For as long as I can remember, filling out a NCAA bracket has been a St.Clair family tradition. I’ve grown from picking teams based on where I’d rather go to school to picking teams based on who I think could actually win. It’s safe to say that I get my sports blood from my father after this conversation with my mother:
Me: (laughing) “Mom, you’re in the 7% on ESPN’s bracket” (100% is the best)
Mom: “Well…. Byron asked me if I was sure about my picks, but I thought he was just trying to trick me. I thought Kansas Sate was really good.”
Me: (still laughing) “Mom, you pick Kansas not Kansas State.
Oh mom, she’s so cute. My dad remains in ESPN’s 73% while my twin and I are still in the 90+% after rounding out the final four. My bracket is on the brink of sweeping all three bracket polls, again, but I’d trade first place for last place to reverse the controversial call on Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes with six seconds left in a one point, Sweet 16, game.
Tennessee vs. Michigan was a great game, until the refs blew it, literally.
The VOLS were down 15-points with ten minutes left in the game and then that SEC, tougher breed exploded to put the ball back in the hand of Stokes with six seconds left and only being down 72-71. And then Michigan’s Jordan Morgan, guarding Stokes, should win an Academy award for embellishing contact from a moving Stokes shoulder and drawing the call that ultimately ended the game and the dream of being the first Tennessee team to reach the Final Four.
The bleep words were flying out of my mouth (sorry mom) and then seeing the senior leader, Jordan McRae, eyes glossy and him laying on the court, I just wanted to cry with him.
Win or lose, this team deserved a better ending. They were considered a “bubble” team and then listed as the last four to make the field of 68 as an 11th seed. An overtime win against Iowa, a 19-point win over UMass from the Atlantic10, and then dominating Mercer with a 20-point victory to send the Vols to the Sweet16. The Vols finally found their rhythm, were playing to their potential, and busting brackets everywhere. They fought too hard to have their season ended by controversial charge.
“To lose how we did, after how we fought back, it really hurts,” McRae said after he lead the Vols with 24 points in his final game in the Orange & White. Oh, and it was also McRae’s birthday. “With the magnitude of this game,” he said, “I don’t think you can call a charge at that point.”
Jarnell Stokes had this to say: “With the new rules, I had no idea that could potentially happen. I felt like (Morgan) anticipated that to happen. What’s done is done. I’m kind of sick about it, but it’s already done.”
Oh my heart is heavy knowing that we will never see this team play together again. It was one hell of a team. They competed, they dug deep late in games to keep fighting, and they sure knew how to send your blood pressure through the roof. This team put Tennessee back on the map in college basketball and will have Michigan fans scared very time they hear “Rocky Top”. The future is bright in Knoxville and I pray to the sports gods that Stokes and Coach Martin are still there to take us to the dance next year.