Most of Arizona and Wildcats fans around the globe held their collective breath early Saturday evening as, remarkably, their team had a chance in the last seconds to win the NCAA West Regionals and head to the Final Four.
Down by two points to UConn after mounting a pair of stirring comebacks in the second half, the Cats had several options as they moved down the court--primarily Derrick Williams, Derrick Williams, and Derrick Williams.
Not that any of the other four guys couldn't have done the job -- MoMo Jones and everyone else who was out there had accomplished something important under pressure during the long season of 30 wins.
But here was the deal:
Williams, a near-certain lottery pick if (or more accurately) when he announces that he's turning pro, can create things off the dribble that few others in the college game can.
He was the Man, end of story.
Williams did get the ball on top of the key with about ten or eleven seconds left, but the lane was clogged and he decided (maybe a smidge prematurely) to put up a tough three-pointer. We have seen him nail such shots over the season, including a slightly more difficult one at the end of the first half against Duke.
Not this time. But the rebound went to the Cats with a few ticks left.
The ball ended up in the right corner, in the hands of Jamelle Horne, the team's only senior and a kid who has been through the grind in his four years in Tucson
Horne had hit a huge trey just minutes earlier to keep his team in the game.
He let it fly, not in desperation, but with urgency. It was a moment that he will remember for the rest of his life.
The shot looked good from the TV angle, but it wasn't, bouncing off the rim as the final buzzer sounded just like that.
UConn by two.
An amazing and totally unexpected season ended abruptly.
As it turned out, an eleven seed, Virginia Commonwealth, joined UConn in the Final Four, as did last year's surprise of surprise's, Butler, another deep seed with more heart and talent than almost anyone would have reckoned.
We just heard that two--yes, two--of almost six million brackets in the CBS national pick `em pool got the whole Final Four accurately (Kentucky plays UConn, and VCU plays Butler).
Safe to say, we weren't one of them.
But we are happy to report that, University of Arizona basketball is back.
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