It was a situation the Michigan State Spartans were accustomed to in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Down one point to a gritty Butler Bulldogs team, the Spartans snag a rebound on a missed Butler shot with just under 30 seconds remaining.
They had the ball—and an opportunity to perhaps take the lead for good—just as they did at the end of the buzzer-beating victory over Maryland and the free throw finisher against Tennessee.
Only this time, luck was not with the team in green.
Draymond Green was challenged by the lanky Gordon Hayward, in a play which has been seen over and over again. Whether there was contact on the post move was questionable, but it definitely was not a clean play in any sense of the word.
Spartans head coach Tom Izzo would likely say yes, as would all of Spartan nation, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
A third victory in the dying seconds of regulation was not meant to be and now the Bulldogs are in their first ever national championship game.
But while the Spartans’ season is over, they should not hang their heads.
It was after all, a run not many projected after All-Big Ten point guard Kalin Lucas went down in the first half against Maryland. Lucas was Michigan State’s leading scorer during the regular season and a team leader.
Replacing him is like trying to replace the actor who plays Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld : pretty difficult.
The team never gave up, though. With Izzo’s belief in his players and a new-found confidence in backup point guard Korie Lucious, Michigan State put together another March streak most basketball enthusiasts never expected.
It just showed how far the team had come and the amount of confidence they had.
Would a second consecutive trip to college basketball’s biggest stage have been amazing? Of course, but nothing should be taken away from reaching another Final Four.
Winning championships is no easy task and winning enough to vie for even the opportunity to be in a position to reach championship glory is equally grueling.
Somehow, someway, Izzo’s bunch found a way to give themselves the chance to become champions.
And sometimes that’s all you can ask for.