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Monarch Insider No. 32- Wrap-up

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: March 17, 2011
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March 17, 2011

Monarch Insider #32 - Wrap-up Thank you Monarchs, for a heck of a ride Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider

The majesty of the NCAA Tournament is its sudden-death nature. Teams scratch and claw as if their life depended on it every time there's a loose ball, because there truly are no second chances. One team gets to cut down nets at the Final Four, crowned champions.

Sixty-seven teams feel how I feel right now.

Those incredible buzzer-beater shots that make March Madness so fantastic aren't quite so awesome when they happen to you. Butler's Matt Howard grabbed a wild deflected shot attempt and laid it in at the buzzer to beat Old Dominion 60-58. But you all know that.

Twenty minutes later, Howard is recounting his winning play to ESPN's Dana O'Neil in the hallway outside the Butler locker room. Meanwhile our star center Frank Hassell and coach Blaine Taylor bravely answer questions from the national media about our near miss. Down the hall, the players - while certainly glum - seem to be taking the loss better than the rest of the ODU delegation, which is full of long faces and watery eyes.

This is a wonderful tournament, but a cruel one, too. This team deserved a better fate - and for that matter, so did Butler - than to face another stellar mid-major program in Round 1. They made one more play, and we're going home.

Four ODU seniors - Hassell, Ben Finney, Darius James and Keyon Carter - played their guts out for the blue and white for the final time. Chatting with local reporters in the locker room afterwards, Taylor talked about how this entire university will miss them as leaders, diligent students, model citizens and incredible ambassadors for ODU Athletics.

The players who'll return to next year's team (and the cupboard is far from bare) will wear this experience proudly, and it'll motivate them all season.

When I first started blogging about the ODU men's team, associate head coach Jim Corrigan mentioned Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's quote that "a season is a lifetime" as a good way to encapsulate college basketball. Every team has its own makeup, its own character, its own emotional, narrative arc.

Maybe that's why the two most upset people I saw after the game were Corrigan and his fellow assistant coach Rob Wilkes. They know what a special team this is.

I've written about this many times in this space over the last two seasons. Old Dominion University's men's team has amazing players, fierce and loyal, tough-minded and passionate. And they're five times better people than they are basketball players.

I've been the ODU basketball blogger for two seasons. How lucky am I? It was my job to provide an inside perspective about a rising, mid-major Division 1 basketball team. What I mainly found is a team of players, coaches and support staff that I'm honored to have representing our school.

Now tears are in my eyes again. I don't make a habit of crying, but this team has a knack for reducing me to a puddle. I spent 15 years as a journalist, so I'm not outwardly emotional when I watch my teams play. But these 13 Monarchs strike something deep inside me.

When they're suffering through September sprints, getting dressed down by Taylor at practice, lifting weights with abandon, or pulling on their uniforms to represent our school, one word comes to mind when I think of these players - dignity.

We are honored to have them as our team. I'm heartbroken, sure. But I'm 10 times prouder.

Hold your heads high, Monarchs. And thank you for a hell of a ride.

Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in University Relations, writes Monarch Basketball Insider for ODU Athletics. Look for Brendan's blog posts on the ODUsports.com website. During the Tournament, he'll also be posting entries at http://monarchbasketballinsider.blogspot.com/. To contact Brendan, email him at pjaarm@gmail.com, or on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/#!/White__Knuckles.

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