Prior to the Huskies second-round game against New Mexico, I sent some of the players facebook messages. They were words of encouragement; just letting them know if they win their next game, then the “real” fun begins. I say that because making the NCAA tournament is always a great achievement, rewarding a team that has worked hard all season. But once it’s time to play the games, nobody is happy with just being there. They want to win.
I was blessed to be apart of two sweet 16’s while playing at Washington and making the tournament three out of my four years. In the other year that I made into the tournament I lost in the first round, so I know the difference of getting out of the first weekend and the extraordinary attention it brings to you and your team that following week. I loved the fact that not only was the west coast watching (we all know there is a east coast against the Pac 10), but the whole nation was at our disposal now.
With way the our school scheduling worked put when I was in college, every time we made it to the sweet 16 that following week was spring break. So our only concern was just basketball and that’s it, which was perfect at that time because the week before we had to worry about finals heading into out first round game. Another perk I loved was practice; it wasn’t hard anymore (might vary from team to team). At this point of the season rest was the most important thing. We have competed and played against each other all season long, there was no need for somebody to get injured which might be able to cost us a game.
Practices consisted of shooting drills, reviewing plays and scouting your opponent. All week I would just would just watch all the tournament specials on television and read all the articles on us and see what the “experts” predicted, always could use so extra motivation. In Seattle you’re the only sports team everybody is worried about and everywhere you go everybody is congratulating you for what you did and wishes you the best for the next game.
This is just what I experienced making it out of the first weekend of the tournament; I’m pretty sure making it out of the 2nd weekend (which means your going to the Final 4) is on a even larger scale that I could only imagined. My senior year we were so close! If you’re a Huskies fan you already know the misfortunes that prevented us from beating Connecticut in 2006. I just knew we were going to beat George Mason and go to the Final 4, but we will never know. I know only one team can win it all every year, but I was so bitter we lost that I didn’t watch the rest of the tournament.
The fact that my college basketball career was just recently ended was something I was coping with still. Some player’s take it harder than others when they know they played their last game, but there is a transition period. I do wish my young boys the best this week and hope they can go further into the tournament than I did, so I can now live through them. So I can now live through them, just like the fans, students and alums lived through me when I was representing the huskies in college.