TENNESSEE 78, IOWA 65: THE SEASON IN A GAME

Iowa takes fellow First Four foe Tennessee to overtime, but the Vols end the festivities in the extra frame and win big.

That was it, wasn't it? The tantalizing talent in full flight, the maddening inconsistency, the greatness still in grasp and the inability to hold onto what's theirs. The collapse, the pain, the torment, the swift fall off a cliff.

We could spend a thousand more words on the connection, but suffice it to say it's obvious and dwelling on the details therein isn't going to help anything or anybody. But that was it, one perfect encapsulation of how close Iowa was to greatness and how brutal the loss is anyway.

It would have been beautiful for Iowa to just keep beating that ass for 40 minutes after jumping out to leads of 16-4 and 23-12, to say this one's for Pat McCaffery as the team gets everything back on track, to salvage the season on a wave of good vibes.

But here's the thing: regardless of if you think there's some karmic balance sheet out keeping score on the world, it sure as hell doesn't have a damn thing to do with sports games. That's good news! Regardless of who thinks they have more to play for or which team really has things in perspective about what's important in life or whatever, at the end of the day there's no amount of goodwill or malice existing outside the confines of the court or field that'll ever matter more than who's playing better that day.

And hey, Tennessee played better.

The Vols didn't get flustered by the early deficits or their protracted struggles in taking the lead down the stretch. They went to their strengths, out-muscled Iowa down low all game long (33% OREB will do it) and hit shots when it mattered. They had the mental fortitude to get it done and they did it.

Iowa could use that kind of toughness—physical and mental. Maybe the incoming players will do it. Maybe Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff—two guys achingly close to fulfilling their potential—make the leap and the team follows step. Maybe Peter Jok is that guy in the making. Who knows?

Anyway, no need to keep dwelling on this one. It was the season packed into one game, and this season was not here to make you feel good. Sports never is. Oh, it might make you feel good, but it doesn't owe that to you, and nothing's going to make sports owe it to you. Take what the sport gives you or leave it. It doesn't give a damn.

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