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This Is My Excited Face

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How excited are you for the upcoming basketball season, compared to each year of the Bill Self era?

Jamie Squire

It's mid-October now.  Late Night has come and gone.  We're close enough to basketball season to smell it but not quite touch it. This is probably about the time that my college basketball excitement level reaches its zenith.  With that in mind, I went through each year of the Bill Self era and ranked how excited I was for each season to begin.

{Important disclaimer before we get started:  This entire list is being graded on a curve.  As pretty much every set of eyeballs that will read this article knows, we all go into every basketball season insanely fired up about the Jayhawks.  Every one of these seasons would score a 10/10 in the excitement department on a normal scale, so instead they're ranked relative to one another.}

12)  2011-12

Coming off the Elite 8 loss to VCU-- which Coach Self has mentioned is the tournament loss that hurts him the most, and I tend to agree-- Josh Selby and the Morris twins all somewhat unexpectedly declared for the draft.  Selby unexpectedly because his season was injury-plagued and disappointing, and he definitely should have stayed; the Morris twins unexpectedly from the perspective that if you would've told me the prior November that they both were going to be lottery picks, I would've laughed at you, then asked you where Brady Morningstar was going to be drafted.

Anyway, it was late in the game already, and as a result of those departures, Self, caught with his recruiting pants down for one of the few times I can remember, struck out on every big name he was in on.  As a result, here was the freshman class that year:  Merv Lindsay, Braeden Anderson, Naadir Tharpe, Ben McLemore, and Jamari Traylor (the latter two were academically ineligible that season).  You can count Kevin Young's transfer in that class if you want to, but still, if you grade that class on immediate impact.... yikes.  We all figured Thomas Robinson would be a beast (though I wouldn't have predicted a top-5 pick) and Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford would be improved.  However, at that time, we had little evidence to make us believe that Jeff Withey would turn out to be the player he was, and until the last half of his senior season, Tyshawn Taylor was well on his way to becoming one of the most frustrating players in KU history.  Conner Teahan was a prominent part of the rotation.  Needless to say, I was not expecting Kansas to be awesome going into 2011-12.

And then, naturally, that team went to the title game before running into a ridiculously dominant Kentucky squad.  College basketball is weird sometimes.

11)  2003-2004

This was Coach Self's first season, of course, and the depression of losing Ol' Roy was still fresh.  Add that to the fact that the 2002 and 2003 teams were probably my favorite teams ever, and that it took months before I stopped wistfully staring out my bedroom window and listening to Sarah McLachlan while thinking about Kirk Hinrich, and you can see why this season is ranked so low.

10)  2012-2013

The aforementioned run to the title game in 2012 was such an unexpected bonus that I couldn't be too worked up about anything that happened the following season.  (Well, that's a lie and we all know it, but relatively speaking, you know what I mean.)  No matter what happened, I knew I couldn't complain too much because of the previous season's results; ipso facto, I was much more ambivalent about the off-season proceedings.  Once the season started and we found out how good Ben McLemore really was, things changed quickly.

9)  2005-2006

The Bucknell loss sucked.  A lot.  As did losing the senior class of Wayne Simen, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles, and Michael Lee.  However, as we'll cover in more detail later, it's fun when there's a changing of the guard within a program, so to speak.  And the new shift about to clock in was LOADED.  Side note:  this year was also the last time KU wasn't ranked in the preseason top 25.  Don't ever forget how spoiled we are as Kansas fans right now.

8)  2010-2011

The 2011 team ended up being one of my favorite teams of all time, but it was tough to gauge how good Kansas was going to be going into that season.  Landing Selby was huuuuge at the time, but I remember thinking that a preseason ranking of #7 was way too high for a team that just lost its top three players to the draft/graduation.  (See above for my thoughts on the Morris twins at this juncture.)

7)  2008-2009

It's really exciting to bring in a whole new cast of characters to a college basketball team-- when the potential is limitless, and nobody has shot anybody with a BB gun or taken a nude selfie and posted it online.  The only thing that makes it even more fun is when that type of season happens after a championship, which is why this season ranks so high.  You can worry and fret all you want about how good KU is going to be during the preseason until finally you just shrug your shoulders and say, "Whatever.  Defending champs, dude!"

After the struggles of Florida the previous season (going to the NIT after winning two titles and then losing their entire starting five) I was really only worried about making the tournament; everything else would be gravy.  Winning the Big 12 and making the Sweet 16 makes this one of Coach Self's greatest coaching jobs ever-- especially when you consider that North Carolina the next season, and Kentucky a couple years later would both suffer the Florida fate after cutting down the nets and being ravaged by the NBA.

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Next week, we'll run through the rest of the list.  In the meantime, tell me what you agree or disagree with so far.