Saturday, April 13, 2013

BUCKET BRACKETS 104: A Second Wind

Johnny J

I consider all teams in March Madness to be tough. Regardless of records or seeding, it's a reason why certain teams are chosen to go: whether its winning their conference, having good wins against some tough teams, or are there to make a statement, i.e. certain players from smaller schools willing to show other programs why they should have been recruited by them. For instance, the "Fab Five;" five African-American high school All-Americans that attended Michigan in the early 90's. They made a statement by being good players whom resented elite schools. According to Jalen Rose, now an NBA on ESPN analyst, his resentment was because of schools not recruiting kids whom didn't have a two-parent home. They had a different swagger. They wore baggy clothes and rocked a hip hop look. Yet they made it to the championship games in 1992 and 1993, losing to Duke and North Carolina. Their statement was that they could compete with any school in the country and they wanted to prove it. They had a second wind.

Other schools are there because they had the talent around them to help get them there. Just because a school is projected to win it all, doesn't mean its going to happen. Just ask Indiana, whom lost three times this year ranked as number one. That's why the games are played. So how does a good school who is projected to win it keep there composure? Motivation is one way; revenge is another.  Both can be used to make a statement (recurring theme I keep talking about).  But it has to be something that inspires an individual, maybe family, school, scouts, or a lost one.



Like Loyola Marymount, when they lost a teammate during the season. Hank Gathers collapsed during a game and later died in 1990. The team was placed in the tournament that year as an 11th seed. The Cinderella team made it to the Elite Eight. Even though they didn't go all the way, they found a second wind in finding a reason to win for their teammate.  If they needed that extra push, that incident gave it to them.

This year, Louisville received their second wind when Kevin Ware broke his leg in the Elite Eight game against Duke. The Cardinals turned a close game into a 22-point defeat of the Blue Devils. What helped sparked that run was the magic words, from there lost brother:
"Win the game, win the game"
Indeed, the Cardinals did win the game. As I sat and watched them hold his jersey up after that victory, I already knew they were going to win the whole thing. I wasn't a Louisville fan, but just seeing Ware on ESPN talking about how this team was like his family and how close they were, I quickly started rooting for them. Just seeing him trying to hold his tears back in the interview made me a believer. He was incredibly grateful for all of the support everyone was giving him.

Then when he traveled with the team to Atlanta, to support his teammates, told me this guy has become an unbelievable inspiration. He just broke his leg and suddenly he's on crutches asking if he can be with his team. I don't play for the team, but it made me want to go out there and suit up for him.

In the semifinal game against Whichita St., Louisville's best player was struggling. The team was down by twelve in the first half and then they received a second wind from Luke Hancock, (no not Will Smith in a tight, superhero suit) but a bench player who came in and hit three treys in a row. Louisville closed the gap from twelve to one heading into halftime.

"I just thought we needed something," said Hancock, whose 100-percent mark from 3 is, of course, a title-game record. "I tried to do whatever I could to help the team. I usually take a back seat to Russ [Smith] and Peyton [Siva], which I'm fine with since they are such great players. I just hit a few shots." Hancock, went 5-5 from behind the arc. He was also named, Most Outstanding Player, in the Final Four.

His brothers showed how much they thought about him.  I can just see it in their faces as they competed. Ware was the last player on the team to cut down the net. Everyone needs inspiration and Louisville found theirs.

And now they're Champions!

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