This past weekend, my beloved Jayhawks bowed out of the NCAA tournament in the Elite Eight.
You know, for any other program (except maybe UNC, Duke, Kentucky) that would not be cause for major mourning, but rejoicing in a great season.
Yes...other programs would rejoice in their team NOT winning the conference, NOT winning their conference Tourney and NOT getting to the Final Four BUT getting to an Elite Eight. The fact that KU's cross-state rival, K-State, made it to an Elite Eight last year (and fell short of the Final Four) was the cause of much rejoicing and partying. The fact that our Border-Rival Missouri made it to the Elite Eight in 2009 (and not the Final Four) made their coach much-beloved.
Even the fact that other teams (like Pitt, for example) lost to lower seeds and didn't even make the Sweet Sixteen doesn't remove this stigma that KU for some reason didn't live up to expectations.
In 2011, not one top-seeded team made it to the Final Four. Further...no second-seeded team made it to the Final Four. And Kansas lost to VCU, a team...by the way...that is mature, focused and playing some great ball (and it helps that they shoot lights-out from behind the 3-point arc).
No, I'm gonna say, there's no shame in KU's loss. I don't think there is EVER any shame in being one of the top 8 teams in the tournament.
Add to the Elite Eight appearance the fact that KU - for the 7th consecutive year - won the Big XII title. 7 years in a row, KU is tops in their conference. KU also reclaimed the Big 12 Championship title in the post-season tournament. Oh yeah and their record is 35-3. KU wins a heckuva lot more than they lose.
Being a Jayhawk Basketball fan is bittersweet.
You get to root your team on to a win most of the time. You get to wear your gear and have lots of people in lots of different places say, "Rock Chalk!" There's a tradition of winning basketball that's difficult for most other programs to go up against. KU's first coach was the inventor of the game himself. We've had many "greats" play for KU - Wilt Chamberlain being the main one. We have a coaching tree that spans to other great programs - Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp - both known for establishing and nurturing amazing programs at UNC and Kentucky respectively - hail from KU (played together, coached by Phog Allen).
But because your team is in the NCAA tournament every year and usually seeded fairly high, many years, if/when they don't make it to the Championship game, you have to put up with jubilant "other" fans telling you how your team choked. And you have to listen to pundits talk about how KU didn't fit the bill...yet again. Even though your team was the only local team to make it that far.
I suppose I will take putting up with the sour "other" fans if it means that every year my team is winning the conference, winning the post-season Championship tournament and getting into the tournament...even highly seeded. By the time you get to the Elite Eight - any team you meet is good. Whether it is because they are on a roll, playing with a major chip on their shoulder or whatever.
It's true...KU didn't win the NCAA Championship for 2011 (really? losing in the Elite Eight is a choke?). Fine. It doesn't mean their season is a major disappointment (I swear MU fans must write all these articles).
Sure, as a KU fan, I'm disappointed they didn't go all the way. But I think it's wise to remember that more years than not, KU is not going to go all the way to the Championship. I'm so glad someone reminded me about 8 years ago...ONLY ONE TEAM WINS THE FINAL GAME.
Why would some of my fellow Jayhawk "fans" want to berate this team and what they did not accomplish?
I'm pretty darn proud of our Jayhawks and what they DID accomplish.
Further, I wish VCU well in the Final Four (I have family hailing from Richmond, VA - I'm a fan!) I think we have a VERY good chance of seeing the tournament champion with an 8 or an 11 by their name (indicating their seed).