KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No March Madness here. Sadness, mostly, with absolutely nothing to add to the conversation at the company vending machine this morning.
Fresno State (men’s basketball version) isn’t going to the NCAA Tournament, a local tradition 14 years in the remaking. The Bulldogs have been to the Big Show all of five times in the history of ever, with two-and-barbecue serving as the pinnacle of achievement.
So, imagine what it was like for one of us to spend a weekend at a youth conference in Knoxville, just down the road from the SEC Tournament, and sit in a room full of college basketball fans who still have reason to be delusional about their alma mater’s chances of finishing second to Kentucky.
There was Matty Propes from Georgia (We’re No. 10! Which Is Really No. 40ish Overall, But Still!), and also Dr. Edgar from Kentucky (We’re No. 3! In the NBA power poll!). You had Bo the manic fan from North Carolina (Go Duke! Preferably to North Korea!), Reggie from Tennessee (Touch That Channel, and You’ll Meet Jesus!), even a Bubba from Ohio State (Because I Hate Michigan, That’s Why!).
And, there was me. Mr. Fresno State. I was too busy managing my teenage acne farm during the Boyd Grant years, so what could I say? As far as highlights go, all I remember is being on the other side of Tennessee, watching the Bulldogs drop a vacancy-pending victory over Cal in the 2001 tournament before getting run by Michigan State.
Fourteen years later, my school is still living the 15-17 dream. We are no closer to the tournament than we were when coach Rodney Terry started the relaunch of the relaunch of the relaunch.
Terry is a likeable guy, and a credible coach. Undusting the guillotine will only serve to make sure we remain another five years away from having a chance of a chance. No need to fire Terry now, because we like his chances as much as the next guy.
That’s where March Sadness is finally setting in.
Last year’s run, albeit in a third-estate postseason tournament, pointed all signs to a big run this season. The starters were back, the staff was back, and the Bulldogs seemed one last jump away from skipping and hopping their way back to relevance.
Yet here we are, with nothing to say while all my church conference buddies talk about brackets and seedings and Kentucky’s chances against Golden State in the semifinals.
We’re not asking for Fresno State to become Kentucky. But, why not grow up to be like Wyoming, or Boise State, or San Diego State — tournament qualifiers who each lost to Fresno State this season?
If Eastern Washington and UC-Irvine and Wofford can pull the occasional berth out of its hat, how come the Bulldogs can’t trip over an acorn every once in a while?
Why can’t Fresno State crack that field of average bears? Ok, tell me exactly why they can’t again, but this time, without the excuses.
The Bulldogs have the like-new arena, and the recruiting territory, and the star player, the quality X-and-0 coach, and the over-easy conference. Next year, they’ll have all that back, so maybe there is hope yet.
That, or I’ll need to attend a Winterfest conference in the greater Bakersfield area, just so I won’t have to remember how good we don’t have it.