YES, WE CAN STILL WIN BANNER 12.
I still cringed at the thought of us needing to go through another ultimately worthless Pac-10 Tournament. Yes, I did.
I still went into this game, an imperfect Catholic, saying a Hail Mary for our guys to avoid injury. Maybe I should have said a whole rosary. Yes, I should have.
But as I have learned after years of parochial school, Sunday masses, and unexpected grace from above, our prayers are ALWAYS answered, if not always in the ways we expect.
It would have been easy for us to lose today, with our rightly-named defensive glue going down in a heap thanks to the big shoe of an $C Toejam.
And a loss would have made it easier for the Selection Committee to drop us down to a 2, maybe even a 3, just as Cincinnati got bumped down when Kenyon Martin got hurt in a conference tournament.
Our Bruins could have lost, and just ridden on the laurels of a strong, gut-checking season...
BUT THEY DIDN'T.
I prayed that our team would avoid injury... and we did not.
Instead, what did we see?
We saw Kevin Love bull his way to another second half sparked by three straight 3-point plays -- and only one of them originated from 21' out.
We saw JS play a complete two-way game -- inside and outside on offense, manning up and playing lanes on defense -- all the way down to playing just enough solid CBH-defense to keep $C from getting clean looks in the final seconds.
We saw AA2 keep his motor running, going after boards and keeping balls alive, doing his JOB.
We saw DC proving once again that there may be no better 2nd-half point guard in all of Division I.
We saw James Keefe, a bit player last year, giving us more of his Rambis-style game -- a smart board here, sound help defense there -- and once again being an asset on the court.
We saw Lorenzo Mata-Real doing what he does best -- taking space, taking names, taking boards.
We saw Nikola Dragovic getting rewarded for practice time and giving some needed breathing time for our perimeter Trinity.
AND... we saw Russell Westbrook going all-Harry-Potter-on-a-Nimbus-2000 and turning OJ Mayo into his own little Golden B*tch.
No. 1 or No. 2, we will still most likely be pod-bracketed out here, out West. We will be the big fish in the Anaheim Pond, the Honda Pond, the Ponda Center, whatever.
Yes, I am the guy who feared the hardcourt equivalent of a spread offense.
And tonight, we faced a fully healthy $C team, one loaded with the somewhat athletically freakish (though more freakishly hyped) OJ Mayo, the freakish athletes Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson -- a triangle of hyper athletes -- without our defensive glue...
...AND WE WON.
We won with coaching adjustments against the triangle and two.
We won with smart, sound ball movement around the zone.
We won with strength and tenacity inside.
We won with renewed shooting stroke on the outside.
We won with endurance and anticipation on defense.
We won with rebounding.
We won with poise.
We won... without Luc?!?
YES, WE DID. We beat one of the teams that NOBODY wants to play against in the Tournament. They were healthier than we were. They had 2 hours more rest than we did.
AND WE WON.
We are a FAR better team with Luc than without. Fact is fact, truth is truth.
BUT the season is NOT over. Not by a longshot... whether from behind the arc or over the corner of the backboard
We are led by the coach who led this team that came back from a double-digit deficit, and beat Gonzaga.
We are lifted up by the Pac-10 Player of the Year who, after we lost Luc to injury, and AA2 and LMR to ridiculous foul trouble, racked up 26 and 18 as we beat Oregon.
We are driven by the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year who, after rolling his own ankle, rose up and posterized the Ducks.
We are steadied by the Preseason All-American point guard who slashed a double-digit deficit and shot us past the Top 10-ranked Cardinal.
And we are inspired by the veteran swingman who came out of the year's worst shooting slump with the single-best shot of the year... SO FAR.
After last year and our disappointing loss to Cal in the 1st round of the Pac-10, I asked this simple question: "When all else fails, what do you have?"
The answer remains the same.
"You have your core. Your roots. Your heartfelt belief. Your self."
And maybe, just maybe, even more than defense, a CBH team is built on one thing.
We said it here last year: "Toughness is a choice. It's a choice. It's a decision."
This year, "toughness" may just mean CHOOSING NOT TO FOLD. It may mean NOT throwing in the towel, NOT giving up when one player goes down, and NOT losing hope when the going gets tough.
DC went down early. And he got back up.
RW goes down for a few seconds every couple of weeks. And he gets back up.
LMR has gone down with real injuries -- concussions, broken noses, broken legs. And he got back up.
LMRAM went down today with another ankle sprain.
AND WE WILL GET UP.
There is a saying, "Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given unto you."
HAVE FAITH, BRUINS.
If, if, IF!!! we have to go another 1, 2 or 3 games without Luc, then guess what? We just learned how to play a motivated, athletic, spread-offense style team in a one-and-done format without him... AND WE WON.
Do I have faith that we will win Banner 12 THIS YEAR?
YES, I DO.
AND YES, WE WILL.