This will NOT be a quasi-angry post. I am quite pleased.
HUGE win over Illinois. And why? Lots of reasons, but the biggest one I would like to point out...THEY TOOK CARE OF THE BASKETBALL. As always, Coach Izzo had them focused and they came out ready to play. THEN came the game against Indiana...a little messy, too close for comfort, but they got it done, which is all that matters. I wouldn't be surprised if they were looking ahead to Purdue, which is understandable (I would rather that not happen but still, understandable). And finally, FINALLY there was celebration of the BIG TEN TITLE with a glorious win over Purdue. Surprisingly (and much to my excitement), Robbie Hummel did NOT have the game of his life as per usual. The game was pretty close, but I loved the effort, especially on the rebounding side of things. That is the one area that I think will really help them down the stretch--their ability to grab the basketball. The last 3 games of the season really made a statement to me: they needed to win and they got it done. It may not always be pretty, but at the end of the day, the W is all that matters.
My favorite part is always watching the seniors kiss the S as they come out of the game for the last time. I know the following statement makes me sound like a huge loser, but I don't care: Watching Goran Suton cry as he kissed the S and waved good-bye was by far my #1 moment of the day. As fans, we have so much passion and so much emotion invested in the teams we love. In a world of draft picks, shoe contracts, agents and NCAA violations, we've become so jaded that we convince ourselves that we're the only ones that really care--they're just in it for the money or themselves or whatever. THEY don't have an attachment to the school like we do. THEY don't care about the name on the front of that jersey.
Unfortunately, in some cases, I'm sure that's true. But moments like Suton's are a great reminder that really, the majority of athletes DON'T feel that way. Oftentimes, we get so entrenched in the moment that we forget that these players are still just KIDS--not professionals, not superhuman--just kids trying to get through school, make friends, have fun, and make their way to a better life whether it be on the court or off. These men (and women) DO have passion, DO have love and DO care about their teammates, their coaches and the name on the front of their jersey. They're making their own memories, just like we are.
So thank you, Suton, Walton and all the seniors of the NCAA for reminding us how special college basketball really is--for the fans and for yourselves. Thanks for the effort and the memories--past, present and future.
PS--Props to my girl Nichole for sending me photos from the banner raising ceremony. Good times! :)