David J. Phillip/Associated Press
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.” You hear it from every corner of competition in the United States, where an incumbent stands alone at the top of the mountain until some David comes along with a slingshot and a dream. Staging such a coup carries utilitarian value, allowing the spoils to seep from the victors to those fast approaching. Sometimes David’s reign is short, a new David knocking his predecessor from the apex before he even has a chance to set his feet.
The Kentucky Wildcats were innocent until proven guilty. Then, just as quickly as Wisconsin seized the throne, they relinquished it to the unlikeliest of under-the-radar foes, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils. With an historically uncharacteristic combination of star freshman talent and senior leadership, Duke charged through the 2015 NCAA Tournament with unprecedented fury, ripping the target off its back and tossing it into a garbage can in Indianapolis.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. From the time of the Harrison twins’ announcement that they would skip the NBA Draft to return to Kentucky, these Wildcats were destined for greatness. It was a foregone conclusion that their talent, combined with John Calipari’s recruiting savvy and masterful ability to temper superstar egos, would lead to a national championship this year. Any questions about their season only existed as formalities, much like their opponents: entertain them, but know that the answer is so obvious as not to be ignored. Until it isn’t.
College basketball has become an Etch-A-Sketch. Each year, as the season progresses, an elaborate drawing forms. Star players emerge, storylines form, Cinderella crashes the ball, and by the end, we’re left with an ornate image to remember the season by. But the moment the season ends, the slate is wiped clean, because any player using half of what he learned in his introductory business classes is packing his bags and heading straight to the NBA Draft. The next season, we learn the names of a new crop of freshman, the names of tomorrow’s lottery picks, and the cycle repeats itself, with a brand new drawing.