2014 NCAA Tournament Final Four: 5 lessons from the edge of heartbreak

Ronald Martinez

The feels of Dallas.

Saturday night, I said sports are the worst. The fact is, I wasn't joking as much as you might think.

There's a lot I don't like about it. It's filled with fans who care up to the point of murdering each other or threatening players who don't play up to their standards paying too much money to corrupt institutions who pocket 90 percent of the revenue and really don't care about the well-being of those who play.

And let's be frank. It's really only in college football where you're going to get a lot of teams with the opportunity to end their season with a win. Most teams fall. Most seasons die. The bad guys win. You allow yourself to care and your heart will get broken.

Don't believe me? You're either some form of cyborg or Canadian.

Here's the thing: sports can be the worst. But there's a thin line between the mountaintop and an arrow through the heart. With a moment to breathe, let's take some lessons.

1. In the battle of process versus result, Josh Gasser got sucked out upon.

Maybe he could have closed out a step sooner, but Kentucky's offensive strategy for most of the game was something akin to 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Also, since we're being honest, Kentucky was able to do what it wanted most of the second half. The Wildcats hit one three all game; they could have powered through and won it in overtime very easily.

Gasser was right to lean back. The result won't agree, but the process was fine.

2. Proof of Clutch does not provide a 100 percent return.

This is not to bury Traevon Jackson. The referees did everything short of throwing the basketball into the stands to delay that first free throw attempt and the final shot was a fine look. Our clutchiest guard did not have his game calibrated for the final four minutes, but he didn't lose the game for the Badgers -- after all, his turnover in the last minute was punctuated by him rebounding the very next shot. Jackson tried to put it on his shoulders, and it just didn't happen.

3. At the end of halves, nobody likes that iso stuff.

At least when you call a timeout and have 31 seconds to run a play. Yes, I get that Bronson Koenig was broiling or whatever you kids want to call it. It's a low-percentage option when you have an NBA superstar everyone clears out for, but when it's a good collegiate freshman that the other team knows is taking the final shot? That does not improve the chance of success.

With that said, I'm not trying to bury Bo Ryan. This team was ready to play on the national stage and it almost won despite the fact Kentucky was able to do what it wanted on the offensive glass. It's just when there's a one-point game, you look back at the possessions that feel wasted. Iso is a high-percentage waste.

4. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but tomorrow is promising.

Two of the reasons why this game still hurts is the play of Duje Dukan and Koenig. Koenig helped keep the Badgers ahead in the first half and Dukan got them back in the game after Kentucky slapped the taste out of the Badgers' mouth to start the second. This gives the Badgers seven returning players capable of making good things happen on the big stage. I'm not going to be so bold as to suggest that the Badgers get a shot at the title next year, but they'll be in the national conversation from jump street.

That was a long way from this point a year ago.

5. The final destination wasn't where the fans wanted to go, but the journey was amazing.

The Badgers lost three senior starters last year from what was probably Ryan's best coaching job ever. No one expected any truly big things from this team. But then they beat Florida. They kept winning, and they beat Virginia. The fact of the matter is, this team had something. Talk of being ranked as the No. 1 team in the country was not dismissed as a fallacious fantasy.

Then they hit a slump. The classic act-two turn. There was a loss to Northwestern, and who loses to Northwestern? Chumps. There was panic in the streets of Madison, and it was justified.

But Ryan's a great coach, and like Scott Pilgrim, they got it together. Sure, they were walking into a trap game in Nebraska, and you have to play 40 minutes of good basketball to beat Michigan State, but the Badgers played with a resillience that showed along with their offensive abilities. Most Bo Ryan teams would have lost to Oregon. Some Bo Ryan teams would have folded against Arizona. This one didn't.

The Badgers came together. They played with a style and versatility that showed them as a tough out no matter how you wanted to come at them. Stars were made, but stars weren't the sum of the parts. It was a hell of a run.

Yeah, I said sports are the worst. But sometimes it goes the other way, too.

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