to execute - even when they were down by four and the defense pinned Kentucky for three straight shot clock violations.

By the final minutes I had dropped from my standing position in front of the TV To a crouch and was banging the floor on every critical play. Kates was upstairs preparing the girls' Easter baskets for the morning, and I held off from calling her down until I was sure the Badgers were going to hang on. With about a minute left in the game, I called up to her, "Kates, you gotta come down here." She did, and we cheered together for the final minute as Wisconsin absolutely closed it out.

A game for the ages. No matter what happens Monday night against Duke, I will cherish this win for a long time. ... But if Wisconsin wins, I win my office bracket pool.

Good reads (Updated 4.06.2015) ...
"Immersed as we are in the ephemeral freshman star era of college basketball, let us take a moment to appreciate the rare senior who is a different kind of one-and-done. We will watch Kaminsky play his final game for Wisconsin on Monday night, and there likely will not be another like him. Who could imagine another faintly recruited prospect enduring two generally anonymous years at a power conference school, staying the course to become a national player of the year, all while demonstrating no discernible self-awareness as he danced and strapped GoPro cameras to his chest and defended his skills in FIFA 14 Soccer. ...

"Few 7-footers are as slippery and slithery as Kaminsky, with nimble footwork and nifty finishing ability around the rim, while also representing a threat at the arc. (He’s hit 6 of 11 three-pointers during the NCAA tournament.) And fewer still of these players appear out of thin air as college juniors. And still fewer stick around once affixed with first-round draft pick grade no one would have applied to them just months earlier."

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