It never ceases to amaze me how abruptly college sports seasons end - especially the successful ones. Thursday night felt like that times two for the South Dakota State men’s basketball team given the minimal turnover over the past two years.
There was so much build up through the long regular season, the conference tournament, the bracket building and then … done. No more games. No more Nate Wolters. SDSU was back in the home state by 2 a.m.
It’s funny to see how people reacted. True to the form, the Jackrabbits were unemotional - at least at the postgame press conference. It might have been different inside the locker room.
In short order, some fans blamed that lack of emotion - a blessing and a curse during this two-year run - for the loss. They were unsatisfied that SDSU didn’t advance, that it lost to a Michigan program that’s been to six Final Fours and is littered with future NBA players.
Shortly thereafter, Harvard won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in school history. Winning at this level is not easy. Butler and Gonzaga wouldn’t be Butler and Gonzaga if every mid-major were able to emulate that. SDSU won a total of 14 games in my first two seasons on this beat. In the last two? Fifty two, the most in any two-year span in school history.
It’s likely that some of the disappointment comes from the fact that Wolters is the best player in school history. ‘If the Jacks can’t advance in the Dance with him, what chance do they have of every doing so?’ Understandable. Except it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Ask Jeremy Lin and Harvard.
The only unfortunate part about the finale was that the Jacks did not play their best game, didn’t put on the kind of show that they were hoping for and have proved capable of. That’s the best ending any team can hope for, regardless of the final score.
Otherwise, the conditions were correct: NCAA tournament, national television, primetime, premiere opponent.
Maybe an era ended Thursday. Maybe it didn’t.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.