Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hayward’s Heave Lets Madness Fans Dream

This column is normally comprised of three points, but today, we’re going to look back at the three-pointer from last Monday night that, had it been three inches to the left, would have redefined college basketball history.

Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: If Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot had gone in, it would have been the greatest ending in all of sports history. By far.

You might be thinking, What about Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard Round the World? Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary? Jordan’s title-winning jumper against the Jazz in ’98?

None of these would have come even close to Hayward’s half-court chuck. A Hollywood screenwriter literally could not have come up with more perfect circumstances. You had the ultimate Cinderella in the tiny school of Butler, located in the most basketball-crazed state in the nation.

This was a team for which home, Hinkle Fieldhouse, served as the actual location and film site for Milan High’s legendary victory over Muncie Central, which was immortalized in the sports classic “Hoosiers.” And this team got to play at home in Indianapolis, a mere six miles from its campus, for the national title. On the other sideline was the ultimate arch-villain in Duke, the most storied program of our generation, with a team littered with McDonald’s All-Americans and led by one of the greatest coaches of all time in Coach K.

To top it all off, Hayward had ended his high school career by hitting a game-winning shot at the buzzer to win the state title. And after missing a go-ahead fadeaway by millimeters with five seconds left (the ball bounced off the rim horizontally, meaning that it must have hit the inside of the rim), the stars aligned once again to give Hayward a desperation heave to immortalize himself in basketball lore.

And he almost made it.

Had the shot gone in, it would have been a compilation of what makes March Madness so great. It would have been a miracle ending in a David versus Goliath match up, with both teams’ seasons on the line.

And yet, even though the shot bounced off the front of the rim and the world just missed what ESPN’s Pat Forde called “basketball nirvana,” the last month featured plenty of moments that exemplify the mystique of March Madness.

Miracle endings? How about Jordan Crawford’s incredible 35-foot three-pointer to tie the game in overtime against Kansas State? And we had the end of the second-round game between Michigan State and Maryland, which saw four go-ahead shots in the final 39 seconds, capped off by a buzzer-beating, game-winning three-pointer by Michigan State’s Korie Lucious – who was only in the game because Michigan State’s best player and leader, Kalin Lucas, had torn his Achilles tendon earlier that night.

You wanted to see a David vs. Goliath? We saw Cornell of the Ivy League methodically pick apart Big 10 powerhouse Wisconsin. Tiny St. Mary’s took out Villanova. Northern Iowa knocked off championship-favorite Kansas with a game-sealing three-pointer by a guy named Ali Farokhmanesh.

And both teams had their seasons on the line every single night. No matter how great Georgetown looked at times this season, one night of horrible Hoya defense and hot shooting by the MAC’s ninth-best team ended our season. That’s the cruel and yet beautifully simple logic of the tournament. There are no do-overs. It’s do or die.

Every tournament has moments that remind us of the reasons we watch sports in the first place. And once in a while, there comes a moment that permanently embeds itself into our sports consciousness in a way that can never be forgotten. Even though he missed it, Hayward’s shot may still do that – just for the potential of what could have been.

But we shouldn’t be satisfied with that. We deserve more than what-ifs. It’s hard to imagine a scenario arising as perfect as the one that emerged last Monday night, but who knows what the future holds?

That’s why I’ll keep watching the NCAA tournament, and I hope you do too. We don’t know what will happen next March, or the one after that, but this tourney showed us that just about anything is possible.

And maybe someday, we’ll finally witness perfection.

Parimal Garg is a junior in the College. Three-Point Play appears in every other Tuesday issue of Hoya Sports.

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