Last night Louisville took down Michigan to with the men’s NCAA basketball national championship and the thing that stays with me the next day is the existence of Luke Hancock, hipster basketball savant. Look at him up there. Look at that beard. Hancock took home Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four– the first non-starter to ever win that award— after he put up 20 points on Wichita State and then 22 on Michigan, almost singlehandedly saving the Cardinals from getting stomped into the Georgia mud when he hit FOUR THREE POINTERS IN THE LAST THREE MINUTES BEFORE THE HALF, erasing Michigan’s lead and grabbing hold that ethereal hooker, momentum.
I watched this live– sort of. Michigan had been running away with the game, up 12 and in total control, to the point that I began hanging out and catching up with the people who were over at the ALTTAB Dome for the game. Suddenly I was aware that all the idle chit chat in the room had stopped. Someone said, “Wow.” I turned my attention back to the TV just in time to see Hancock’s final three of the half. This is how SI described what had just happened:
Some might say Luke Hancock won the national title game for the Louisville Cardinals. Others might say he simply saved it for them. With the game in danger of getting out of reach Monday night, Hancock went on a shooting spree for the ages, scoring 14 straight points for the Cardinals late in the first half as part of a run that turned a 12-point deficit into a one-point lead.
I had a rooting interest in Michigan, as they had righteously avenged Carolina’s loss to Kansas when Trey Burke threw in the dagger of all daggers back in the Sweet 16. If you’ve forgotten how amazing that shot was, here it is again:
That still makes my heart beat accelerate. In addition to being justice for Carolina, and one of the most exciting games I can ever remember seeing live, it was also tremendously improbable. Someone on a Michigan hoops blog created this real time win probability graph. With two and a half minutes remaining, Kansas was sitting on a 99.4% chance of winning. Then Trey Burke happened.
Anyway, all this had me rooting for Michigan. And I maintained this allegiance throughout the second half, as Louisville slowly moved toward asserting themselves as the eventual national champions. When the game was over, and as we all waited for Greg Anthony to shut up and get us to One Shining Moment, I realized I didn’t care. Hancock’s explosion at the end of the first half was too epic. Kevin Ware’s injury too brutal. Rick Pitino’s Hall of Fame induction too synergistic. Peyton Siva’s life story too made-for-Oprah. I couldn’t fight it. Congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals, 2013 National Champions.