Nine weeks ago, Tulane University football players had many things to be excited about. They were picked to finish third in the Conference USA preseason poll and were returning a talented crew of upperclassmen. Players were even discussing a possible return to a bowl game.”There are no specific goals, it’s just to be a champion,” Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard said in a preseason press release. “Whether that’s conference champion or some type of bowl. My expectations are high. I feel like we can go 13-0, max it out.”In the beginning, expectations were high and players were pumped. However no one was expecting Hurricane Katrina.When the hurricane hit eight weeks ago, it forced Tulane athletes and students to relocate for the semester. Green Wave athletes suddenly had different goals in mind. “We’re not going to use being a homeless football team as a reason to not try to succeed on the field,” Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo said in a press release. “We’re playing for a lot of people and the pressure is high, but our coaches and players are all up for the challenge. We are representing our university and our city and that gives us inspiration.”Though heads may have initially hung low, Tulane football players and other athletes have been grateful with their new homes. The football team has relocated to Ruston, La., and enrolled at Louisiana Tech University. Six other teams — men’s basketball, women’s swimming and diving, women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and men and women’s tennis have moved to Texas A&M University. Texas Tech has welcomed baseball and women’s basketball squads, while Southern Methodist University has admitted men and women’s golf. Both cross country teams will not compete this year.It’s been a rough two months for these athletes. They no longer need a win to be satisfied. Most players have been thrilled through simply competing.”Our team opened with an exhibition meet this weekend and that was the best four hours of therapy this group of student-athlete and coaches could have gotten,” Tulane head swim coach Daniella Irle said Monday in an e-mail. “Eight weeks ago we were not sure we were going to have an athletic department let alone a season. In these past eight weeks I can honestly say that this staff has been truly challenged both professionally and personally, as have our student-athletes. It has been very difficult at times but we also have had some very gratifying and humbling moments as well. I have always felt that the swimming and diving community possessed unusual generosity and camaraderie and I really know that to be true.”It may have taken a new home for these athletes to finally find the true meaning of sports — the thrill of competition — but they have been in a struggle to find ways to win. Though once tabbed the nation’s No. 1 defense after allowing an average of 176 yards per game, the football team has been in a rut, winning only two games this season. Tulane volleyball has only managed to post a 2-8 record midway through the season. Last year, the team won seven of its first 10 games.The Green Wave women’s soccer team has only posted one victory in 11 games, although it did not have an impressive record last season (7-10-2).All sports teams have found their schedules shortened. They have also been forced to play all games on the road.It’s a grim situation, but their seasons would not have taken place without the help of Texas A&M, SMU, Texas Tech and Louisiana Tech.”Our thanks go out to so many people who have made this season happen for us,” Irle said. “So many people have come together to help us provide our ladies with a season that is similar to what they had beforehand. [Everyone who has donated is] the reason we got off to a great start this year and the reason we are even in business right now. Our budgets are really non-existent at this time, so these gifts have been our only source of securing items and a sense of normalcy for our young women.”Though winning may not be a priority for Tulane, as it is for other schools, Green Wave athletes are satisfied by just competing, and that is what athletics should be about.
INDIANAPOLIS – The best season in Wisconsin men’s basketball history will end on the most disappointing of notes.Wisconsin, playing in the national championship game for just the second time in school history, was looking for its second national championship in program history Monday night against Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.But fate was not on the Badgers’ side Monday, as the Blue Devils ran away from the Badgers in the closing minutes of the game to win the title over Wisconsin, 68-63.“It’s a tough one. We had this game,” Wisconsin junior forward Sam Dekker said. “Congrats to Duke. I’m proud of our guys. I’m blessed to be on this team.“This one hurts. It hurts.”Wisconsin (36-4) had already set the program record for wins and was up by nine with 13 minutes and 25 seconds separating it from a magical finish to a historic season.But Duke (35-4), who knocked off Wisconsin at the Kohl Center earlier this season, had other plans and stormed back to tie the game at 54 a little over five minutes later.From there, Duke found its rhythm from the floor and after freshman guard Tyus Jones drained a 3-pointer with 4:08 to put the Blue Devils on top 59-58, Duke never trailed the rest of the way.Freshman and ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor scored four straight points for Duke after Jones’ three and the Blue Devils held a five-point advantage with 2:10 remaining in the game.Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldJones, who finished with a game-high 21 points and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, followed a Wisconsin missed shot with another 3-pointer that put the Blue Devils up 66-58 and sent a dagger to the hopes of Wisconsin winning its second national championship and first in 74 years.A quick 5-0 run from Wisconsin – a Frank Kaminsky three and Nigel Hayes dunk – kept the Badgers’ hopes alive down three, 66-63, with 49 seconds left, but Jones hit two free throws that sealed the game for Duke and gave the Blue Devils their fifth national championship under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.“What a fantastic job these guys did all year,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “They just came together to do all the things that they accomplished.“It’s just unfortunate that this one had to be played out that way.”Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldAfter Wisconsin had gone up by nine earlier in the half, it went only 6-for-20 the rest of the game and 4-for-13 once Duke came back to tie the game at 54 with 7:04 remaining.Duke gained an advantage at the free-throw line in the second half, getting into the bonus with 11:43 remaining in the game. Duke began to attack the paint which forced Wisconsin into foul trouble and sent the Blue Devils to the free-throw line.Duke made 12 of its 16 free throw shots in the second half on some foul calls that had the Wisconsin players and Ryan visibly upset.“We still felt like we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, what coach preaches to us, sliding our feet, chest up, hands up and staying on the ground, but the calls weren’t going our way,” Hayes said. “We don’t want to blame any of that. We just didn’t play a good enough 40 minutes to win.”Dekker, who had been playing his basketball of the season during the tournament, struggled in the second half of Monday’s game, going only 2-of-6 from the floor, scoring four points. He finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds.Jason Chan/The Badger Herald“He was just was off with his outside shot,” Ryan said of Dekker. “We all would have like to have seen one or two of those go down, but they didn’t. And that happens in games. He hasn’t had very many of those, but it happens.”Duke freshman guard Grayson Allen played a large role in bringing the Blue Devils back into the game in the second half. During Duke’s 15-6 run after Wisconsin took a nine-point lead, Allen scored eight straight points for the Blue Devils, including a 3-pointer and an and-one. He finished with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting.Along with freshman forward Justice Winslow, the freshmen group of Allen, Okafor and Jones combined to score 60 of Duke’s 68 points Monday night.Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldKaminsky led the Badgers with 21 points and 12 rebounds while both Hayes (13) and sophomore guard Bronson Koenig (10) finished in double figures for Wisconsin.Kaminsky and Dekker were named to the all-Final Four team for their efforts against both Duke and Kentucky.But the accolades for Dekker and the win over Kentucky on Saturday, won’t alleviate the pain from Monday’s heartbreaking loss anytime soon.“This one’s worse, man, because I knew what we had,” Dekker said, comparing Monday’s loss to last season’s Final Four loss to Kentucky. “I knew what we had coming back, that our group was going to make it to this point and this is what we wanted. We wanted to be in this game and win this game. Just came up short. That was a great ride we had.”Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldFor seniors Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson, Duje Dukan and Kaminsky, Monday’s game will be the last in their careers at Wisconsin. While ending on a disappointing note, this team – and the senior class – will always be able to recall the first consecutive trips to the Final Four in program history, the most wins in program history and playing in the national championship game for the first time in 74 years.“We had a heck of a season,” Gasser said. “The stuff we accomplished. Sometimes, life’s not fair. This is not the outcome we envisioned. We knew we were going to win; just didn’t happen. Duke is a great team, but just didn’t do it.”