The birth of my firstborn son on Tuesday, a month ahead of schedule, prevented me from previewing the star-crossed Bradley game. As it turned out, that was no great loss. Or rather, it was. You get my point.
However, Aidan's arrival allows me to treat the Jayhawks' implosion with a fairly sanguine attitude. Anyone who saw the K-State and MU losses had to know this was a team that could fall apart in a hurry. The Baby Jayhawks fooled us into thinking their growing pains were behind them. We should all be saying, "Ha, you got us." Just goes to show, you can never trust babies to arrive on time.
Part of me wants to quit talking about basketball for the season. The world is acrid and bitter. My team sucks in March. KU should adopt a new slogan. "The Kansas Jayhawks: We craft Cinderella stories." "KU: A great escort to the big dance." 'Hawks: Watch us flap in the spotlight."
Life is awful, I'm weeping in my beer, etc. etc. But there are some loose ends that need to be tied up. Such as,
1) Which team do I root for now?
Instinctively, I'd default to the surviving Big 12 team(s). But in this case that team is Texas, which has somehow evolved into KU's biggest rival. I was inclined to give Texas respect, until Rick Barnes and the Horns started choking on sour grapes after the Dallas defeat. "I would have loved to see if we made those free throws, with a one-possession game, see what happened in the last couple of minutes," said Barnes.
"They played pretty good defense, but I think it was more of us just bogging down on offense and not doing all of what we were supposed to have done," said Tucker. Big-time players and coaches know when to stop making excuses and give respect. Texas is not a team I can root for in good conscience.
Where do I look next? Several teams have won my respect with their hard-nosed play, but none more than George Mason. Anyone who kicks Roy Williams out of the tournament automatically earns my admiration and gratitude.
So you heard it here first. The George Mason Patriots will beat the Longhorns by 5 to win the NCAA trophy.
2) Where will Darrell Arthur end up?
Given Arthur's hurry-up-and-wait approach (never do today what you can do next season) and his flirtation with Texas, it might be hard to embrace him with open arms. However, KU will need someone to bang with Texas recruit Kevin Durant next year, and Arthur can't be blind to the fact that should he follow Durant to Texas, the two will be competing for minutes. The Jayhawks, however, have been soft in the middle all year, and I don't see Giles, Kaun and Jackson keeping Arthur from getting serious playing time.
My gut feeling is that Self will get Arthur to sign on the dotted line, and then go to work refining his inflated ego lackadaisical worth ethic. Would this be a chancy move? Maybe, but a guy who can bring in Brandon Rush and keep his self-image in check is probably qualified to deal with Arthur. With the exception of head-case Micah Downs, Self seems to be able to get through' to his players.
3) What about next season?
No one wants to talk about next season, because it's such a cop-out. The freaking' Hawks (no more frickin,'' that is so Williams-era) should still be progressing in this one. I would need a really great excuse to talk about next season when the smoke from this year's smash-up is still rising. But of course there is such an excuse, and the word is youth.
You can forgive babies almost anything.
So I'm allowing myself to derive satisfaction from the thought of an angst-filled Jayhawk weight-room. A pumped up bunch of sophs and juniors (can you picture Julian Wright with 15 more pounds of muscle?) will make the 2006-2007 squad a viable preseason top ten pick. Darrell Arthur will give them an inside scoring presence they lacked this season. Sherron Collins, yet another in-your-face guard, will deliver additional firepower.
Out of respect to deservedly bitter KU fans everywhere, that's as far as I'll go. But since I have a new baby son, I can afford to think big.