1) The 2006 Final Four, which "featured" Florida, UCLA, George Mason and LSU, goes down in my book as one of the most boring, worst-played Final Fours of my lifetime. Don't worry, 2000 and 2011, I'm not excluding you from that discussion. (Somewhere, Duany Duany nods his head appreciatively as he bricks another open jump shot). Us college basketball fans desperately needed one more quality team in that foursome, and Texas, as a 2 seed, would have been that team, had they not lost in overtime to LSU in the Elite 8. As awesome as it was to watch UCLA Ben Howland-their way to a 59-45 win over the comedic stylings of Big Baby Davis and Tyrus Thomas, I think I would have rather watched a team with LaMarcus Aldridge and halfway decent guard play advance to the biggest stage in college basketball that year.
2) Regarding the Big 12 and the conference realignment that went down a few years ago, there is a lot of blame to go around. More than enough, really. Think of the old Big 12 conference as a Jenga game being played at a keg party. Nebraska was the guy who cheats by using both hands to pull a block out; Texas A&M was the girl talking on the phone and not paying attention to the game; the Pac-10 was the guy getting in everyone's face and screaming things to try and psyche them out during their turn; and Missouri was pulling blocks with reckless abandon, then sloppily replacing them on top of the tower, with no regard for the other competitors.
But Texas...Texas was the guy pulling all his blocks from the very bottom row, destabilizing the whole tower and dooming the game from the very start.
And now we're left with a conference that touts "One True Champion"-- that is, until it's supposedly in our best interests to crown not just one team, but instead announce co-champions, and screw over everybody in the process. Oh, and there's still a threat that the Big 12 dissolves sometime in the future.
4) Despite being arguably the toughest basketball conference from top to bottom for the last decade, the Big 12 is largely seen as underachieving. Numbers that illustrate the Big 12's depth rarely win any bar arguments. The sad fact of the matter is that in order to not get shouted out of the room, the Big 12 needs a second title contender-- and Texas needs to be that team. They have the money, the recruiting base, the facilities, and Barnes has certainly had the talent.
The Big 12 Besides Kansas (B12BK) has sporadically had a few great teams over the years-- Texas in the mid-aughts, A&M in 2007, Oklahoma in 2009, to name
basically all of them a few-- and have had some solid teams make nice tourney runs to the Elite 8-- K-State in 2010, Missouri in 2009, Baylor in 2010 & 2012-- but there needs to be that consistent, year-in and year-out team to push Kansas and give the Big 12 a national level of respect.
The ACC has always had Duke and North Carolina. The SEC has Kentucky and Florida. The Big 10 has Michigan St. plus a steady rotation of Final Four teams-- Ohio St., Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. The Pac-12, until the last couple years, had UCLA and Arizona. (Somewhere in the world, an Arizona fan is sitting at their computer and typing this exact same post about UCLA right now.)
The B12BK hasn't been to a Final Four since Oklahoma St. in 2004, and Barnes hasn't taken Texas to the final weekend since 2003. It's fairly incredible how Texas has managed to disappoint again this season; considering that Texas brought back everyone from a successful team last year, then added a top-10 recruit, this might be the Rick Barnes season to beat all Rick Barnes seasons. To paraphrase the great philosopher Linus, "Of all the Rick Barnes in the world...you're the Rick Barnesiest."
Hey, speaking of 2003....
5) Let's discuss Texas' semifinal loss to Syracuse for just a minute. Assume for a moment that Texas defeats Syracuse in the semifinal, and then KU knocks off Texas. In that scenario, here is a short list of things from my life, including but not limited to, that I would avoid:
- An underwhelming B+ in my Marketing 201 class. If I don't skip class for three days after the loss, I don't take a zero on a couple of quizzes and assignments, and I secure an A in an otherwise cakewalk class.
- Hundreds of jokes from my friends telling me that I look like Gerry McNamara, lasting for the next nine years, or however long he actually attended college. No way it was only four years. Felt like the better part of a decade, at least.
- A very, very long look at our relationship from my girlfriend at the time. I tried to warn her that March was going to be a mess for me, but I don't think she believed me until she watched me absolutely lose my mind when KU lost in the championship game. After that point, the writing was on the wall; we became star-crossed lovers. Just like Romeo & Juliet, only if Romeo chose to skip a spring break trip to Cancun with his roommates because he didn't want to miss any of Hinrich & Collison's last NCAA tournament.
- A fatalistic, extremely unhealthy feeling that KU would never win a title, which led to me taking every tournament loss worse and worse, and bottomed out with me passing out on a bridge in downtown Indianapolis like a friggin' homeless person after the Bucknell loss in 2005 (a story for another day).
And at the very least, if Texas beats Syracuse, we get a national champion from the Big 12, and the first national championship game featuring two teams from the same conference since, yep, 1988, KU vs. Oklahoma. Instead, we have a lifetime of Hakim Warrick highlights and Gerry McNamara nightmares (no, I don't really look like him that much, my friends are mostly jerks).
6) This effing guy, one more time. That's what he loves about those college football players, man. He gets older, they stay the same age.