They say that the NCAA tournament is cruel. After all, they invite
64 68 teams to play and only one goes home happy. But I'm not sure that's right. Sure, Kentucky fans are thrilled right now, but I have a hard time imagining Kansas fans are all that broken up about their overachieving team falling short in the finale. I bet Ohio fans are pretty thrilled with their Sweet 16 experience, and something tells me Norfolk St. and Lehigh will remember 2012 as one hell of a good year. Iowa St. fans probably weren't crushed by losing to Kentucky, after all, they're building toward something better.
But not everyone has an out, there are plenty of teams -- and fans -- that leave March disappointed, but it's not the same disappointment for everyone. There are two types of disappointment in college basketball, one is long, slow and dispiriting. It's frustrating to watch, especially since it often seems easily correctible, and in the end, when the final whistle blows it hurts, but the pain has been there so long that you're already used to it and it doesn't take long to fade. If you haven't put it together already, this is UConn's 2011-12 brand of disappointment. This team had talent -- ungodly amounts of talent -- but for whatever reason it never clicked.
You could argue pretty convincingly that the high point of the season was midnight madness. After that Ryan Boatright got suspended twice, Jim Calhoun got suspended, Alex Oriakhi took to twitter, Calhoun got sick and the team lost a pile of games. It's frustrating that the team never lived up to it's potential, but to be honest, I'm over it. It's been less than three weeks since the loss and I've hardly thought about team -- there are a lot bigger concerns going forward than there are in the past. This year will fade.
So if that's UConn's disappointment, what's the alternative?
The alternative is what happens when a team clicks, and unlike this year, it never fades. That's what happens when a team lives up to its potential until the exact moment it matters most and everything falls apart. Ask Missouri fans how they'll remember this year, or Duke fans for that matter. Or better yet, think about the UConn seasons you remember best. Obviously the three championship teams make the list, but I bet they're followed up pretty closely by 1990, 1994, 1996 and 2006. Why? Because all of those years featured horrible, devastating gut-punch losses. In 20 years I might vaguely remember that UConn had a disappointing 2012 that finished with a loss to Iowa St., but I kind of doubt it. But I sure as hell will be able to tell you that in 1994 Donyell Marshall was two free throws from beating Florida.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I'm disappointed by UConn's year, but not devastated by it. It was maddeningly frustrating while it happened, but now that it's over I've made my peace with it. This is also a roundabout way of introducing our season wrap up. Over the next couple of weeks we'll go through the roster, the coaches and the program in general, evaluating where we are, what we've learned and what lies ahead.