I've been licking my wounds for the better part of 24 hours now and I've come to the cold stark realization that I was made to be broken. March Madness 2021 is just another stop on the lifelong tour that is my personal emotional destruction at the hands of the teams I voluntarily support. Without exaggeration there's a long list of people and teams that own a piece of my soul with the Loyola Ramblers being the newest addition.
Don't ask me where they rank in comparison to Cody Parkey or the 03 Marlins. I'm a fragile, delicate man
right now. This isn't the time for me to be quantifying and editorializing historical heartbreak. Instead I'd rather just bomb you guys with a summary that should make everyone feel a lot better when it's all said and done. Especially given the collective mental state for a number of Illini fans that seem to be completely broken by yesterday's loss.
Generally speaking there's a broad (understandable) negative vibe that I hope to cool off. And if that's not your jam fine just stop tweeting about college athletes that disappointed you. Odds are your 4 years at Miami OHIO were notably less impressive but I digress.
To the list:
- CONGRATULATIONS LOYOLA. You beat the absolute fucking brakes off my Fighting Illini yesterday. It wasn't really even a close basketball game from the opening tip and that's an impressive accomplishment regardless of my loyalties. Objectively speaking Illinois came in to the NCAA tournament with maximum momentum. Loyola was an overlooked mid-major yet again even despite Ken Pomeroy's rankings. 8 seed? This is literally the best defensive team in the country.
Absent real travel considerations, the NCAA was able to run wild with seeding narratives. Bullshit, yes. But you can't really complain too much given how bad Illinois got beaten. Based on yesterday's performance against Loyola, they don't deserve to be National Champions this year. Some people will have a hard time coming to grips with that fact and that's okay. You don't lose convincingly and then bounce back and complain that you got screwed in your pursuit of being the best. That's not how competing and recognition works.
That's why it's important to tip your cap to Loyola first and foremost for putting up an unreal game. So many of their players are local to the Chicago metro area and you just know this one means extra. We got kids from Sandburg and Brother Rice and Whitney Young and even fucking Naperville. The mix is so local you have no choice but to respect the way they dismantled Illinois defensively. I hate to say it but they just wanted it more.
- That's Life
That's the easiest way for me to put it. You think I don't want a National Championship to shove down your throats? To rub in White Sox Dave's face when he's blabbering about Northwestern message boards? To help me fall asleep at night while living under Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy's leadership? Let's not kid ourselves here guys I wanted it bad and that's before we get to the professional incentives of working for Barstool when your team wins a championship. Don't confuse my coping sentiment with apathy. I care very much and I know I'm not alone in that camp.
Reality though is that we just don't win things in life. We get to the Rose Bowl and we get smoked. We go to the National Championship we get fucked and go on a 16 year drought. Ron Zook gives us bowl games and then we fire him. At one point the 3 lead coaches were Mike Thomas, John Groce and Tim Beckman. Let that marinate for a minute before you go lighting the pitch forks. We don't exactly come from a pedigree of excellence over most of this century. So maybe it's more in line with our current destiny to lose to Loyola than it is to make a Final Four run right now. Maybe. I don't know.
- What I do know is that we put our best team together in 16 years and it was the most fun I've had watching basketball in recent memory. If that's not enough for you at the start of the season then chances are you're a miserable piece of shit. I've watched far too many mediocre-to-below-average-teams in my adulthood to be ruined by an 8-1 upset at 11am on a Sunday morning to the extend that I would talk shit to some teenagers that just balled their fucking dicks off in the Big Ten. Show some respect and maybe a touch of class.
Another thing I know is that this is BY FAR the most impactful team Illinois has fielded in my conscious memory. Did I say best? Most successful? Deepest March run? No no and no. I said impactful. They brought the school and program back from the dead. For the first time in forever it was cool to be an Illinois fan. We had genuine, validated pride in the University and you can look literally no further than Brad Underwood and his players.
Those are the guys that deserve the credit when the recruiting trail is warm and friendly this offseason. Those are the guys that will make sure SFC is sold out for the next few years. The guys who put the buzz back in life that make you text the boys early on a Monday because you're thinking about how fucked Michigan is on a Tuesday without Ayo. That's what this team brought back to us and they deserve the credit. Years from now when top-4 seeds become a regular and expected occurrence, you'll remember this squad as the straw that broke the camel's rebuilding back.
- It Would Be A Lot Worse If Loyola Didn't Ball Out - I don't have to belabor that point but the fact is they just straight up got beat. I know I already said this but credit where it's due. We had a good season. We won our 3rd conference tournament championship. We got the 4th #1 seed of my life. Ayo's going in the lottery (probably) while the underclassmen look poised to carry the torch. Everything is pointing up and I don't mean that just because we're down right now. End of the day you grow from your failures and this is a thing Brad Underwood will build off. He'll get better from this loss and you know there's no slowing this machine down.
If you had to start a college basketball program from scratch tomorrow, Brad Underwood is on a short list of tier-1 guys you'd want leading the charge. That's just a fact and now the entire country is awake on what he's building in Champaign. Even if at the expense of Porter Moser's success, you know he's got something special down there. It's easy to see the long term.
- That's Why I Want To Thank The Seniors And The Players For An Amazing Year. Illinois is a program and a family and a special place to play basketball. They brought that back to life and on behalf of alumni everywhere, we can't thank you enough. The next couple weeks are going to suck but that's the cost of doing business with high expectations. And lucky for us, we know the alternative all too well.
Losing blows but we're back for the long haul.
Thank you Trent, Da'Monte, Tyler and Zach.
Thank you Coach Underwood.