There were just over two minutes remaining in the second Final Four game of Saturday night, Wisconsin and Kentucky were tied at 60 and nearly everyone in the building at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium seemed to be waiting on the inevitability of perfection.
Kentucky had been in this position countless times on its way to 38-0, letting the opposition stick around just long enough to get their hopes up before before emphatically closing the door. There's a script for these things, and it started to take shape as Andrew Harrison drove at the Wisconsin defense and pulled up from six-feet away.
This time, he missed. On the ensuing Wisconsin possession, Sam Dekker hit a game-defining step-back three, then drew a charge on Kentucky's Trey Lyles on the other end. After trading free throws, Kentucky was down four with eight seconds left. The script called for Aaron Harrison to bury a three-pointer to give the Wildcats one last bit of life, but on this night it wasn't meant to be. Harrison shot an air ball and the game was over.
It was the end of Kentucky's perfect season, the end of the shooting guard's seemingly supernatural abilities in crunch time and end of the Harrison twins' college career. John Calipari announced Andrew and Aaron Harrison are leaving Lexington with two years of eligibility on the table to enter the NBA draft, putting a close to the polarizing, dramatic experience that was the twins' tenure at Kentucky.
Naturally, the Harrisons couldn't just exit the college basketball consciousness quietly. That's never how they've done things. Andrew was on the wrong end of a hot mic after the game that caught him saying something about Frank Kaminsky he immediately regretted. Harrison apologized and Kaminsky defused the situation, and he didn't seem too perturbed by it the next day, but this was the exact type of thing the media has a field day with.
It was a suffocating moment, one that would have been best treated with everyone taking a step back before weighing in. In a sense, it encapsulating the twins' careers, twisted, dissected and blown out of proportion all at once.
Andrew and Aaron were pretty good college players for freshmen and sophomores. You can't argue with the W's, taking Kentucky to the national championship game one year and the Final Four the next. This should have been enough for any starting backcourt at such a young age, but it was never satisfactory for the Harrison twins. They were always supposed to be better than this.
It's hard for college basketball fans to accept that sometimes recruiting analysts make mistakes, too. Andrew entered college as the No. 5 recruit in the loaded class of 2013, trailing only current NBA players Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon, while placing ahead of Joel Embiid. Aaron was No. 9. Together, they were supposed to lead Kentucky to glory as the greatest packaged deal ever before becoming lottery picks.
That's the funny thing about Kentucky's incredible undefeated start this season: it came a year after everyone thought it would happen. The 2013-14 team, one led by Randle, was supposed to be the squad to take college basketball by storm. There were 40-0 t-shirts and everything. Instead, that team lost its third game of the season and headed into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed with 10 losses. The only reason they aren't remembered as the most disappointing team of John Calipari's career is because Aaron Harrison just kept making clutch shots.
It's strange for a player to be remembered as both a disappointment and a legend, but isn't that exactly what Aaron Harrison exits college as? There might not be another freshman in NCAA history who hit as many clutch shots as he did. Starting in the Sweet 16 against archrival Louisville, Harrison connected on daggers to win three straight games and push Kentucky into the national title game. College basketball might never see that again.
To some, Kentucky's run to the championship game was docked points because they were never really a No. 8 seed. If they weren't so inconsistent during the season, there's no question that team had the talent of a No. 1 or No. 2 seed at worst. It happened partly because the Harrison twins played like typical freshman guards instead of the one-and-done super prospects they were supposed to be.
Still, those clutch shots.
In 16 career postseason games at Kentucky, Aaron Harrison has hit 36 of 76 threes (47.3%). In 62 career reg season games, 85 of 284 (29.9%).— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) April 2, 2015
The numbers are far less appealing in the regular season. Andrew could never even shoot 38 percent from the floor, which is kind of amazing for a point guard with his size advantage. Aaron was solid as a freshman (42.2 percent from the field, 35.5 percent from three) but his numbers fell considerably as a sophomore (39.5 from the field, 31.6 from three). Both turned the ball over too much and neither turned into a great backcourt distributor.
This is the problem with the Harrisons: they won a lot of games and made some postseason moments that will never be forgotten, yet they weren't really that good. Is it their fault for failing to live up to the hype, or was it simply a miscalculation by the recruiting analysts? More than anything, the Harrison twins just lacked the athletic explosion NBA guards possess. They were tall, so they fooled some people. Now they're both probably second round picks, if they get drafted at all.
In a sense, viewing the Harrisons as a disappointment says more about you than the twins. While everyone was focused on NBA potential, all the Harrisons did was win games and make clutch plays. Is that good enough? Without a championship ring, maybe not. Either way, as they exit college, you can imagine it'll be a while before we see two careers intertwined like this that caused so much debate. No matter how good they were, the Harrisons were always a talking point. Now that they're gone, college basketball just won't feel the same.