The Five Stages of Final Four Fandom

A Kansas Fan Trying to Make it Until Saturday

(Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Michael R. Bull. You can follow Michael on Twitter @bulltown03.)

Stage 1: Elation (Monday)

You did it! Well, Kansas did it, but that doesn’t matter. The sheer joy of watching the confetti fall as Bill Self pumps his fists in the air fills you with a high that only be surpassed by seeing it happen again in eight, long days. After the enduring regular season featuring yet another consecutive Big 12 title, finally a 15th Final Four banner will be hung in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse along side the 61 conference championship banners and five national title banners.

Finally, you get to brag to that coworkers that KU didn’t choke this March. You probably heard someone tell you that they performed to their seed and that you’re celebrating nothing, but who cares. You’re on top of the world.

Stage 2: Denial (Tuesday)

You’ve watched every interview, retweeted every tweet, re-watched the game twice, admired the Jayhawk emoji added to the end of the #kubball hashtag, ordered way too many Final Four shirts and probably cried during Bill Self’s post-game locker room speech. Now you turn to KU’s next opponent, Villanova.

Flashbacks to March 26, 2016 come to mind. You were probably wearing your second lucky shirt since you obviously changed out of your first one at halftime of KU’s eventual 64-59 loss at the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky. You probably remember Devonte’ Graham fouling out, even though he committed only one foul, with a team-high 17 points. Or Perry Ellis having his worst game in more than two years. Now you hear that this Villanova team might be even better than the team from 2016.

Sure, there were a lot of people who picked Villanova to win it all two weeks ago, but a lot also picked Virginia, and we all remember the UMBC game. No, this is KU’s year. KU has had too many good teams in the last decade since their last national title, teams that deserved to win it all, but couldn’t for various reasons. This won’t be like those years. This won’t be like Oregon, or Villanova or Stanford or Wichita State or Michigan. Villanova is nothing compared to the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats lead by the unibrow. After all, Bill Self has never lost a Final Four game despite being out matched both times he has coached in it at KU.

Don’t forget that in 2008, KU lost at Oklahoma State, just like in 2018, and that Jayhawks team was also led by a point guard wearing number four. Both games are in San Antonio! But all of this reasoning just pushes you towards seeking the professional opinions. After all, it is their job to analyze these games. Sure, only one of the ESPN writers had KU in the Final Four but I’m sure they learned their lesson by now.

Stage 3: Anger (Wednesday)

So I guess being a one-seed only matters for Villanova, who is even money to win it all. Even money! Even three-seeded Michigan has better odds to win it all than KU. It only took one day for the talking heads to forget that Kansas just beat Duke, their favorite team to win it all. I understand how odds and statistics work, but c’mon.

Assuming Villanova is the favorite, which they are, then KU has a harder path to the national title game than Michigan. But none of that logic was used two weeks ago when everyone was picking either Michigan State or Duke to go to the Final Four despite KU being the one-seed. Kansas would only have to play one of those teams, but both had better odds than KU to make the Final Four. Shouldn’t that have made KU the favorite by the same logic as Michigan being favored over KU to win it all? Plus, if I have to read one more article talking about how KU will lose because of who they are playing… Penn, Seton Hall, Clemson, Duke, Villanova… Don’t they know it’s all about how KU plays and not who they play?

Stage 4: Bargaining (Thursday)

Literally. Please, basketball gods, have mercy on us. Give Doke’s knee strength. Give Bill Self the power of foresight so he may properly prepare our Jayhawks for Villanova’s schemes. Haven’t our sacrifices been enough? Wasn’t the 2016 Villanova loss enough punishment as retribution for the ’08 beatdown? Isn’t ten years long enough to keep faithful fans of one of the country’s top blue-blood programs waiting for glory? I would be willing to trade a 15th straight Big 12 conference title for our sixth national championship.

Stage 5: Anticipation (Friday)

Maybe it’s the normal anticipation for the next KU basketball game that consumes a portion of my daily thoughts. Maybe it’s knowledge that it will be a long six months until Late Night in the Phog in October. Maybe it’s dread thinking about the football season being the next major sporting event up in September. I’m not sure which, but the wait for the Final Four game is one of the longest of the season… literally. For Kansas fans it’s six whole days. Plus, KU got the second slot of the Final Four games (est. 7:49 p.m. on Saturday). From experience, it is difficult to watch the early game when you play in the late game.

Stock up on your favorite beverage, wash your favorite shirt or jersey, keep your second nearby, just in case, and enjoy the ride. This should be the second-best game of the season, right up there with the Duke game, and if KU manages to win despite being a “massive underdog,” then you only have two days to wait for the next, biggest game of the year on Monday.