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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

The Wreck of the Bucky McMillan

I wish I could sing. That's what Samford's first NCAA Tournament game in 24 years demanded when it ended and deserves upon reflection. A song.

Not just any song, because this wasn't just any game, but a ballad with poignant couplets as lyrics half-spoken and half-sung by a full heart to the accompaniment of a mournful guitar. The right song at the right moment can be equally gutting and healing. It can rip out your heart and show it to you, then stitch it back together and ease your pain.

Like Kansas 93, Samford 89* with an honest asterisk.

By now you know the details and the feelings. The epic comeback by the Bulldogs that came up short. The terrible sound of a whistle signaling a phantom foul to negate one of the greatest defensive plays in the history of March Madness. The opportunity at a last-shot victory snatched from the jaws of this hungry, relentless, unselfish team to end the greatest season in school history too soon.

They deserved better Thursday night. Now and forever, they deserve a song. So, in the spirit of the late story-teller and singer-songwriter legend Gordon Lightfoot, I wrote one. Read it and weep to the tune of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."  

The Wreck of the Bucky McMillan

The legend lives on from the Jayhawks on down

Of the Big Dance they call March Madness.

The Dance, it is said, leaves dreams for dead

It just means more won't always beat less.

With a squad of slingshots and matching big hearts,

BuckyBall set sail for Salt Lake.

These good 'Dogs and true were a bone to be chewed

Guests helpless and blue at their own wake.

Their ship was the pride of the Homewood side

When they left fully hopeful for game time.

Then early that night when the bright lights arrived

Could it be they weren't ready for prime time?

KU's trees in the paint were too tall for restraint

Their press no defense 'gainst these bluebloods.

Missed jumpers from deep made Joey Davenport weep

For the longest these fighters seemed true duds.

Without even a curse a zebra made it worse

The bench in its angst got T'd up.

Halfway to the end there was no end in sight

Rock Chalk refused to ease up.

But right there and then these fearless young men

They did what they've done since November.

Though down 22, they stayed fast and true

To the script of a year to remember.

They pressed and they ran with the wind at their backs

And they shrank that hole 3 by 3.

The mighty Jayhawks, they gasped and wheezed

Cinderella in sight, must-see TV.

Achor Achor, the valiant 1-4

Thundered down through the trees.

A tomahawk dunk, well, who'da thunk

He could bring Hunter D. to his knees.

A late timeout, then a brilliant wheel route

Jaden Campbell rose up for 3.

He made the net dance and the 'Dogs had a chance

Needing one stop and one shot for vict'ry.

But when Timberlake soared all but certain to score

The good 'Dogs seemed helpless to stop it.

'Til ol' No. 5 chased him down from behind

He thwarted that dunk, yes, he blocked it.

A play for all time and just in time

All hail A.J. Staton-McRay.

Then out of the dew, no, a dark whistle blew

Why? Who knows? Zebras don't say.

Fate can be mean but that block was clean

Not sure what that striped shirt was thinkin'.

His game-changin' call shocked one and all

Sent the Bucky McMillan to sinkin'.

The young coach and his crew, we hope they all knew

Lifted all of us though they did sink.

Their one moment shined, it won hearts and minds

Not once, no, they never did blink.

So the legend lives on from the Jayhawks on down

Of the Big Dance they call March Madness.

In the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-four

We were all Bulldogs just for a night.

When it mattered most, Rylan Jones felt at home

Samford fought for what's good and what's right.

Though Goliath survived the proud underdog side

To Bill Self we say go enjoy it.

'Cause there will come a night when no whistle can slight

BuckyBall and all that comes with it.

Pressure and 3s, our favorite things are these

Yet that's not what defines this team.

It's hustle and heart and this just a start

Of everything BuckyBall means.

From the Wood they call Home to the great Salt Lake

The whole world was watchin' and hopin'.

Had that whistle not blew, ohhh, everyone knew

Down one, some 'Dog would come open.

The sad tongue and the pen speak of what might have been

But the lasting emotion's not sadness.

We proudly salute this young coach and his crew.

They were the heart of March Madness.

Samford's A.J. Staton-McCray with "The Block" heard 'round the college basketball world.


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