Bumped. GO BRUINS. - BN Eds.
Ok, let's take away the obvious answer --- Alford will be back next year, so let's not even go there. As we get closer to March, I've been asking myself how far I think this team will go, and, more importantly, how far do they need to go to make me feel good about this season? The latter is the tougher question, so let's start with the first one.
If we took the four letters off the front of the jerseys, and had to evaluate this team as a generic participant, I think most would be in agreement that this team should win it's first game (double digits, slowly pulling away as the game progressed). The second game is a toss-up and would depend on the match-up. And that's about as far as this team should go, although it has the talent to go further.
Now, let's put the letters back on the jersey. A first round loss would be a disaster and just reinforce what everyone feared about this coach (although the apologists will still come out and talk about this being only his first year). We saw another coach inherit a team similar to this, and "Lavin" (it was really the veteran players) got them to the Elite Eight. A second round loss would placate the average fan, believing that this is the start of slowly climbing the ladder to success. In some ways, I think a second round loss is worse because it really solidifies our identity this year of being a team that is king of the bad teams, and can't compete with the good teams.
What if we get to the second weekend? First, we will hear a lot of, "See! See! He's a good coach! Bet you want to jump on the bandwagon now, don't you?" Uhh, no. With the talent on this team, the Sweet 16 should be the bare minimum that we accept. The Elite 8 game is the interesting one. For us to win that game and get into the Final Four, something has to happen. A player like Kyle has to raise his game to a new level or someone like Powell, Parker, LaVine needs to emerge as a consistent force. You can't win four games in this tournament with just luck or hot first half shooting. This is the hardest for me to envision because I've seen nothing from this team this year that suggests that they can develop into that kind of team. Lavin's first team finally wore down and got exposed for their lack of coaching. If we were to get into the Final Four, I'm curious how I'd react. If it was because of one of the players, I'd probably sit back, enjoy the ride and hope the best for these young men who have given their all for this school. In some ways, I'd hope that would be Travis Wear who seems like a good kid, and it would be nice to see his basketball career end on a high note. Instead, what if it was because the coach finally "got it"? I'd still be skeptical, I'd cringe knowing that he'd probably be even more arrogant (can that be?) and there would still be the issues with his character.
So, as I write this and think some more about it...why am I going to the game on Thursday night? Why am I still turning the tv on to catch their games? And why follow them in March? I know it's because they're my team, and I want the players to know that I support them. But I also don't feel anything, and that's because of the leadership - both the coach and athletic administration. I'm sure I'll still be battling these emotions come next month. I do want to care and get excited, but...meh.