Two weeks ago I failed in vain to start a debate about what kind of expectations Longhorns fans should realistically have for Rick Barnes and the Texas Basketball Team to win it all this year or any year for that matter. I wrote the piece because I was frustrated by the prospect of what seemed like another collapse by the Horns down the stretch this season, the overall ephemeral nature of college basketball teams and the haunting suspicion that the Road To The Final Four was actually a Sysaphean pursuit in disguise.
Unfortunately, I received little in the way of assistance in setting my expectations and even worse, the thread following the post devolved into a pissing match between the "U-T Party," who used the post as an excuse to grind their "Fire Rick Barnes" axe, and the "B-Ball Tories," who gave the Barnes haters the finger and me a patronizing pat on the head...
"...when this season wraps up I'll address 54b's post." (Let the record also show that PB also sent me an email asking me why I was scared of awesome.)
And after everyone except J'Co Brown gave up offense for Lent and UT was counted out of the Big Dance, true to his word, a sullen yet defiant PB finally stopped rocking back and forth in a dimly lit opium den long enough to provide a very well written summation of the season and an even more compelling case for not only keeping Barnes, but giving Rick a hug and a trophy for pissing excellence.
As I read the post it finally donned on me that it wasn't really Barnes who was on trial, it was college basketball. And the more skillfully Counselor Bean exonerated Barnes, the more he condemned college basketball in my unwashed eyes.
The following paragraph from PB's post, as he promised, did indeed recalibrate my expectations for Longhorns Basketball while at the same rendering the rest of his summation and future outlook moot...
(I, um, sort of added some color commentary to let you know what I was realtime thinking while reading it...enjoy.)
"Still, for those of you who don't quite get it (Talk to me, brother), let me be direct (Say my name, bitch): Replacing Rick Barnes doesn't make sense (Testify!). Look around and recalibrate your understanding and expectations (Better check yo self before you unrec yo self). The best team in the country this year, Ohio State, lost in the Sweet 16 (No tattoo for you!). The preseason favorite to win it all, Duke, got slaughtered in the Sweet 16 (Mark that under who gives a shit). Kansas had a path of 16, 8, 12, and 11 seeds to the Final Four. They're at home (Oh-oh, Dorothy tapped the Ruby Slippers early). The recently popular replacement candidate Jay Wright? (Sexual chocolate!) Was lucky to make the tournament and went home after one game (If lovin' the Lord is wrong, I don't want to be Jay Wright). One seed Pittsburgh? Out early once again (probably on parole). Jim Boeheim? Missed the tournament two out of the last three years ("He wasn't ashamed to admit to me where he got syphilis"), and didn't make the second weekend this time around (Sounds like it's contagious)."
So if I recalculate my expectations and don't forget to carry the "won," what PB is saying is that while there's no denying the prowess of your coach and and talent on your team is necessary to succeed in college b-ball, it's still only crucial to a certain extent since winning it all or even making the Final 4 depends heavily on a favorable draw, getting hot at the right time and luck.
Probably put a few extra words in his mouth and I may well be too enamored with college football to see the beauty of college basketball, but it seems absolutely asinine to me that the coaches, players and especially the diehard fans would invest this much time and effort into a sport whose champion is more or less decided by serendipity. Winning it all in college football is no walk in the park either, but at least there's logic in running the gauntlet of unforeseen and uncontrollable factors in the regular season instead of the post.
Put another way, in deference to me, college b-ball is like throwing shit against a wall year after year to see if it sticks. And you'll get no argument from me that few coaches toss it better than Barnes. So let me very clear to all of you regardless of your preference for leaving the Barnes door open, "I, 54B, AGREE THAT WE ARE VERY LUCKY TO HAVE RICK BARNES AND WOULD NOT ADVOCATE HIS DISMISSAL."
None the less and because I, like, love analogies, the problem for guys like me who view b-ball thru the football prism still lies with the setting of or lack of expectations and knowing where to stand at the crap shoot. Watching shit tossed against a wall from a safe distance is fun and whether it sticks or not doesn't matter that much because it's purely entertainment and I'm not that emotionally invested. But when it's your shit and your wall and you're standing right next to it, sooner or later you'd like to see the shit stick at least once to make having to withstand the smell worth it.
Right about now many of you are saying when is this guy going to wake up and smell what he's shovelin? And you'd be right. That's the nature of college b-ball, accept it for what it is or gladly shut the f up.
But if indeed the b-ball post season is that precarious, I can't help but wonder why people spend so much time defending Barnes? Seems moot. If all you need is a coach that can get you to the Big Dance on a regular basis with a decent seed, Barnes is pretty damn good at it.
I also can't help but be reminded of the many comments and posts since BON's inception expressing frustration over the lack of appreciation for college b-ball at UT and the casual, cavalier attitude many UT fans have towards the sport.
So to those b-ball apologists, I say why don't you spend less time making a case for Rick Barnes and more time making a convincing argument to invest in basketball the emotional equivalent to what the majority of UT fans have invested in football.
Honestly, I don't think you can make that case. I don't think you have the balls. Because no matter how much you tell us about how all that was missing on this team was a stellar PG and just wait for Myck Kabongo and TT might stay if the dollar loses value in Canada and how Rick Barnes is a changed man who's willing to part his hair on the other side and stop cussing and learn the pick and roll...it doesn't change the fact that the championship will always be decided via a tournament that favors the fortunate instead of the bold.
And while you can certainly deflect by making the argument (and I'm sure you will) that winning the National Championship in College Football can be just as precarious and susceptible to uncontrollable factors (hello BCS) as winning it all in all in college b-ball, at least we college football fans know that should the Longhorns manage to run the regular season gauntlet unscathed and be so fortunate as to earn a berth in the title game, there's no chance in hell the team ranked 44th at the conclusion of the regular season is going to join them there.