Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2005

Jayhawks took winning, success for granted

March 24, 2005

How painful it was.

Friday night's loss to Bucknell was as low as it gets as a Kansas University Jayhawks fan, and I, like many of my fellow fans, felt as though I had been kicked in the gut.

I mean Bucknell, who is Bucknell?

We found out exactly who they were on Friday. They were the team who put an end to the delusion that we as KU fans had been walking behind all year long.

The Bison took advantage of a team and a senior class that had demonstrated no killer instinct all season. The Jayhawks made a habit the entire year of allowing teams to hang around when they could have easily stepped on their figurative throats and ended the threat early in the game.

Bucknell refused to be intimidated by the name, the tradition and all the other trappings that KU brought to the game. They stuck with their game plan and as soon as they discovered that the supposedly awe-inspiring senior-laden team was playing uninspired basketball, they went for the throat.

The scent of defeat came as the second half began, and the Jayhawks had a three-point lead. The team came out as if they had already won the game and proceeded to play a very pedestrian-style of basketball until it was too late.

The Bison exposed what we as Jayhawk fans refused to see the entire year. This team played down to its competition for most of the year.

Granted, many of the teams the Jayhawks struggled against ended up in the tournament, and many of the teams in the Big 12 were much improved. But when this team had four seniors with Final Four experience, there should have been a sense of control and a sense of urgency. Instead we seemed to be treated to a team that only had a sense of entitlement. It was a team that seemed to believe that since it was Kansas, it was going to win. The Jayhawks seemed to forget that winning includes playing, not just showing up.

My biggest disappointment was for Wayne Simien.

Yes, he was a part of the senior class that so horribly underachieved this year, but Friday he was there. He played.

The entire night, I watched as nearly every Jayhawk player stood around waiting for Simien to save the day. Simien could only do so much that night. He needed help.

This celebrated senior class went into history with a whimper, and how painful it was.

On the other hand, as negative and humiliating as Friday's loss was, there were some positives to be taken.

This is now officially Bill Self's team. The last remnants of the Roy Williams era are gone.

Bill Self has proven that he can win in the tournament, and up to this point has won just as many titles as Roy -- none.

After the long string of success, Jayhawk fans will have to endure a few lean years as we find out what kind of players we have. But I think this is a good thing.

The playing field in this area's college basketball will be leveled considerably, which I also think will be a good thing. Kansas State fans, I think, can expect the streak to end next year.

As much as I am included in the legions of KU fans who have enjoyed tremendous success over the years, I think it will be good for the program now that there is no doubt about whose team this is.

I think this sense of clarity will help us get over Friday's disaster.

In the meantime, I will wave goodbye to my KU hat from this year as it rides away in the city garbage truck.

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