Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats fell short of perfection, destroying brackets and breaking hearts.
It’s not the record the Big Blue Nation, Coach Calipari or the team itself was hoping for, but following a 71-64 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday night, it’s the record they’re stuck with.
What must sting the BBN the most is just how close they came. They had close games littered throughout the season, but had always managed to come out on top until now, when it really mattered.
Including Kentucky, nineteen teams have entered the NCAA tournament undefeated only to fall in their pursuit of perfection. The seven teams in the history of college basketball who have gone undefeated in the regular season and then gone on to win the NCAA tournament include 1956’s San Francisco, 1957’s North Carolina, 1964, 1967, 1972 and 1973’s UCLA and 1976’s Indiana. In losing on Saturday, Kentucky said goodbye to making history, and became an “almost” team—a great team certainly, but not perfect, and not historic.
For the team and the fans, as well as the 48 percent of college basketball enthusiasts who had Kentucky pegged to win it all, this is a tough loss to swallow, but for the rest of us, games like Saturday nights are what keep us watching.
Sports are a multimillion-dollar industry, with the NCAA’s annual revenue reaching $912 million in 2012-13, and the unpredictability of it all is a big part of what keeps people so interested. From making brackets to the adrenaline that comes with rooting on your favorite team, the guesswork of being a sports fan is half the fun.
With Duke’s win last night capturing the National Championship for the Blue Devils, some might argue that—according to the record books—the best team didn’t win this year. But Kentucky’s loss, while upsetting to the BBN, is just part of what makes the sporting industry such a hugely profitable form of entertainment in this country.
Great teams lose, which is why a 40-0 run for Kentucky would have been something of a miracle. But next year, there will be other great teams, and the pursuit of the perfect season will begin all over again, with millions across the nation watching.