VCU 72 FSU 71

March 26, 2011

Nearly all of my passion for sports comes from my mother.  She played competitive basketball in her teen-aged years and has maintained her love of the college-level game to this day.  From when I was eleven or so until I left for college, we competed against each other filling out NCAA brackets.

My bias was towards my first love, Georgetown (I lived in Maryland during the Patrick Ewing era and there’s are the first college basketball games I remember) and the Big East teams. My mother’s bias was towards schools from Virginia.  Any school other than UVA (remember, we’re a Virginia Tech family) was bound to be pushed a round or two further than they seemingly deserved.  It was thusly that she correctly predicted the 14 seed Old Dominion Monarchs to defeat  the black-horse favorite to win it all, Villanova,in the 1995 tournament. She was always thrilled by such occurrences (even though she didn’t have a bracket going in 2006, she was supremely excited by George Mason’s run).

My father, on the other hand, is too practical and level-headed to have anything that could be called passion for sports.  He has often issued the game-day warning “Half of the teams will lose. If you can’t deal with that don’t watch them.”

That pessimism was realized for the Seminole faithful last night as FSU’s run ended in overtime early this morning. Twice, the Seminoles fell nine points behind only to grind their way back, thereby increasing the pain of the loss. In the small scope of a game, and the larger one of the season, it is easier to sloth in mediocrity.  Pushing for greatness can hurt.

During both VCU runs, the love for Virginia teams came back briefly, with the thought “This would be totally awesome, were they not playing against FSU”.  The painful nature of the loss is such that neither love of my birth state or the passion of the mid-major fans being rewarded is of much comfort.

15 years ago, the last time Florida State won a tournament game (and also had their run ended by a mid-major), they seemed to be on the ascent.  However, their star player, Randell Jackson,  got deluded into thinking he was NBA draft material and left early (a contemporaneous account reads “A (player) whose agent probably tells him he’s Cliff Robinson.He’s not… whoever told him to come out early should be sued.”) only to go un-drafted.  The damage went beyond him, as the 7’2″ giant Karim Shabazz, who had Jackson as a best friend, decided to go home to Providence after being left by his buddy.  The departures broke the team and while coach Steve Robinson managed to build them back enough to upset #1 Duke in 2002, they never returned to what they were at the beginning of his watch.

This time appears to be different. Coach Leonard Hamilton (under contract until 2014) has built success dependent more on a team effort than particular individuals.  A departure of Chris Singleton shouldn’t be as back-breaking as Jackson’s was (and hopefully, no one would get home-sick from his absence). After all, they nearly upset UNC while he was injured, and got to the Sweet 16 with only modest amounts of playing time for him in the tournament. The team’s greatest days still lie ahead.





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