Photo by kev.flanagan
Commence the 15:00 of post-game rambling. No fact-checking allowed.
First off, congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals. Y'all played a great game. The better team is advancing to take on North Carolina and their home court advantage. Go beat 'em.
Second, the game just ended, and the disappointment is tangible. I think the thought process goes something like this: We had a great season last year. Made it to the Sweet Sixteen and were one half (or one point, whichever way you want to look at it) from making our very first trip to the Elite Eight. The lesson of that loss served us well through the off-season, and this season, the Vols made history. Over and over and over again. Fastest Tennessee team to 20 wins (I think). First 30-win season. First time ranked No. 1 in the nation (for a short time, but hey). And we didn't even get bounced from the SEC Tournament after the first game. So with all of that we really, really wanted to do better than we ever have in the Big Dance. More than wanted to, we expected to. Why not, with the historical season we had. And we didn't.
The disappointment is perfectly understandable. Take a few minutes to feel it.
And then get on your feet and applaud this team. Every college basketball team in the country but two (the ones that really matter anyway (sorry, teams left out of the post-season!)) finishes the season with a loss. Only the winner of the NCAA Tournament and the winner of the NIT finish with a win. Sure, it would have been nice to have that loss come a bit later, but it really should not take away from the season this team had.
It's late, and I'm not going to research all of the season's accomplishments. I'm not going to chronicle Chris Lofton's journey from snubbed Mr. Basketball in Kentucky to the third (or second) best three-point shooter in NCAA history. I'm not going to catalog JaJuan Smith's path from walk-on to perhaps "the best defender in the NCAA," as we heard one of the announcers say tonight, not to mention anything about his offensive skills. I could go on and on about the other senior on this team -- Jordan Howell -- and his team-first attitude about the whole involuntary ungraceful exit forced upon his basketball career.
No, it's 12:47 in the morning, and giving proper treatment to each of those things would simply take too long. But know this: they're the things that really matter, and they need to be remembered. This year, Tennessee fans were treated to something most of us had "heard tell of" but never experienced first hand. This year, we got up close and personal. We were there. We were in contention for it all.
I can't speak for you, but I had a blast. Chest bumps to coach Pearl and staff. Thanks to Chris, JaJuan, and Jordan. Encouragement and continuing support to Wheezy, Teardrops, Pajamas, and the rest of you. We'll be here next year.
Standing O for the 2007-2008 Tennessee Volunteers.