KOVAR: Dreams do come true

Each March, when you turn on the TV for the greatest sporting event in the world, you’re greeted by some popular phrases from March Madness history. Phrases like, As good as it gets, Oh my gosh, and Phenomenal!

All those phrases come from some of the best moments in March Madness history. My personal favorite, though, is Dreams do come true. One of my dreams came true this past week.

Ever since I can remember, March Madness has been my favorite thing of all time. I would eagerly wait for the bracket to be released during the selection show. Following the announcement of the bracket, I would print a ton of copies of them, along with info on each and every team. I’m not kidding when I say this. It still takes me a good two hours to fill out my bracket.

I would research each team in the tournament and find their strengths and weaknesses. I would look hard at each matchup, and make my decision. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter much as upsets are bound to happen and destroy my bracket. That’s the beauty of it.

Once my bracket was filled out, it was time to simply enjoy the tournament. In seventh and eighth grade, my teacher, Mr. Shipler was cool enough to let us watch some of the games during class. Well, that was until his team (Iowa Hawkeyes) were upset by No. 14 Northwestern State in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Iowa led by two with under 15 seconds to go, but Northwestern State found some magic that always seems to happen in March. A desperation 3-pointer from the corner somehow found the bottom of the net, and madness began.

Once school was out, it was a race to get home as soon as I could to claim the TV. While my parents would have liked me to be in bed around 9 p.m., I always found a way to catch the ending of the late games. Each night, I would sneak out of my room, quietly walk downstairs to catch the ending. I’m sure there was a time or two where I woke them up with screams of excitement for close games and buzzer beaters.

I have so many memories of March Madness. I can remember little plays or obscure moments for some reason that just stick in my head. One of the best was when No. 15 Lehigh beat No. 2 Duke in 2012. As a big North Carolina fan, it was awesome seeing Duke lose in the first round as a No. 2 seed.

While I’ve had so many great memories of March Madness growing up, there was always one thing missing. That was until this past week.

It’s always been a dream of mine to attend a Final Four. It’s the sporting event I’ve always wanted to go to more than any other. I finally got my chance this past week, and it didn’t disappoint.

When I drove down to US Bank Stadium Saturday, it was a surreal feeling knowing I was about to take in the Final Four. I’ve been dreaming of a moment like this forever, and I couldn’t help but smile the whole drive down.

While the normal blue bloods of college basketball weren’t at the Final Four this year, the games were still incredible. The tournament never disappoints, and Minnesota did one heck of a job hosting it this year. I hope we get to host it again sometime soon.

After getting to take in the Final Four and National Championship game, I didn’t think my dream could get any better. That was until One Shinning Moment.

It was a surreal feeling standing at mid court at the Final Four with confetti falling down, listening to One Shining Moment. I never thought I would be lucky enough to attend a Final Four, let alone stand on the court for one of the best ways to cap off an incredible event. I’ll admit it. There was certainly a tear or two falling down. This was a dream of mine ever since I can remember, and it was all coming true. It’s truly something I’ll never forget.

I wasn’t the only person to have a dream come true at the Final Four this year. Take a look at Virginia’s Kyle Guy. After he and Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the history of the tournament, he and his team are the National Champions a year later. That’s an incredible story.

Guy had a huge impact on Virginia’s run to the title. In the semifinal game against Auburn, Guy scored six points in the final 10 seconds to lead them to the win, including knocking down three free throws to help Virginia win by one.

“Yeah, these are moments that every basketball player has dreamed of, hitting the game-winning shot or free throws or whatever,” Guy said after the win over Auburn. “Kind of had that feeling in your stomach, like a good nervousness, like, all right, this is my chance. To be able to go to the National Championship off of that for these guys and Coach Bennett, I mean, I really don’t have the words. I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special.”

It was equally special for teammate Ty Jerome, who was also a member of the team last season that made history in a way a team wouldn’t want.

“I was about to say, don’t ask me because I can’t yet,” Jerome said about putting the feeling into words. “Forget last year, this is everything you dream of since you’re a little kid. I’m not even thinking about UMBC right now. I’m just thinking this is a dream come true, and it’s even more than that because you never even imagine you’ll be able to spend a year with people you actually love, your teammates and your coaches. Not a lot of people get along like we do, so to share this moment with them is unbelievable.”

It was an incredible run for Virginia in this tournament. They very well could have lost multiple times; yet, always found a way to win. In the South Regional Final against Purdue, they trailed by two with just 3.8 seconds left. A buzzer beater forced overtime, and of course, Virginia went on to win.

In the National Semifinal game against Auburn, Virginia trailed by two again with 3.3 seconds left. Guy hit three clutch free throws to send the Cavaliers to the title game.

In the title game, Virginia found themselves trailing again late after holding a nine-point lead in the second half. With 14.8 seconds left and down by three, Virginia again found a way. De’Andre Hunter knocked down one of the biggest shots in his career, tying the game and sending it to overtime, where Virginia would capture their first National Title.

“I told them this, ‘it’s about the joy of competition and the fun in the pursuit of a championship’,” coach Tony Bennett said. “That, I love it.  What that says, if you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way. I don’t know, maybe we could have, but I don’t know, going through what we did last year and having to, you know, it helped me as a coach. All the stuff that they talked about, I think, bought us a ticket to a National Championship.”

Dreams do indeed come true.

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