The season ended 3 weeks ago, tomorrow. Just 20 days back in the past, the season was still alive and kicking.
But, later that night, it all went kaput. We've gone over this a million times. To this day, and maybe it's just me or whatever, but it still sucks. We could have won. We should have won.
It's taken me awhile to get over it. Sure, all of us knew this wasn't a National Championship type of team. It never looked like one, really. It had flashes of Final Four potential, but maybe that was just me; maybe that was just the optimist in me. But still, the way it went down. Oh, how it hurt.
You all were there, though. You all felt the same hurt. When Kalin Lucas hit that and-one, the OGT quickly became filled with dejection. It sucks, how months of improvement and getting better and, at times, flashes of outstanding basketball can all be thrown away in a coupe, short minutes. One second you're up, holding on to the ball, the time is ticking away, and you are on top of the world. The next, you're clutching to a desperate heave as your last chance to get in to the game, and you all of a sudden realize that the season is over.
That's what hurts the most: the realization that it is all over. That was particularly hard to deal with this year, for a couple of reasons. This was my favorite Kansas basketball team, ever. Really, my favorite sports team, ever. Now, this may seem ridiculous to you, and it assuredly is. But, to me, there were three things that made this season so special and, when the time was up, what made it so devastatingly difficult to say goodbye too.
1) Youth -- I'll admit, I'm a sucker for youth. Partly because I'm so young myself, I'm sure, but mostly just because it's fresh. It's exciting. Even when it doesn't really exist (although it usually does), you always get the sense that it will be better in the future. In a word, it provides hope. Ask any coach why they still are coaching, why they stick it out through the 18-hour days and the media pressure and the constant travel, and the nearly unanimous answer will be that they love to see kids grow. It's just fun as hell. Whether it's the next possession, the next half, the next game or even the next month, that far-far-away March that sits at the end of the tunnel. As this team progressed from November to now, it was so much fun to watch.
2) For Once, We Weren't the Odds-On Favorite -- Just like my penchant for youth, I have a strong attachment to the underdog. My favorite Royal of all time (remember, I'm only 17)? Mike Aviles. Chief? Tyler Thigpen. I love the rags-to-riches story, rising from obscurity to come out and shock the world and dominate. And while sure, it isn't like we were the Mike Aviles of CBB this year. Far from it (no, that'd be Missouri). But still, we weren't the can't-miss, number one team in the country. Hell, we were picked to finish tied for 3rd in our own conference. With basketball powerhouse Baylor, no less. So, yeah, it was nice to be an underdog of sorts. We weren't ranekd for most of the season, and nearly all of the non-conference portion. We lost an absolutely embarrassing game to UMass, which bought us a lot of time under-the-radar. After that loss, everyone pretty much discounted us, until we started to make some more noise in the Big 12. But anyways, that's beside the point. The point: it was fun to be the underdog, again. What made last year's Final Four that-much-more special was the fact that we were not commonly picked to do antyhing in either game. It's a fun thing, to be the underdog and to win games. That helped out a lot.
3) Rock Chalk Talk -- I'll try not to make you cry, or anything. And I do want to establish some sort of rep, so I won't be making some heartfelt speech. That's for later. But, the active community here (particularly the 2009 version) was so awesome, it made every game that much better. Every game so much more fun to watch, being able to talk with all of you here about it. It was the icing that capped it off for me, making this my favorite season ever.
But, even the best things in the world must be leave us. It's sad, but it's true. And, the great thing about sports is there's always next season. So, with Cole and Sherron announcing they are up for another go-around, and the recruiting mess likely to be solved at some point with us picking up another commit (at this point, I'm leaning towards Lance, but whatever), next season will be way different. We won't be a ridiculously experienced team, but we won't really have this whole "youth" thing to fall back on. We will be on everyone's radar, and are most people's #1 Overall right now (whatever that means). And, this site should (hopefully) continue to grow, and next season should be an even better, awesome-r place to hang out.
So, on that positive night, I bid adieu to the 2008-09 season. It was a blast. My favorite ride ever. But it's over.
Time to move on.
Plus, we're totally winning it all in 2010!
* Note: I actually do have one more post scheduled that kind of wraps up the whole season. The plan is to release it sometime this weekend. So, yeah, I kinda-sorta lied here. But really, I'm moving past it. And yes, I realize I'm the last person in the world to move past. But hey, that's who I am. This is sad, and just proves I have no life, but it's like Kansas basketball is my girl. And, it gets quite serious towards the end. But then, she leaves. Blech. I'm really not that big of a loser, though, I promise.