The thrill of victory abounds in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. But sometimes it's the agony of defeat that sticks with you.

Duke senior J. J. Redick and Gonzaga junior Adam Morrison grabbed the headlines all year as they battled each other to lead the nation in scoring. Morrison invited comparisons to other rangy forwards with smooth jumpers. Redick broke all sorts of records with a shot that surprised you if it didn't rip the net. Sports Illustrated posed the two back to back on its March 6 cover and asked, "Who's the Best?"

But those stories were just appetizers for the sport's annual feast, the Big Dance. Both stars had something to prove in the tournament. Gonzaga had disappointed the last couple years after shedding their underdog reputation and earning high seeds. Duke expects all its stars to win at least one national championship. But Redick's teams had not yet translated ACC accolades into NCAA success in his first three tourney tries.

Neither will be leading his team to the Final Four this weekend. The thrill of George Mason has replaced the agony of unfulfilled potential. Last Thursday, Redick couldn't shake LSU's athletic defenders. Morrison couldn't stop his team from blowing a 17-point lead. Neither could fight back tears when faced with the end of their college careers. Redick's face reddened and his eyes welled when Coach Krzyzewski pulled him from the game with a few seconds left. Morrison's mouth contorted with pain as UCLA took the lead. After the final buzzer, he crumpled into a heap and bawled on the hardwood. He needed his opponents—subjects of his infamous trash talking for 40 minutes—to cut short their postgame celebration and pick him up.

Not all of us grieve our life's most painful ...

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Play Ball
From 2005 to 2007, "Play Ball" examined the relationship of sports and faith: sports is important precisely because it is a form of play, that is, a manifestation of the Sabbath. Contributors included Mark Galli, Collin Hansen, Mark Moring, and others.
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