Goodbye, College Basketball, and Thank You, 2019-20 Jayhawks

What a historic, and historically sad, past week it’s been in the sports world. Little did anybody know that KU’s regular season finale at Texas Tech would also be their last game of the 2020 season. No Big 12 Tournament. No NCAA Tournament. No shot at a championship. No chance for Devon Dotson to make a statement. No chance for Udoka Azubuike to make his dominance truly known to the rest of the field and more than a few NBA scouts. All of this is because of a virus that is outside of anybody’s control. Absolutely crushing.

This one personally hits me hard. I live for March. It’s by far an away my favorite time of the year. The excitement. The upsets. The brackets. I love that stuff, and in my opinion the NCAA tournament is the single best sporting event of the year. Even if we all collectively hate the NCAA, they put on a darn good tournament. So when I slowly started to hear rumors and see the snowball start to form, I grew worried. I thought Oh, well at least we still get the conference tournaments and NCAA tournament, just without fans. That’ll be new, but at least they get to play. Then an NBA player tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA suspended their season. It was all over. The dominoes fell. One by one the conference tournaments were cancelled. Even then, I had hope. Just push it back. Don’t cancel. Just push it back and then reevaluate.  No. It was over. There wold be no March Madness. We would not get to see Udoka and (most likely) Dotson in a KU uniform ever again. 

And this one hurts more than a second-round tournament loss. This team was special. They were the odds-on favorite to win the championship by a pretty fair margin. They were undoubtedly the best team in the nation in a year that was noticeably weaker than previous years. They dominated the metrics all season long both offensively and defensively. Not only were the 2020 ‘Hawks statistically good, they were mentally tough. It was probably one of toughest teams of the Bill Self era. Despite looming NCAA sanctions, the team put their heads down and rattled off an outstanding 28-3 record despite playing arguably the toughest schedule in the country. They fought through suspensions and injuries and still came away with wins. 

The whole season was special. KU suffered two losses in non-conference play by a combined three points: a neutral court loss to Duke by two in the Champion’s Classic in the first game of the year and a one-point loss on the road at Villanova. The Jayhawks suffered their third loss at home to Baylor, who was arguably the second best team in the country from beginning to end. That was their final loss, and it was more than two months ago. More importantly, KU’s wins were hard-fought and memorable. I don’t think I will soon forget watching Udoka almost single handedly keep Kansas afloat in Maui against Dayton and lottery pick Obi Toppin. Nor will I forget KU, coming off a rare home loss to Baylor, head into Norman and get a win against a good Oklahoma team without their star point guard who was out with a hip pointer. And of course, I will not soon forget the rematch against Baylor in Waco, in which Udoka went full on Shaq monster and dominated the Bears to tie up the league race. And that’s another accomplishment. This team, after being the team to lose the conference crown, came out and went 17-1 in conference play. That has never been done. And they won it by two games. That is insane. 

It should not have ended this way. Whatever you think was necessary for safety reasons, Dotson, Doke, and Moss did not deserve to go out like this. All the seniors of all the other teams that fought for a place in the NCAA tournament didn’t deserve to go out like this. I’m a senior at KU this year. This was my last year sitting in the student section in the best home court in the world.  I wanted to go out with a championship. Instead the college basketball season went out like a bright, shining candle being snuffed out by an unseen force. And with a war with NCAA on the horizon, who knows when we will get another chance to see our Jayhawks play for a chance to win it all. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later. 

To Udoka and Devon, thank you for the memories I won’t soon forget. The best point guard-center combo in the nation. You are champions in our eyes. 

Goodbye, College Basketball. See ya next year.