UConn loss still stings

Arizona's loss on Saturday will sting for a while because it is unknown when that opportunity will come again.

When Jamelle Horne's shot missed by an inch on Saturday night, it left many Arizona fans feeling sick to their stomach. One more basket, one more inch, is all it would have taken to send the overachieving team to its first Final Four since 2001.

But, the reason the loss hurts so much isn't because the opportunity at a Final Four was one shot away. Nor is it because fans worry that future Arizona teams won't have the talent or coaching to make another NCAA tournament run.

The reason it stings is because you never know when you'll be back.

Coming into the 2010 season, the Kansas Jayhawks were the preseason favorite, mainly due to its seasoned veterans in Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. In addition, the Jayhawks boasted Scout's fourth overall recruiting class, which included two five-star recruits, Xavier Henry and Thomas Robinson, as well as four-star Elijah Johnson.

Kansas' starting lineup consisted of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Marcus Morris, and Tyshawn Taylor. It is no wonder this team was expected to cut down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But they didn't.

After winning the Big-12 Tournament, earning the top overall-seed in the Big Dance, and finishing it's season 33-3, Kansas fell to all-mighty Northern Iowa.

Let me repeat.

The ‘best' team in the 2009 season lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to a 9-seed that no one had ever heard of.

In the following season, the Butler Bulldogs came within two points of preseason favorite Duke for the national championship. And, guess which 8-seed is still playing this postseason and headed to Houston for the Final Four? Butler.

The point is that the landscape of college basketball has dramatically changed over the years.

In the past, there were always a few programs that you expected to hear from come late March: Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, and Arizona, to name a few. This year, only one of those programs has made it past the Elite Eight.

It used to be assumed that the rest of the squads had little chance to advance and were simply excited to be invited to the tournament altogether.

This is no longer the norm, as mid-major teams like Northern Iowa and Butler have earned their title as ‘Bracket Busters' on an increasing number of occasions. If this keeps up, college basketball will no longer think of these teams as Cinderella stories, but rather teams that have just as good a chance of winning it all.

The hope for Arizona fans is that strong recruiting classes and superior coaching will allow the Wildcats to advance further and further come future NCAA tournaments. While this is certain to increase the probability, recent history has shown that it takes more than elite talent and superior coaching to reach a Final Four and win a national championship.

The good news is that this year's Arizona team had only one of the two ingredients, yet still had victories over Memphis, Texas, and defending national champions Duke, while almost knocking off the hottest team in the nation, UCONN. Yet, perhaps more importantly, this team displayed other necessary requirements to once again be successful in March: teamwork, effort, and confidence.

After returning from Anaheim on Saturday night, head coach Sean Miller apparently felt the same way as he addressed the crowd in McKale Center with a powerful statement.

"There's going to come a day when we're going to come back here and we're not going to celebrate an Elite Eight. We're going to celebrate the whole thing," said Miller.

While Arizona fans have many reasons to believe this message, Saturday's loss still stings because no one knows when another shot at that future celebration will be.


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