A lot of rambling thoughts about last weekend and the NCAA tournament.

If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you know I only saw a few minutes of the Big 12 tournament. M. had a school event Thursday, keeping me away from most of the KU-Oklahoma State game. Based on the quality of play, that was probably a good thing. Friday’s KU-Colorado game was, for some odd reason, blacked out in many areas on ESPN3.com. 1 Saturday M. again had a school function, and I failed to set the DVR for the Big 12 title game. To punish myself, I avoided the score until the girls went to bed, and thus saw the final 30 or so seconds of KU’s win. To complete the perfect weekend, I did set the DVR to record the late night replay, but thanks to the time change, it stopped recording eight minutes into the game.

Perhaps the Hoops Gods were trying to tell me something. I have to skip the entire NCAA tournament now, right? As a friend of mine said on Facebook, “Winning conventions are a bitch, man.”

Oh, indeed.

Secure in KU’s seed and reasonably sure of where they would play, I skipped the bracket reveal show Sunday night, as well. Even now, I’ve barely looked at the Southwest region, or any other region for that matter. I want to have zero worries about the other 15 teams in KU’s bracket or about what number one seed got a cakewalk to Houston vs. who got screwed. All year I’ve been dealing with Northern Iowa hangover, and I’m afraid if I start to examine the brackets too closely, all that angst is going to spill over and ruin this year’s tournament.

What last year proved, as pretty much every other year does, is that you have to play who is in front of you. It doesn’t matter whether a team was under-seeded or over-seeded or gets an unfair advantage by having to travel only within their home state for the first two weekends of the tournament. All that matters is how hard you play when your time comes.

I want to love this year’s KU team. Because of last year, that’s been very hard for me to do. Harder than any team I can remember. I’ve enjoyed them, I’ve wanted to believe, but have yet to totally let down my defenses for them.

Monday I went to the dentist. My hygienist, a very nice young lady who has been cleaning my teeth twice a year for almost eight years, asked if I was going to turn brackets into a pool somewhere. I sighed and told her that March was an emotional time of the year for me. She kind of gasped, got a very worried look on her face, and said, “Oh no.” I probably should have used a different word, because she clearly thought she had touched on a sore spot.

I quickly explained that I went to KU and even though we’re generally good, there have been some years, like last year, where we lost early and then I pout and it ruins the entire tournament for me. So I was having a hard time relaxing and getting excited about this year.

She nodded in understanding and mentioned that she remembered KU getting beat last year, because she picked them to win it all.

That didn’t help.

But then, after a pause, she asked, “Didn’t Kansas win the tournament like three or four years ago?”

I nodded and before she could call me on it, I said, “I know, but it’s still hard when they lose.”

That conversation shined a light on the lunacy of my angst. I’ve had it pretty freaking good as a fan over the past 25 years. Sure, there has been Northern Iowa and Bradley and Bucknell and Rhode Island and Arizona and Virginia and UTEP. And there were a few bitter defeats in the Final Four or Elite Eight.

But there was also the Clock Game, Danny and the Miracles, Down By 12 Win By 12, Rex to Adonis on the break, Langford’s follow dunk, Collison telling everyone he was going to the Final Four and they could either help him or get out of his f*&^ing way, “This game is ovah”, and Mario’s Miracle.

There’s been pain, made worse by the constant reminders by jackasses on ESPN and random fans of other schools, but there have been a lot of great moments, too. When I think about it, the great moments are way greater than the bad moments are bad.

So, starting now, I’m forgetting about last year. I’m freeing this year’s team of all the unfulfilled expectations of 2010, and embracing them for who they are. I’m going to sit back, watch their games, and enjoy them as much as possible. They might let me down, but they are more than capable of adding their own chapter to the great memories volume.

Which is weird because the game was not available anywhere on my cable system. It’s not like ESPN3 was taking viewers away from locally-sold advertising. I blame the Big 10. ↩