Well, the end of the dream came swiftly yesterday and the dénouement -- that was practically the whole game. Thank you, Michigan, for settling the matter quickly. By the time I sat down in a sports bar in the Orange Park subdivision of Oakleaf it was 13-zip.
I couldn't believe it.
I kept looking at the screen thinking I must be reading the numbers wrong (it was a horrible, non-HD television I was watching the game on because it was something of a private corner and -- I thought -- gave me the option of yelling and cussing, if necessary, more freely). Try as I might to explain that 13 away, nothing made sense except the reality that we had begun the game in the worst possible way.
It got worse, of course, from there. And all one could do is throw one's hands up to the fact that Michigan was on fire, it was simply one of those games for them, and nothing was going to halt their charge. Florida has had those kinds of games in tournaments past. When a kid who has been just 2 of 16 from the three-point-line in the tournament doesn't miss a shot in the first half, and he isn't your star, the game is essentially over. That MoFu by the name of Stauskas (damn you, bitch !!!) never missed a three. We could have handled anything but that. Their star, Trey Burke, was excellent but only 5-16 from the field and just 1-5 from the three-point-line.
But not on Sunday.
I regained hope for a brief bit at the end of the first half when we cut the lead down to 13 and we had the ball. My mind dreamed of the possibility of only being down by 9 or 10 at the half. That would have been incredibly fortunate and made the prospect of a real game thereafter possible. Conceivable.
It wasn't to be. We fumbled the ball around (a surprising constant in the first half), let Michigan off the hook, and then . . . fouled the damn shooting star of the game with just fractions of a second left in the half. The upshot? 47-30, Banana Yellow Michigan. Ballgame definitely over. I got up and left. Time to drive back to Tallahassee. An eventful Easter Weekend was over.
I had no fear of this team; really, no fear of any team in the tournament. This Gator squad could beat any of the best squads out there. I had seriously begun to think of how sweet it would be to participate in a Gator Invasion of Atlanta, football-style.
Trust me, there are a bunch of Georgia Bulldog fans breathing a tremendous sight of relief.
Yes, we would have been obnoxious.
Yes, it would have been glorious.
So, it's over. Billy and the typically-excellent Gator staff gave us another incredible year of successful basketball. In a year that will be forever remembered in Florida as the breakout year for basketball in this state (Heat go on a phenomenal winning streak as defending NBA champions, Hurricanes crush UNC and Duke to win the ACC, and Florida Gulf Coast captures the imagination of the nation with a beautiful style of play and bigtime upsets), it will be the Gators who welcomed everyone to the party.
And what about those Gators?
Still somewhat spoiled by the very fresh memory of Horford and Noah in the middle, Corey Brewer as free safety, plus Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey as the combination corners / guards / assassins -- the greatest college basketball team the nation has ever seen in my very biased opinion -- it is maddening to see Patric Young not develop a better offensive game. It's maddening to see Erik Murphy asked to do what he very clearly is not comfortable doing. And it is especially maddeining to see Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario -- stars in the own right but with limitations that shine brightly against elite competition -- unable to transcend those limitations. Scottie Wilbekin is an able substitution for Taurean Green and was remarkably good for us in the traditional point guard slot this year.
Thanks, guys, for a great year and achieving the tremendous accomplishment of making the Elite Eight for three straight years (how 'bout we hang those Elite Eight banners in the O'Connell Center, huh?). Here's to hoping we can bang down the door on the Final Four next year and participate in a Gator Invasion in that "other" classic Southern mega-city , the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, at Cowboys Stadium.