Pissed, angry, sad, in shock, but mainly, specifically, heartbroken.
I'd hoped that I could at least use the drive home from Nashville to process everything that happened and reconcile how I feel about a night in which UC and Xavier both suffered their program's worst losses, respectively, but it's early Monday morning and I'm still at a loss. I haven't been able to sleep, and I don't think I'll get over what I witnessed at Bridgestone Arena for a long time.
As a Bearcats fan, I'm not even sure where to begin. My thoughts are as jumbled and disorganized as UC's offense looked in the final few minutes last night. It's pointless for me to even try to assemble multiple, flowing paragraphs that connect or make any sense, so just accept these random thoughts and understand the spirit in which they were written...
*The most frustrating thing about UC's choke job was how some of their best and supposedly most reliable players betrayed them. There was a ton of bad shots and some poor decisions on offense. Silly fouls put Jarron Cumberland on the bench for the final seven and a half minutes of the half after he started the game hot. My affection for Gary Clark is well-established, but even he admitted that he's got to grab that rebound on Cody Martin's missed shot with :15 left.
*Gary Clark deserved to go out better. He also needed to take more than six shots in his final college game.
*I'm a big Mick Cronin fan. Have a world of respect for him. Love how he runs his program. Wish he'd have been a more calming influence on the sideline as Nevada was making its comeback. Felt like he tightened up as his team did.
*They were up by five points and had the ball with just over two minutes to go. Then Cane Broome was whistled for an offensive foul. I have not seen a replay. If I live to be a thousand years old, I hope to never see any video footage from that game. But I don't believe that was a foul. Either way, it was at that moment, that I decided that UC was going to lose.
*Broome looking as shaky as he did was very, very sobering.
*On our long, silent drive back to Cincinnati, I believe I counted in my head seven missed layups in the second half. Seven.
*Another sequence that bothered me at the time: Because of foul trouble, Mick had to go to some pretty defensive-oriented lineups late in the first half, which mean that Jacob Evans was basically playing one-on-five. During this time, he got to the rim a few times and made layups. But he also settled for a couple of ill-advised threes. And he missed the front end of a one-and-one. If he's more aggressive and/or if he converts from the free throw line, what was a 12 point lead at the half is probably significantly higher.
*The "can't win in March" thing will haunt this program for a while now, and understandably so. As good as the Bearcats have been, and as endearing as this team was this season, the program has been to the second weekend of the tournament once in 18 years. Losing early in March doesn't have to invalidate a season, but let's face it, we judge programs by how much they win in the NCAA Tournament. UC hasn't done a lot of winning in the NCAA Tournament over the last two decades.
*I'm tired of seeing things that need to be added to this list. Bengals loss to the Steelers. Reds choke job against the Giants. Now this. At some point, something good has to happen. I keep telling myself this. I'm starting to not believe it.
I have nothing else right now. I'm so dejected, so sad. I can't even describe what I felt like watching the Bearcats collapse. A sports outcome shouldn't leave me physically ill, yet there I was staring at the floor, thinking that I was about to vomit right there in front of a bunch of other stunned UC fans. I've endured plenty of heartbreaking UC losses in my life, but this is the worst.
And as numb as I was for most of the Xavier game, their loss is a major, major disappointment as well. Trevon Bluiett's disappearing act, an ineffective zone defense, and a ton of missed free throws added up to a devastating loss that feels like such a missed opportunity for XU to do something special. As much as I'm probably in the minority of college basketball fans in the area, I think it would've been awesome had both schools reached the Final Four. That we don't get to spend the week at least flirting with the possibility of that happening saddens me.
I still can't believe what I witnessed last night in Nashville.