For 24 years, trips to Manhattan were victorious for our basketball team. And as the streak grew and grew, one Jayhawk victory following another, it gained more and more attention from the media. Sooner or later, a win in Manhattan was expected, dealt with as merely a necessity to add another win to the ever-growing, continuous string of them. While everyone understood, at least everyone being realistic, understood that one time or another the Powercats would get a W, it would never be "this year". Especially not 2007-08, the best Kansas Jayhawk team since 2002-03, and maybe ever. No matter how good Michael Beasley was, no matter how many members of his supporting cast were incredibly talented, no matter what their conference record was, no way they beat us this year. It just can't happen. And so, when you enter the game with such a mindset, swallowing a loss to a hated rival that ends one of the coolest streaks in collegiate athletics is hard to swallow. And while a vast majority of the Jayhawk fanbase continues to choke on the The Streak ending, I want to bring everyone back to where we stand.
We are still one of the four best programs in college basketball this season, hands down. Whether that is reflected in the next batch of polls or not is one thing, but we definitely belong in the Top 4, as our loss is much better than North Carolina's, and don't even get me started on Dook. And, loss and all, we are still a #1 seed according to Joe Lunardi, the cream-of-the-crop as far as bracket projection thingys go. And if we win out, we will stay a #1 seed, no matter what goes on around us. If we lose two months ago, and we are on a 13 game winning streak, everyone is A-OK with where our season is going. Nobody is freaking out over one loss, on the road, to a rival, in conference play, against a team with two potential Lottery picks. At least, nobody rational who doesn't jump off the edge of the cliff at the first sight of despair.
According to Hubert Davis, who is my new favorite person at ESPN after his color analysis against Iowa State (I actually liked him, not as much as Bilas or Gottleib, but better than anyone else), we are still the absolute best team in the country. I. Love. Hubert. Davis. We still have a better resume than everyone else in the country except Memphis, and we pass the eye test more than the Tigers, from what I have seen. Anyone that puts Memphis above us, no problems here. Frankly, I would put the Tigers ahead of us at this point. But anyone else ahead of us, it starts to get a little funky. And anything beyond 3rd, I just don't know what to say. Honestly, just stop covering basketball. Because you don't know of what you speak. So, with that said, here are the only people at ESPN who understand just how good we are this year, along with their placement of the Jayhawks this week in ( )'s:
* Jay Bilas (2nd)
* Hubert Davis (1st)
* Doug Gottlieb (2nd)
* Andy Katz (3rd)
* Fran Fraschilla (3rd)
* Joe Lunardi (3rd)
* Andy Glockner (3rd)
That is 7 of the 12 voters that vote on the Power 16 each and every week. The other five? Certificably insane, for the most part. Or just incredibly biased (cough:PatForde:cough).
On the first page, only Pat Forde thinks we belong outside of the top three. And he is a Mizzou grad who has not exactly shied away from taking a shot at Kansas any time an opportunity presents itself. Put simply, he hates the 'Hawks. So, whatevs.
On the second page, however, there is a different story to be told. Mark Schlabach and noted ACC-homer Dicky V let their ACC-bias shine through, ranking both North Carolina and Dook ahead of us. I guess this doesn't piss me off all that much, mostly because one is guaranteed to lose Wednesday, and we should slide up to the Top 3, no matter what biases they have.
But as for Dana O'Neil and Reggie Rankin, all hope is lost. I try and not be a homer here at RCT, but this is some seriously messed up stuff. Both Dana and Reggie feel we are not the
first second third fourth fifth sixth best team in college basketball this season, behind the Georgetown frickin' Hoyas. OK. I'm not going to seriously discuss this, because anyone who honestly believe that Roy Hibbert and Company are better than the finely-tuned machine of multiple McDonald's All-Americans here in Lawrence doesn't know a whole lot about the game of basketball.
Sorry for the tangent, but I felt I had to talk about it just a little bit. But the general point of the post remains the same, this loss is a pretty good loss, all things considered.
Let's do a little role play. Let's say that we just payed a trip to Knoxville and the Tennessee Volunteers. And let's say that, gasp, we lost because of insane three-point shooting and incredible play by their star, Tyler Smith (or Chris Lofton, I guess, but he sucks this year big-time). Sure, the fallout might be a little harsh at first, Tennessee isn't a traditional basketball powerhouse and we are an incredible team this year. But give it a morning or so, and we have moved on as a fanbase, looking forward to the next challenge. Well, guess what. There are a whole lotta similarities between the Tennessee team and the Powercats. Take away the 24 game Streak, take away the in-state domination throughout the two schools' history, and this loss isn't bad in any way, shape or form. Kansas State is a really good basketball team, and the game was on the road. Bad loss? I think not.
But, and I like this analogy better, the Powercats are legit this year. And, from what I have seen thus far from Frank Martin, they are a growing program going nowhere anytime soon. Just as the Powercats' fans had trouble with the emergence of Kansas' football program, Kansas State's basketball emergence (a combined effort between last season and this one) has been just as hard to accept for us Jayhawk fans. But they are for real, both this year and in the future. Just like the Kansas football program is one on the rise, this Powercat basketball squad is a good one.
So, Jayhawk fan, get off the edge. Just because The Streak is over, doesn't mean the season is a lost cause.
Let's get focused, win the games we should win the rest of the year, and take care of business when the Powercats pay a visit to Allen Field House March 1st.
That place better be rockin'.