ON THE ROAD FROM THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT

Ok… big, cleansing breath here. <br> <br> This was not what we thought it would be. <br> <br> Yet, after a little bit of reflection on the season, what did any of us really think this basketball season would be for the Friars? Expectations were somewhat inflated because of the run last season… and with Ryan Gomes' return to school, perhaps fans had every right to expect success. When those expectations fail to materialize, criticism always follows. It's human nature.

Some criticism is warranted. Some is not. Before any dire, gloom and doom projections for the future are forecast, I suggest big, cleansing breaths to begin. Let some time pass to allow disappointment to subside, and then see how you feel. That's what I'm trying to do – as we speak. Trust me, no one is more disappointed than the coaching staff.

The team took the bus in from campus Tuesday morning, practiced at Iona, and made their way into New York City before bad weather arrived. I took the train, and it started snowing sideways about New Haven. Upon arrival, and at credential pick-up, I learned that Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Seton Hall were having travel troubles, and would not be arriving in time for the team banquet that night.

Pitt, in fact, had made it out of Pittsburgh before the snow hit, flew over NY, and were told to go back… they could not land. Eventually, they made it to Philadelphia, then traveled into the city by bus. ND was stuck in South Bend. West Virginia's team was MIA…and it was later learned that night they flew into Scranton, PA and bussed into New York. The trip took five hours – again, by bus – to complete, because of the weather. It sure didn't seem to hurt them on Wednesday.

From the tip off, the Mountaineers had the energy on their side. Why the Friars did not, isn't easy to explain. Miscues, turnovers, poor decisions, a lack of quickness… was it overconfidence? Doubtful. Lack of preparation? No. You can't really put a finger on any one thing – more than anything else, it was West Virginia's "playing with a purpose," since the post-season is now very much in their immediate future. That's not an excuse; they simply had more to play for. Sometimes, when all things are equal (as these two teams were in the regular season), that's all you need.

Dwight Brewington's return to the lineup was a surprise. Coach Welsh said on his final radio show that Dwight would not return this season. After the boot came off of his foot last Friday, he met with Tim on Monday to find out about his travel status for the tournament. Coach said he might be able to join the team if they won a game or two, but that he wanted him to remain in class this week. Brew then suggested he could play, much to Tim's surprise. He had not been cleared by trainers, or doctors, to do anything. But Brew worked out Monday afternoon and showed no ill effects from his immobility of the past month. He was cleared, and he contributed in the game.

I don't know if it was a good idea – chemistry is such a fragile entity, this team had developed one without Brew in the lineup. That's not a knock on Dwight at all… it's more of an observation of a team fighting through adverse circumstances, getting used to playing one way, then all of a sudden playing another. This team did not lose because Dwight Brewington made an effort to get back in the lineup, but with altered chemistry and fragile psyches, just knowing he might play could have made a mental difference to some of the players on the floor.

The team packed its bags and departed New York after the game Wednesday evening, and returned in time to make classes Thursday morning. I'm not sure that West Virginia's subsequent success over Boston College made the Wednesday loss any easier to take… but it does show that sometimes, things aren't always as bad as it might seem. Time to take a breath, and then get back to work. Life in the Big East isn't easy now, and it won't be getting easier anytime soon.

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