Some weekend. Two days in Kansas City to honor a good friend who is getting married in about a month. Plenty of good food* and good times. A spring snow storm that made travel treacherous Saturday night and the weekend extra memorable. A dicey Sunday morning in which I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to be in any condition to fly home.
(Oklahoma Joe’s, Gates’, and The Peanut.)
And then the bad, a certain basketball game in Oklahoma City.
I’m terribly disappointed that my Jayhawks decided to play their worst game of the season in the second round of the NCAA tournament. I think this team was capable of winning it all, despite the flaws they exhibited all season that were most pronounced Saturday. It’s frustrating that Bill Self appears, for now, to be more Lute Olsen than Coach K.* And worst of all is that Sherron went out so poorly, both individually and with the loss.
(Not that that’s all bad. A lot of schools would have taken Lute’s Arizona career.)
I must admit, I’m not taking this loss as badly as some of the past losses. First off, when evaluating a loss, I think you have to take the big picture into account. An early loss is far worse when a team had a chance to win it all. So this certainly joins the UTEP, Arizona, and Rhode Island losses at the top of the list. While it took time, Arizona has been removed from the top of the list since they went on to beat two other #1 seeds and win the tournament.
What differentiates 2010 from 1992 and 1998, though, is 2008. Winning the title two years ago erased much of the pain of those earlier losses, along with the various Final Four and Elite Eight losses that happened since 1988. I think most non KU fans outside of the Kansas City area operate under a kind of Bill Simmons’ Five Year Rule. I’ve had several people around Indy tell me there was no pressure on KU fans this year because we had just won it. Aside from the anti-KU contingent in KC, I think that absolves some of the pain, too. We have the recent memory of that great team and their run to fall back on. Mizzou and K-State fans might mock, but that’s part of any rivalry.
Oh, and getting older helps, too. As much as 2008 helped wipe out some of those old losses, it also closed a chapter in the lives of many of us who were in school in the late 80s and early 90s and had our fandom colored with the “great but never quite great enough program” stamp. With Mario’s Miracle, suddenly we were free to act like near 40-year-olds instead of being stuck in our mid-20s.
Anyway, for whatever reason, this hurts less. The most disappointing thing to me is all the people, both fans and pundits, who are throwing the “I saw this coming” or “Certain players were problems all year” cards around. Many of those same people were picking KU to win it all just a week ago. Many of those people were lauding KU for beating K-State, a Sweet 16 team, for the third time a week ago. The football fight, Tyshawn’s issues, and whatever unconfirmed drama that may surround the Henry brothers didn’t suddenly torpedo a team that had won 33 games.
We played poorly and were matched against the prototypical mid-major team that is well equipped for a March upset: UNI had legitimate size, deep shooting threats, good ball handlers, and experience. I hoped the fact UNI was a known factor by most in the basketball world would get the guys focused. Guess not. They came out flat and other than the late rally, never looked good.
So now I’m trying to adhere to the policy I adopted a few years ago: don’t let one game ruin an entire season. While we are, without a doubt, the disappointment of the tournament, it was still a fantastic season. A sixth-straight conference championship. A conference tournament title. The #1 overall seed in the tournament. One loss should not outweigh the joy that 33 wins brought. One bad game should not erase all the good memories of a four-plus month season.
When I look back on the 2010 Jayhawks, I’ll always be disappointed that they came up short. Even at KU, teams that are the favorite to win the national championship don’t come along every year. We’ll still be quite good next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Whether we’re a #1 seed again in the next couple years, or only a two or three or four, we’ll have enough talent to win four games and get to the Final Four. Whether we add to our history of big wins in March or upset losses remains to be seen.
Rock Chalk, bitches.