We've all seen this story unfold before. We've seen the unfulfilled 1 seeds. We've seen the missed free throws. We've seen the media hand games over to Kansas before ever being played, and we've seen KU blow those games. We've seen the mid-majors showcasing the name on their jerseys, while we've seen the KU players use them to cry into. We've seen the rejoice from Missouri and K-State fans. We've felt the heartbreak.
KU's loss to the VCU Jay Bilas's summed up the season perfectly. You never knew whether to take this team too seriously because you never knew if they were going to take their opponent seriously. This team was defined by cruise control. They possessed very little killer instinct. They played with a sense of entitlement, believing that they would win the game because they were Kansas, and probably wouldn't have to try their hardest to do so.
All of that is fine and dandy until somebody punches you in the mouth. With such a sparse amount of superior teams around the country this year, we only saw one team really do it to KU all season: Kansas St. That game played out very similarly to what we witnessed on Sunday. Let the opponent surge out to a giant lead before finally deciding you'd better give it everything you had, only it was too late, and you didn't have the extra gear that you thought you had. KU never learned how to play from behind all season. Simply put, KU wasn't tough enough.
The lasting image of this team in my mind will be Brady Morningstar nearly in tears on the bench in the first half of Sunday's meltdown. THE FIRST HALF! They didn't get mad about VCU's hot start, or a few calls going against them (their excuse, not mine), they got sad. That's about as un-tough as it gets. I lost a good amount of belief in the team when I witnessed this. I couldn't believe it. And M-Star wasn't alone on the bench, with T-Robb the Sobb boohooing along with him. At that point, I had counted both of those players out for the rest of the game.
In fact, with both of those players counted out, Markieff seemingly uninterested in seeing his draft stock rise at all, and Tyrel Reed falling prey to the white guy March shooting slump syndrome (file that under the "we've seen that before" category), this team simply didn't have enough players to trust. Tyshawn played his best ball of the season in the Tournament (as might've been expected from his big game experience), and Marcus Morris did all he could do with a collapsing zone defense with no outside threats. Beyond that, who are you looking to? Mario Little (nowhere to be seen)? Josh Selby (should've been playing over Tyrel)? Frankly, it was more amazing to me what this team accomplished over the season than the fact they bowed out of the NCAA Tournament at this point.
However, it would be un-Dirkness like if I didn't offer a glimmer of hope for my optimistic readers out there, and here it is...The 2008 Championship team had to work their way there. They bowed out in the Elite 8 the year before they won it all. Not only did that provide crucial Tournament experience (which this team was somewhat void of), it gave them the drive going into the next season to get the job done. Remember B-Rush blowing out his knee that offseason? That's magical. I never felt the magic with this team. There was no midseason players-only meeting at Henry's like with that team. They never took joy in beating teams by 50 points like that team. This team was set on coasting. That team never coasted. They knew what was at stake and they knew that any one bump in the road could derail them from their goal. Hopefully, this team has learned that now. Oh yea, and I believe the Morrissii will be coming back.
Lastly, I remind all of you that we are analyzing kids that are between 18 and 21 years old (excluding Grandpa Morningstar). To believe that anything is a given with kids that young is silly. They are very impressionable, and if they are told all week that they are going to beat a team, they're going to believe it. And when pressure is applied to kids that young, you never know what you're going to get. That's what makes the NCAA Tournament so unpredictable and beautiful. Here's to hoping KU never enters another Tournament as the favorite.
Wiping away tears with brackets,