A loss like that one is almost impossibly hard to stomach. But while there's pain tonight, Coach Bennett reminded us that there is still some good to come. Those aren't just the (incredibly gracious) words of a coach, though—history backs it up.
Among the coaches with the most Final Four appearances who have coached primarily in the tournament's modern era—the expansion of the field to 64 in 1985—many came oh-so-close for years before finally breaking through.
Mike Krzyzewski leads all coaches, regardless of era, with 12 Final Four appearances. But the Blue Devils and Coach K didn't even make the tournament until Krzyzewski's 6th season. Two exits in the round of 32 plagued the Blue Devils before their first Final Four appearance in 1986.
Jim Calhoun won three tournament titles with Connecticut. His Huskies made the Elite Eight his fourth season. Then his ninth season. Then his 12th season. Not until season #13 in Storrs did Calhoun make the Final Four, winning the first national title in 1999. It was Calhoun's 8th appearance in the tournament with UConn.
Gary Williams inherited a Maryland team that had gone to the tournament for most of the 1980s but was still reeling from the Len Bias disaster and the departure of Lefty Driesell. His 1990 squad made the NIT, then the Terps didn't play in the postseason until four years later. Like Calhoun, it took Williams eight tournament appearances to make the Final Four. Along the way, Maryland never even made the Elite Eight.
So here's the joy, Hoo fans: in only 7 seasons, Bennett has gotten the Cavaliers to the Sweet Sixteen twice and the Elite Eight once. One of the nation's top recruiting classes lands on Grounds this fall. Two more top-50 recruits redshirted this year, in Mamadi Diakite and Austin Nichols.
This team will keep knocking. And that damned door is just about ready to fall off its hinges.