It felt like the overall excitement for the NCAA March Madness tournament was a little bit down this year since our Kentucky Wildcats had their worst season in history. However, that did not keep me from watching the games and following along with my bracket.
The first two rounds had their usual craziness as teams like Oral Roberts, North Texas and Abilene Christian knocked out some of the heavyweights like Ohio State, Purdue and Texas. But it was perhaps the Final Four that had the most excitement of all between the pair of games involving the overall top-seeded and undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs.
In Gonzaga’s semifinal game, they played UCLA who was only an 11-seed but had made it all the way from the play-in games to the Final Four. Former UK Wildcat Johnny Juzang tied the game late for UCLA by making a hustle play to get the rebound and a two-point basket. But with only 3.3 seconds left, Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs drove the ball down the court and banked in a long-distance three-pointer at the buzzer to advance his team to the finals while also keeping their unblemished season intact.
Then in the championship game, it was a different story for those Bulldogs. Baylor, the team rated right behind Gonzaga coming in to the tournament, took a quick 9-0 lead over Gonzaga and never looked back the rest of the way. It was never really a close game, but it was impressive to watch Baylor manhandle the undefeated Bulldogs by making three-pointer after three-pointer and grabbing rebound after rebound.
The Bears held a double-digit lead for most of the game, and ballooned it to a 20-point lead before claiming the 86-70 tournament-winning victory.
As a Kentucky fan, I can’t help but reflect on some of the tournament games I wish we could get the chance to play again. By watching Gonzaga come up short in their quest for an undefeated season, I was reminded of some of the great Kentucky teams that could have and should have won it all.
The 2009-10 team with John Wall and Demarcus Cousins was dominant all year and brought back lots of excitement to the Kentucky program. But then they just couldn’t seem to make a basket against West Virginia in the Elite Eight.
The 2013-14 team didn’t have a really great regular season, but thanks to Aaron Harrison making huge last-second three-pointers in three different games, we knocked off some great teams all the way to the championship game. But yet again we came up short as we lost to UConn in the finals.
Then perhaps the most painful of all came the very next season when we were undefeated and by far the best team that year. We had so much talent that Coach Cal could “platoon” if he needed to by swapping out all five of his starters for five other players who were all just as good. But the undefeated run would end in the Final Four by us losing to Wisconsin and ending the season with a 38-1 record instead of our dream 40-0 record.
Thankfully, we’ve also had eight seasons in our history where we did win the championship. We also have the most wins of any program in college basketball as well. So the Wildcats certainly have a lot to be proud of but there has certainly been some March Sadness to go along with our March Madness. There have been some great memories but also some painful ones that we wish could be erased or altered in some way.
All of us can relate to that in our own lives. There will be sad and difficult moments we’ll have to experience and will likely remember for as long as we live. We might even wish they could have been erased from existence but the best we can do is just pray to God for comfort.
Thankfully, though, there are some bad times that can be erased in God’s eyes if we ask him to.
If you’ve made bad mistakes and lived a life full of sin that you’re ashamed of, you can find forgiveness in the Lord. That forgiveness is so amazing, in fact, that our sins are removed “as far as the east is from the west.”
But we still need to accept this forgiveness by confessing our sins and accepting the gift of God’s marvelous grace. Then after that, we just need to declare His Holy Word and put it into practice in our daily lives.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
In your life, there’s no need to be haunted by your past or to spend any time regretting missed opportunities. Accept God’s forgiveness for your sins, and don’t let the devil have his way with your soul.
You can be cleansed of your unrighteousness and celebrate your freedom by moving forward as a new creation in Christ.