OAKLAND, Calif. – The lasting images of the Oakland Regional will not only be of the team that left in triumph, intent on bringing another championship to Westwood.
Other, and even more powerful, images will be of the two stars who gave everything but discovered that everything wasn't enough, who now must hope that triumph awaits them at the next level.
They have been two of the best players in college basketball this year – Gonzaga's Adam Morrison and Memphis' Rodney Carney. The scene with Morrison was the most compelling. He started to cry even before the game against the UCLA Bruins was over. When finally it was over, he fell to the floor.
Carney also was devastated. A native of Indianapolis, he had been so close to heading home with his team for the Final Four. Afterward, he sat by his locker, a towel draped over his head.
They are tremendous talents, but they are also – though it is sometimes hard to remember on such a large stage – very young. They win with emotion and lose with emotion, and it would be unfortunate if it were any other way.
Other enduring observations from the Oakland Regional:
Best player: Morrison. Because of his impassioned performance, Gonzaga narrowly avoided a first-round upset by Xavier and later almost made it to the Elite Eight. Morrison, a probable lottery pick in the NBA draft, is not expected to return for his senior year, which will be a huge loss. He is college basketball's most colorful attraction no matter how he's performing. Carney was a candidate until a dreadful showing – 2-for-12 shooting – against UCLA.
Best coach: UCLA's Ben Howland. This UCLA team, with so many freshmen and sophomores as key contributors, was supposed to be perhaps a year away. But they are now two wins away – from their 12th national championship. Howland has willed his team to play remarkable defense.
Best game: UCLA vs. Gonzaga. This is not open for debate. To prevail, the Bruins had to do everything right in the last three minutes and the Zags everything wrong, and that's just about what happened. Winning the silver in this category is the first-round match between Indiana and San Diego State. The 11th-seeded Aztecs were in position to pull off the upset, but a costly turnover in the game's final minute led to the winning three-pointer for the Hoosiers.
Best story: The emergence of the surprising Bradley Braves. Seeded 13th, the team from Peoria, Ill., prevailed over fourth-seeded Kansas and fifth-seeded Pittsburgh before being outgunned by top-seeded Memphis.
Best breakthrough: Bradley center Patrick O'Bryant. Against Pittsburgh's 7-foot Aaron Gray, O'Bryant scored 28 points and pulled down seven rebounds. He finished with 14 rebounds in the loss to Memphis. Of course, to NBA scouts, he hasn't been a secret in a long time.
Best moment: The compassion shown by UCLA's Arron Afflalo and Ryan Hollins in comforting Morrison, laying crestfallen near center court after the game. They proved that sports, at least on the college level, is about a lot more than winning.
Best play: The turnover forced by UCLA's Cedric Bozeman and Jordan Farmar which led to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's winning basket in the Gonzaga contest.
Michael Arkush, a freelance writer based in Virginia and author of eight books, covered the Oakland regional exclusively for Yahoo! Sports.
- Adam Morrison
- Rodney Carney