If I were to have asked you in November what would need to occur to qualify a successful season, what would you have said?
Honestly, go ahead. I'll wait.
I couldn't tell you. Because way back in November, or even earlier, you're willing to settle. You're willing to acknowledge the incredible youth, and the target squarely on our back, and the better teams throughout the conference. You're willing to think entirely rationally, and try your best not to seem like a blind homer, and to admit to yourself that this won't be the year. You talk your way into it over, and over, and over. And, by the time the season rolls around, you're entirely convinced. Kansas is going to sneak into the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed, finish 5th in the Big 12 and get blown out in the first round by Marquette. It was inevitable, or so it seemed.
And then, the season did roll around. We tipped it off against UMKC, and got better every game. The team we expected to see quickly disappeared, and transformed into a legitimate contender over those four glorious, college basketball-filled months. We won the Big 12 Regular Season outright. We pulled in a 3-seed.
All of a sudden, those preseason give-ins don't sound quite so reasonable. As fans, we demand more. No longer is a first round bow-out good enough. Instead, we're expecting sleeper runs, and getting to the Sweet 16. All of that fun stuff.
Sure, it makes sense to change expectations. And I think we can all agree that this team is better than any of us really expected it to be, and has a higher potential ceiling than any of us were hoping for. This is an outstanding thing, and with it comes greater responsibility, naturally.
But, don't let them ruin the season. If we get upset, and everything goes to hell on Friday morning, don't let it ruin your season. Sure, we're all going to be pissed, and the blog will have to be temporarily shut down, or something, to handle all of the venom and anger and naughty words. But, in hindsight, this season is already a success.
Read that again. This season is already a success. We've exceeded expectations, and have set ourselves up beautifully for a potential title run next season. That should have been the goal from Day One. The goal is to win the whole thing. The National Championship. And, we're more likely to win it all next season because of what has happened this year. This season isn't over yet, I understand. I suppose we could even make one of those special, sneaky runs all the way to the Final Four and shock the world. That would be incredible.
But if it doesn't happen, relax. No need to panic. Life will go on. And, more importantly, Kansas basketball will go on.
Note: Yes, this is entirely a preventative message. I'm scared as hell of the North Dakota State Bison (we'll get to that stuff tomorrow and Thursday), and I have a terrible feeling in my stomach that we're going to lose on Friday. And, kinda-sorta, I'm trying to look back with perspective before it's even necessary. Hopefully it never is. But, just in case, read this.
Note 2: And yes, you read that correctly. Eventually, we'll actually get into previews (gasp!). I know, I'm way behind. But, think of this just as the quiet before the storm. In the coming days, this place will be a-rockin'. Promise.