I don't mean to jinx us or overuse this imagery, but doesn't it feel like the path is just unfolding before us? Symbolically and historically, so much of the path that is left seems to fit. If you were going to write the script for the movie about the last month of the season and the Big East and NCAA tourney, what would you write?
First, a long win streak to end the season. But we still need some help, everything has to break just right, for us to win the Big East. We are a clear #2 seed and hoping to get Indy but will settle for the Memphis region. So it comes down to the last day of the season - we need Pitt to beat UConn to have a chance to win the Big East outright. Pitt beats UConn.
So then we need to go into Morgantown, on Senior Night, for the 9 PM ESPN Gameday game. Remember 2006 in Morgantown? McGee goes to the line with us down like 4 and is trying to miss a free-throw on purpose so we have a chance. And it goes in. Remember 2008 at Georgetown? The regular season title in the balance, Jerry Smith is wide-open for a 3 to tie the game with less than 1:30 to go. He misses, Georgetown celebrates. So what happens this year? Close game late, Jerry gets a wide open 3 from basically the exact same spot on the floor and drills it. Jerry makes tough free throws, we pull out the win. We are the champions. The Picture that I'm sure everyone has as their wallpaper right now gets taken.
So the scene moves to New York City. Remember 2006, T-Will and Dre's freshman year in the Big East tourney? Pitt embarrasses us. We get back for the NIT final four. South Carolina embarrasses us. When the BET started, people were saying even if we won it, we were probably a 2 seed, MAYBE a 1 out west. Not Indy. So what happens? We get down big, but somehow pull out a victory against a Nova team that is in the sweet 16 and hopefully after tonight the Elite 8. Pitt and UConn lose, and we are creeping our way up the S-Curve. We win the Big East Tourney going away over a tired Syracuse (remember our post-OT game in 2007?), T-Will and Dre and Sosa and Earl and Jerry erasing 2006 and 2007 and 2008.
But that's not enough. To get Indy, a couple of other things have to happen. UNC has to lose. Michigan State has to lose. They both lose. We get the 1 seed in Indy. We are the No. 1 overall seed. We get Michigan ("No F'in Way They Make The Final Four" - Quinn1979) State as our 2 seed.
And why is Indy so important? Remember last year? UNC gets 4 home games, including beating what was arguably the best UofL team since 1986 in a tough game that the home crowd greatly affected? And no way T-Will and Earl come back this season, right? What would have happened against UNC last year if WE had the home crowd? Will we find out this weekend?
Wake, who some are calling the biggest threat, loses in the first round. OSU and their home court advantage disappear too. Which brings us to Arizona. We owe them. Remember 1994? Our most talented starting 5 of the 1990s (Wheat, Osbourne, Rozier, Minor, Morton) were a darkhorse final four selection. We shaved our heads, wore black unis, and lost to Arizona. Remember playing Arizona in 2007? Madison Square Garden again. Early season high hopes end in disappointment as our frosh clearly aren't ready yet. The last few months there has been talk of Arizona stealing Pitino for next year. Is there anyone else we'd rather beat in the Sweet 16?
If the path takes us to Detroit, we will likely have UConn or Memphis waiting for us. Everyone has said that our Big East title has an asterisk because we didn't play @UConn. Wouldn't it be nice to avenge that loss? Or we get Memphis. Wouldn't that be nice for too many reasons to even get into in such a long and over-indulgent FanPost?
And if we make it one more game, maybe we get Gonzaga (damn you 2000 NCAA first round opponent!)? But really, does anyone doubt that we get UNC? Dare I say...Duke? Would anything be sweeter than beating UNC or Duke?
Now, I will look pretty foolish if we lose by 10 to Zona. And the symbolic victory path (beating Arizona, defending champion Kansas, UConn or Memphis, UNC or Duke) seems a little too storybook doesn't it?
But can't you see this as a movie, showing flashbacks to 2006, 2007, 2008, 1986, all the tough loses these guys have been through, and then in the movie, we get a chance to beat all of those teams along the way?
The UofL fan in me who has been crushed so often in the past is terrified about even thinking like this. If not this year, when? We can't really beat UConn, we have not been playing well, we've been lucky winning these games, free throws and foul trouble and missed 3s and we lose by 15 to any team left in the Sweet 16. I've seen the UofL basketball movie a thousand times, and I know exactly how it usually ends. We all do.
But deep down, the way the storybook-like movie has played out, the way the path has unfolded before us so far, as you listen to the old-timers compare T-Will's season to Griff's in 1980 and Samardo to Pervis, deep down, is there really any other way that you see this movie ending?