And not just because we have to spend the next few games wondering if this is the one that will see Kihei Clark back in uniform.

That alone says a lot.  If you read enough of my gobbledygook, you know I pound and pound on the theme that every basketball season is a new chemistry experiment.  And this one has a more than healthy dose of a brand new element called Kiheium in it.  We found that out real early, compared to years past.  Now we have to see what the chemistry set spits out when we starve it of that element for a bit.  That's a huge testament to the impact of a freshman.  And yes, I realize this team had to make do without him last year.  But not really.  That was a completely different team.  It always is, every year.

If the wins keep coming in, by the way, the answer will be one of two things.  Either we'll be leaning extremely heavily on the big three, or someone else will have stepped up.  The best guess I have, regarding whose minutes benefit from Kihei's absence, is Marco Anthony.  On the rare occasion I've seen him do something other than stand on the wing and pass the ball back to whoever just gave it to him, I've liked what I've seen.  He's got talent, he just needs to use it.

Bigger picture, though, it's still exam break, and that means it's time for our annual ritual: to sit back, enjoy a little pre-Christmas spirit (and spirits) and worry like hell about the upcoming storm, the whirlwind also known as the ACC season.  And tournaments.  Expectations are high yet again.  This team is top 5 everywhere you look - as high as #2 on KenPom.  So far, they've faced two kinds of opponents: complete schlubs, and "other."  The former has been brutally steamrolled every time; the latter has made it close, every time.  The entire rest of the season consists of varying degrees of "other" (except, I guess William & Mary is sort of crappy.)

Which means we know a lot less than we'd like.  Sooner or later those close games bite you.  They always do.  The team's hot start and massive pile of returning talent is forcing the conversation away from that UM-something-something whatever stuff.  Any mention of it has been cursory, a stock reference just to get it out of the way so more important things can fill your TV screen.  Like Zion Williamson highlights.  This team, much more than so many others before it, has to keep winning.  The longer it does, the longer Last Year is something we can own instead of something that owns us.  It turns out that "still better than you, though" is the best of all possible rejoinders.

The calm before the storm - in terms of basketball, not in terms of trying to bake enough cookies and make sure nobody is forgotten on the Amazon shopping list - is nearly over.  When the holiday season wraps up, basketball season hits with hurricane force.  It's a good thing that in Tony we trust.  It won't be long before reality hits.  I just hate waiting to find out what reality looks like.