I had to do it. I had to write about it. I had to title this article the way I did. Sadness is what everyone is feeling. Perhaps a little bit of emptiness. It truly is different when you turn on the TV and don’t see ten consecutive hours of basketball scheduled.
Instead the public has to settle with a new alternative. Re-watching old NCAA tournament games and possibly envisioning what could have been this season. CBS has announced that they will re-air old tournament games this weekend. Providing nostalgia and uneasiness as regular people miss their March basketball.
The picture above that I used above didn’t strike me as one of the last basketball games that I would get to see for a while. Yet here I am, wishing I would get the chance to see any two teams battle it out in a pivotal March matchup. The photo was captured when the at the time 20th ranked Auburn Tigers came to Lexington to face off against the 8th ranked Kentucky Wildcats. A game that would end up deciding the fate of the SEC regular season, the Wildcats walked away with a win and an SEC regular season championship.
A championship is a championship. However, regular season championships in college basketball are not nearly as revered as conference tournament championships or not even close to a NCAA tournament championship. I’m not saying that a regular season championship and winning the tournament should be held in the same regard. Of course, winning the NCAA tournament is the ultimate goal and the most prestigious award in college basketball. However, conference regular season titles were unique this year. It was the last championship a team could win. No team could even picture that they would not have the opportunity of competing in the NCAA tournament this year. Unfortunately, regular season championships would be the last piece of silverware that most teams would get this year.
Perhaps what I’m saying is, next year take pride in those little wins. If your team wins a game that they’re favored to win, celebrate. Enjoy the rivalry wins over a hated opponent. Cherish the regular season championships, even if they don’t feel like they mean as much. You never know if that is the last chance of playing for a championship you will get in a year.
The common fans like us are not the only ones grieving during this time of no basketball. Some of the biggest names of the year came out to express their sadness and disappointment. Gonzaga head coach, Mark Few said the following about the cancellation of the tournament, “Extremely disappointed. I think all of us felt we could postpone and even postpone into May, and if we needed to cancel we could cancel then. But if that’s what they’re doing then I guess that’s what they’re doing.”
Mark Few’s squad looked dangerous late in the season. Gonzaga was one of the few teams that got to play in their conference tournament, before everything was shut down. They won their conference tournament and their regular season. They were so hungry for more in March. That’s why the disappointment from Mark Few is understandable. Especially from a coach who has never won the NCAA Tournament, but has been so close in previous years.
Numerous players tweeted their sadness. Some of the biggest stars like Kansas’s Devon Dotson and Duke’s Cassius Stanley expressed how heartbroken they were. What’s next for some of these players? Well players like Dotson and Stanley are poised for the next level and presumed to leave school for the NBA Draft.
What about eligibility? Will an extra year be granted to seniors whose careers got cut short?
Since basketball is a winter sport it is unlikely that the NCAA will grant an extra year of eligibility to players. The circumstances are different for a spring sport like softball or baseball, whose seasons did not get the chance to get underway quite like basketball. This means that those basketball seniors that had put in all the extra work and training in the summer and off-season, may not be granted eligibility to come back and try and play in the tournament one last time.
It’s tough to take in. If I would have known that the Auburn vs Kentucky game that I attended was one of the last games I’d get to see this season, I would have treated it differently. I would have been grateful of every basket and appreciated the sight of great defense. In the future, appreciate every game you get to watch because you don’t know what will happen the next day, week, or year.
Not having the tradition, nerves, and upsets that college basketball brings in March is difficult. Truly, it’s a tough pill to swallow. However, fans aren’t the only people suffering. Make sure you think about players and coaches because they are just as devasted as the rest. It’s weird taking a break from the madness, but we’ll get through it.
Does this still mean I have a perfect bracket?