40 Minutes Of Forever
History was made tonight in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. A 16 seed has finally defeated a 1 seed. It may have taken 136 tries to happen, but the event is now indelibly written into history. That our beloved basketball program was the team to take that L was not an enjoyable experience. But it is also one that cannot be ignored. Try as one might, it will be impossible to ignore unless you plan on living off the grid until the end of your days or forsaking the sports world in general.
I'm certain there are many Wahoo fans thinking that either, or both, sound like wonderful options at this moment. I do not begrudge them that feeling. Nor would I judge them for making that decision. For when your team suffers one of the most historic, significant losses in the history of sports, you can safely ponder the future and consider that the constant replaying of that event is not something you'd enjoy experiencing.
There are no right or wrong personal responses for a fan confronting this sort of loss because in the world of college basketball it's never happened before.
What's more interesting is considering the actual historic impact of UMBC vs UVA. How does it stack up all time? It certainly makes Chaminade an ugly little footnote given the stage and importance of the game. Not to be overly melodramatic but it probably compares favorably to some of history's most significant upsets or results: Super Bowl III, Tyson versus Douglas, The Miracle on Ice, and Texas Western versus Kentucky.
If one is a true glutton for punishment, there will be plenty of time to dissect this game frame by frame. The offseason in college basketball is long and for Virginia it's going to seem even longer than usual. It's certainly possible that the aftermath of the 2016-2017 season will feel like a day strolling through a park. If that's your thing, have at it.
What you'll likely find is a complete systemic breakdown in all phases of the game. Communication, confidence, fanatical effort, execution, fundamentals, joy, and the list goes on. All absent tonight for the team in the white uniforms. There were no answers to be found on the sideline either. It was as if the coaching staff ascertained that the outcome was likely preordained at some point in the action and elected to accept the inevitability. The gameplan was tragically flawed and by the time adjustments were made, it was already much too late.
Where do the Hoos go from here? That now becomes the central question until the ball is tipped on the 2018-2019 season. There are sure to be many debates, opinions, and disagreements as to what, if anything, must change to avoid another premature March flameout. Some public sign of a commitment to self-reflection and, or, change by Coach Bennett could go a long way to reassuring the masses. I sense there's going to be a portion of the fanbase that's skeptical until proven otherwise.
This isn't to say that Coach Bennett owes us an explanation or strategic plan to win big in March. Rather, it's a temperature check of the current state of mind within Wahoo nation and extrapolating how they may feel a month, two months, six months from now. The sting of this loss is sure to remain for the long haul.
It certainly promises to be an interesting offseason as there are so many variables in play. April through September tends to be a busy time during college basketball for the junkies as rosters and coaching staffs evolve. Coaching changes are made either in the head coach seat or among the assistants. Transfers happen at a record pace and recruits either finally pick their team or change their selection due to external events. Then the summer basketball recruiting season begins in earnest as a new recruiting cycle kicks off.
The possibilities for change are certainly intriguing for the Hoos. Will old narratives become so fully entrenched that they will never be uprooted? What new narratives may emerge? On a macro level, everything that transpires will be judged in context as the response to UMBC. For what happened tonight can never happen again.
On a more micro level, the changes need to be implemented to ensure that UMBC cannot happen again. Florida cannot happen again. Syr...you get the point, I'm sure. Those changes must and will come at the personnel level, the coaching staff level, the systems and tactical level.
College basketball is a very Darwinian sport. Its essence is survival of the fittest and the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate expression of that reality.
Evolve or die.
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