No, it was not the end of the world. Not even close.
Disappointed? Of course. The best analogy I can make is that dream that pops into your sleeping mind in the middle of the night…the one where you are just feeling everything good and right…and then that little voice in the back of your head says “you are dreaming”…and POP – you wake up, jolted from those few moments of imagined nirvana.
For all of that, though, last night’s game between Wisconsin and Duke left me with a bad taste. Like a year ago, I witnessed the end of the Badgers’ season on television at Rhody’s, down in Stevens Point (Donna accompanied me this time around). In my mind, the big difference (besides the obvious semifinal-versus-final considerations) was the feeling among the patrons at the end of the respective games. Last year, when Aaron Harrison got the ball just outside the three-point line with seconds to go, the air was suddenly sucked out of the house before he released the shot – we all seemed to know that the ball was headed for the net, and the game was over. We were all stunned – but not angry. It was a heartbreaker, to be sure – but that was it.
Contrast that to last night’s game. We will start with the obvious source of my discontent. From where our group sat, there were four calls that brought out what had to be the loudest and most sustained shouts of the word “bullshit” by a crowd of bar patrons since New Country Sound played “Cotton Eye Joe” at Salty Dawg back in the early 1980s. There was a charge by Duke that was called as a foul on Wisconsin; there was a foul by Duke that was called as a charge on Wisconsin; there was a missed step on the end line by Duke; and lastly, of course, there was the infamous video review of Justise Winslow apparently bending his finger backward on his own power at the same instant the ball passed by his hand (or so the officials apparently believed).
At the same time, I need to make a distinction here. I am emphatically not saying that the Badgers would have won the game had the calls in question been handled differently. There is absolutely no denying that the Badgers were way off of their game early in the first half; frankly (with a small “f”, basketball fans) they should have been behind by a lot more than they were early on. Nevertheless, they managed to tie the game at the half, and seemed to have found their mojo after halftime. The ebb and flow of the game of basketball, though, is such that – especially with two teams such as these – the game clearly could have gone one way or the other. And Wisconsin could well have gone cold down the stretch, regardless.
But if I am saying that Wisconsin would not necessarily have won had the calls in question gone the other way, I will just as emphatically say that they had no chance of winning given how the calls actually played out. One questionable call late in the game – hell, even two – might have been overcome. But four – especially the video replay, which was about as obvious as you could ask for – absolutely destroyed any momentum Wisconsin might have had.
With that said: If you had been offered this kind of a ride as a Badger fan at the beginning of the year, take it or leave it, what would you say?
Yeah, I’ll take it. Thanks, guys.