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They say it's how you finish

3/20/2014
Cal will face Fordham in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday in Waco, Texas. Cal Athletics

March is the holiday season for collegiate basketball players, not in the sense that you get time off, or a break from school, but in the sense that there is an aura and an excitement that only comes once a year. It’s tournament time.

My team and I gathered with our community and our fans on Selection Monday and awaited our fate. What started as giddy laughs and anticipation turned into sweaty palms and fast-beating hearts. We weathered the entire selection show, and when our name finally popped up in the last possible bracket slot, tons of screams echoed through the air.

For our freshmen, this was the first time they had experienced something like this. As the selection show hosts uncovered and analyzed each bracket, I could hear some lean to an upperclassman and say, "Is this a good bracket? Do we want to be in this one?" It’s this kind of experience you wait for all season, when the freshmen can no longer be innocent of the NCAA tournament's energy and the upperclassmen immediately become focused, knowing what lies ahead.

What lies ahead for us: Game one, Fordham.

There is no such thing as looking ahead, there is no such thing as a guaranteed win. The things that stand out are the intangibles, the don't-stop-’til-you-drop, how-big-is-your-heart, how-strong-is-your-will kind of games. These are the games that measure character, where adversity lasts in moments, where there are no second chances. This is it, the pinnacle, the growth period for some and the turning point for others. It doesn't matter what happened in your regular season or your conference tournament. What matters is that from this point forward you are only guaranteed one game.

They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish.