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Tonight...tomorrow...in the tournament

Jared Trexler, Contributing TSN Editor

From the end of the benchPhiladelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Newspaper features and television recap shows continuously dissect the glory of March Madness. The NCAA Tournament's namesake is built on the foundation of "One Shining Moment."

However, for every victory there is defeat. Whether it is inevitably drawn out or occurs in a sudden instant, defeat brings tears, sadness and the numbing feeling that the world is standing still.

Until tomorrow.

Over the next several days, sports fans will hear about J.J. Redick's jump shot and Adam Morrison's peculiar in-game mannerisms. The Sweet 16 will be analyzed until the taste almost becomes bitter. Lost in the tournament fray are the teams that are going home.

This forum is for them. The team with the permanent marker through its name on brackets everywhere is full of 19-year-old kids who hurt today. The dream of winning a national championship is over.

Below is my interpretation of how athletes may deal with sudden loss and come to terms with the understanding that a new day brings new perspective.

FAREWELL MARCH MADNESS. MAY YOU DANCE ON WITHOUT US.

Gerry McNamara
Gerry McNamara only scored two points in his last Syracuse game.
Tonight, Gerry McNamara is no longer a collegiate basketball player. A man who engraved so many images into the minds of followers everywhere sits in front of his locker knowing he must live with scoring just two points in his last Syracuse game.

Tomorrow, McNamara will realize he and Syracuse basketball are forever intertwined.

Tonight, Iowa senior forward Greg Brunner lays on the cold court with his jersey pulled over his head. A senior whose lasting image will be a free throw missed and a last-second miracle heave that ended his final journey way too soon.

Tomorrow, he and his Hawkeyes will realize they overachieved this season and have a Big Ten Tournament championship to show for it.

Tonight, California's Leon Powe sits alone. His father left when he was two years old. His younger brother accidentally burned down their childhood home. In 1998, social services placed he and his brother in a foster home. His mother died in her sleep just four days before he was to lead Oakland Tech High into its first Division I state championship game. He persevered through hardships stronger men have crumbled under. The framework of the fairy tale was written. North Carolina State closed the book quickly.

Tomorrow, Powe will realize he isn't alone. He has a family sitting next to him on the bench.

Tonight, George Washington's Pops Mensah-Bonsu wonders if it was all worth it. The surgery. The countless hours devoted to returning to the court in time for a game like the one he just played. The Colonials' high riser hoped to outplay Shelden Williams and help the team upset Duke. Forty minutes later, Mensah-Bonsu had tallied four points in defeat.

Tomorrow, the senior will understand the significance of WALKING off the court for the last time.

Tonight, Northwestern State doesn't want the clock to strike midnight. It wants the television interviews to continue along with the national exposure. For a day, Natchitoches, Louisiana turned into the hoops version of Hollywood. The bright lights faded to black versus West Virginia.

Tomorrow, Jermaine Wallace will still be a hero for draining the off-balance three that knocked out Iowa. The Demons will forever be endearing to basketball enthusiasts everywhere.

Tonight, Steve Novak pulls off his Marquette jersey for the last time. He drained long-distance jumpers alongside Dwyane Wade and played in the Final Four during his four-year collegiate career. None of that matters at the moment. It hurts too much.

Tomorrow, it will matter.

Tonight, there are tears running inside Indiana's Mike Davis. He doesn't want to show his emotion to the players that are no longer his. Six years of his life raced through his mind as the seconds ticked. Three. Two. One. Goodbye.

Tomorrow, Davis will realize his growth as a person over the last six years.

Tonight, Alabama sophomore point guard Ronald Steele wants that opportunity again. With the ball in his hands and the game against UCLA on the line, Steele gathered himself and fired a three-point attempt from the top of the circle. He missed.

Tomorrow, Steele will realize the opportunity will come again next season.

Tonight, Albany wonders what if. When Jason Siggers' three-pointer beat the shot clock to give the Great Danes a 43-33 lead, the Wachovia Center shook. At the under 12-minute television timeout, every Albany player smiled while walking off the court. The smiles eventually turned to frowns.

Tomorrow, those frowns will turn upside-down. When the Great Danes took a 50-38 lead, a national audience that had dismissed the game as a formality tuned in. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun embraced Albany coach Will Brown after the contest, hugging a man he had met just once before. That says it all.

Tonight, Utah State's David Pak sits with his head down. The 29-year-old starting guard served eight years in prison for raping a woman as a teenager. He served his time and played two years at a community college before coming to Utah State for his final two seasons. Pak scored just two points in the loss to Washington.

Tomorrow, a game is still just a game. Pak has a second chance at life.

Tonight, Air Force is disappointed with coming up short. It wanted to prove its critics wrong. A victory over Big Ten powerhouse Illinois would have gone a long way in doing just that.

Tomorrow, the Falcons will reflect back on what transpired in San Diego. The slate of games was pushed back after bomb-sniffing dogs found something suspicious inside Cox Arena. It reminds everyone that the world is dangerous and that a war is still going on. Air Force understands that more than anybody.

Tonight, Shawn Witherspoon doesn't leave the bench by himself. Murray State's leading scorer spent the entire second half against North Carolina with an ice bag on his elevated foot after breaking a bone in it during the first half. He watched his club battle the defending national champions until the very end, falling just short. He doesn't leave because the loss hurts. He doesn't leave because he is waiting for teammates to help him.

Tomorrow, Witherspoon will begin the long road back. It won't be easy, but next season the forward wants to be on the floor with a chance to help his team win in the NCAA Tournament.

Tonight, there is a new mark on the Dayton Arena floor. It is where UNC head coach Roy Williams slammed a chair during the second half of his team's stunning second-round loss to George Mason. However, the chair-slamming incident did not represent anger, but love. Williams loves his players so much and saw their season slipping away.

Tomorrow, the rest of the world will understand because Williams, who is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, will tell them. He may cry. He might laugh to mask the pain. He certainly will hug senior forward David Noel. That's all okay because admitting pain is the first step to moving forward. And Williams has plenty to look forward to next season.

Tonight, the Wisconsin Badgers want to crawl into a hole. Moments after getting pummeled, 94-75, by Arizona, head coach Bo Ryan can't even look behind the bench.

Tomorrow, the Chester, Pennsylvania native will thank all of those hometown friends and family for attending the game and supporting his team. He will look them straight in the eyes.

Tonight, South Alabama is going home. When the buzzer sounded, head coach John Pelphrey probably didn't want to hear how proud Florida head coach and good friend Billy Donovan is of him.

Tomorrow, Pelphrey and Donovan will talk on the phone. Donovan will tell Pelphrey how proud he is of him. To Pelphrey, a former Donovan assistant, that means a lot.

Tonight, Davidson head coach Bob McKillop is disappointed his team couldn't sustain its tenacity for 40 minutes against Ohio State.

Tomorrow, McKillop will eat breakfast with his son and departing guard Matt. He may no longer be his coach, but he is always his father.

Sixteen teams remain with the hope of winning a national championship. Only one will accomplish the feat, which means 15 more will go through the anguish of coming up just short. Some players and coaches will sit in silence while others cry in the locker room. They will all feel tremendous pain.

Until tomorrow, when a new day begins.


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