Question of the day. As we head into the Final Four weekend in Atlanta, what are you feeling?
For me, this is the first time in over 20 years I feel like this is party for which I should have been invited, yet instead I’m staying home. Sadly, very similar to my 8th Grade dance, but that had much more to me being quite a dork in middle school.
The last time I remember feeling like this, was in 1993, when IU lost to Kansas in the Elite 8. In the years following that, I always enjoyed the Final Four weekend, because while I was rooting for IU, I never really felt that we were at the level to play in the Final Four. So after our tournament run was over, and sadly during those years it was after one or two games, I was bummed for a day or so, then enjoyed watching the rest of the tournament games.
This was the way it also went for my college years at IU, which ended up being the last years of the Knight era. I never felt that we really had a shot to win a championship, so I was able to enjoy the Final Four, never feeling like we should be there, because I could see the talent gap between those Final Four teams and our team. Of course there were years where teams like Oklahoma State with “Big Country” Reeves made the Final Four, and I didn’t think they were any better than IU. But I just looked at it with hope, knowing that they got the “bracket breaks” this year, and hopefully in a few years, we would get the same breaks.
In the 2000′s we had the obvious year where we WERE in the Final Four. But every other season under Davis, Sampson and early Crean years, I felt the same as I did in the 90′s. I knew we weren’t at that caliber, or in may cases, we weren’t even in the tournament. The only exception was in 2003, when we rocketed up to the top 10 after a win against Maryland. But that season really fell apart by the mid-point of the B1G season, and by tournament time, I was back to mid 1990′s mindset.
2008 was similar to 2003, where we started off the season very well, but once the whole Sampson thing went down, that season was doomed, and by the time the NCAA’s came around, I was honestly ready for the season to be over.
Last year was such an unexpected surprise that everything felt like a gift. I really still feel that if we play anyone else in that Sweet 16 game, we win. And if we were in Louisville’s bracket, we are probably in the Final Four. But as fate had it, we played the best team in the country and gave them the best game of the tournament. So when the Final Four rolled around the next week, I still had good memories of the IU season, and was excited to hopefully see someone beat Kentucky, because rooting against Kentucky is always a fun pastime.
But this Final Four feels much different to me. As mentioned above, I feel like it is a party where my invite got lost in the mail. I’m honestly not very excited to watch the Final Four, for the first time in 20+ years. Most of that is due to the fact that I still believe that this year’s team should be there, and that we have the ability to beat every team playing on Saturday. In the case of Michigan, we already did it twice this season.
So want to open it up to everyone else. Are you feeling anything similar this weekend? Are you over the loss and excited to watch the Final Four? Are you so bummed out you can’t even watch?