MINNEAPOLIS, MN – When you are at the cusp winning a National Title, and the dream comes up just a little short, it can be hard to find the silver lining in the immediate aftermath.
That can certainly be said for Michigan State and Auburn, who both had historic seasons for their programs this year, with Sparty carrying the torch for the Big Ten and the Tigers tasting the Final Four for the first time.
Frustration, even tears could be seen in the immediate moments after the semi-final losses for both teams. However, as the adrenaline started to wear off and the sheer magnitude of the moment started to set in, it was clear that Glory can be found in defeat.
Take Michigan State Senior Kenny Goins for instance, who got the ride of a lifetime in this tournament before taking the Spartan Jersey off for the final time.
“I guess you just had to know coming in that at some point, all dreams have to end. But I’m still proud of my team for what we did this year. Proud of all the guys, how they grew. You know I say it every day, I wouldn’t want to go to war with anyone else, and I still feel that way.” said Goins.
He later continued, “It meant everything. It was a dream come true, and I’m just glad to represent all my family, my teammates, and all of Spartan Nation as best as I could.”
Spartans head coach Tom Izzo touched on it as well in his immediate post-game comments, “But it doesn’t diminish on the incredible season these guys have had. Probably in a day, I’ll be able to sit back and look at the incredible journey and the incredible run.”
How about the Auburn side of things? They at first moment felt cheated on a last-second foul call that sent Virginias Kyle Guy to the line. They even felt cheated second before that on a non-called apparent double-dribble before the foul on Guy. However, head coach Bruce Pearl put it into the right perspective.
“I asked them, would we have trusted God any more in victory than we would trust Him in defeat, in the sense that He carried us all the way here all season long and put so much blessing upon us.” said Pearl, “So this is what the plan was, and let’s handle the defeat like with dignity and with class. Let’s give the opponent credit.”
Pearl even went further talking about his Tigers going up against the odds in a tournament that they weren’t”supposed” to make noise in.
“Yeah, I think that for us, I thought that we looked like we belonged. We were — we weren’t supposed to be here. We weren’t supposed to have a chance to win — or maybe had a chance to win, but unlikely.”, said, Pearl.
At the end of the day, these college athletes had the chance to compete at the highest level that the sport has to offer them at this moment. They took a ride that when they look back on it in 15-20 years down the road, they will think of the memories and the time they got to enjoy the ups and downs with their brothers.
It’s not always about the wins and the loses. Sometimes it’s more about the journey and the path that it took to get to where you are. Defeat is not the end of the road, but the start of a new beginning, just a turn of a page. The question I pose to you is which story will you write, and we know which one head coach Bruce Pearl wants to be written, even when asked about the late calls.
“But it won’t — it can’t define — don’t let it define the game because then you’re taking away from Ty Jerome or you’re taking away from Anfernee McLemore with 12 rebounds, or Bryce Brown almost leading Auburn back to an incredible come-from-behind victory. I’d love that to be the story.”