Sunday, March 26, 2017

I I hate, this tournament

On Thursday, March 16, I wrote a post in this blog about "choking." And, 10 days later I need to stay off of Twitter as all I read are the plentiful sentiments about Kansas "choking" in the Elite Eight...again.

If fate is a cruel mistress, what does that make the NCAA Tournament?

You know the story line by now - Kansas, a number one seed, playing at "home" (actually, in Kansas City's Sprint Center 45 minutes from campus), with the Player of the Year (Frank Mason) and a once-in-a-generation freshman talent (Josh Jackson), losing to Oregon, a team who hasn't been to the Final Four since 1939 - a year when the NCAA Tournament consisted of all of eight teams.

This is what college basketball has become - a sport where the entire country takes notice for three weekends in March and early April. And, it's about what you do over those three weekends that defines your season for many fans and all but the true experts in the basketball media.

Look, I get it, it is what it is and it reinforces the magnitude of this tournament as a sports phenomenon every year. Even with all of the hubbub about the Super Bowl each year, there is no other annual sporting event that generates casual interest and even changes in work behavior as does March Madness.

It's the fandom generated by March Madness that suddenly becomes the source for opinions about choking, bad coaching and unfair comparisons. It's the reason why an adult fan leans over the railing and chastises Devonte Graham, a kid who went 0-7 from the field in what may be his final game in a Kansas uniform. It's why Landen Lucas, Kansas' big man, felt compelled to post an apology on Twitter for the team's performance last night.

I wish Oregon well in the Final Four. They deserve the berth and their coach, Dana Altman, is suddenly going to get his well-deserved due. But, as Altman would probably tell you, he's not a different coach today than he was yesterday afternoon before the tip of the game with Kansas.

For Oregon, the achievement was making the Final Four. What the Ducks had better prepare for are the future expectations that will build because of their 2017 success. For Kansas, the script is all too familiar - a one seed entering the tournament with a loss before the Final Four, thus piling on to the building narrative of Bill Self as a tournament "choker."

The NCAA Tournament is, indeed, a cruel mistress.

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