Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving Past Bitter To Baseball...

Enough time has passed since Florida State's OT loss to Wisconsin on Friday that I'm starting to see the vaguely silver (or at this point, gray-ish) lining to this whole season.

Though I am admittedly biased, it's a pretty impressive accomplishment for a non-basketball savvy school in the midst of a major scandal to make it to the championship match in a decidedly basketball-savvy conference. Let alone for that same team to finally break into the NCAA Tournament after what seemed like an almost a permanent pity invite to the NIT.

So for that, I will give my 'Noles a round of applause. Just like I said as we were getting the snot beat out of us by Duke in the aforementioned ACC Championship game, Florida State's slogan this season should have been "Hey, we're just happy to be here!" I'd like to think that we needed this moderate success and its introduction to what it can bring us like a kid needs training wheels.

I have confidence that our young team will return to The Dance next year, and though I am loathe to admit it, I attribute most of that confidence to Coach Ham.

Don't get me wrong, I always liked Coach Hamilton. My interactions with him when I worked at FSU were always pleasant and my respect for him has never been in question. But after so many buzzer-beater losses and so many years of promising athletes who came and went without any team accomplishments to speak of, I became skeptical of Coach Ham and thought that perhaps when the new athletic director came in, he might be on his way out.

Now I realize with a little bit of perspective and understanding of the situation, that Coach Ham has been fighting a tough battle since he came to Florida State. How do you go about recruiting basketball players at a football school? How do you entice recruits to play in the ancient, smelly halls of the Donald L. Tucker Center beneath the half-dozen faded yellow jersies that make up the school's scant roundball history? Especially when the competition in your conference is so fierce. I mean basically the best recruiting package you have to offer includes football season tickets and the chance to be on the court with some of the best teams in basketball a couple times of year (while they kick your ass in your only televised games of the year).

And even when Coach Ham did find the right pitch and the right athlete, it wasn't enough. Whether it was Al Thornton minus a supporting cast, or Von Wafer deserting after one year, things just never quite added up. On top of that, the NCAA became the waffle kings when it came to pulling FSU from the unsteady surface of The Bubble, giving one excuse after another for why the team was relegated to the embarassment of the NIT year after year.

But finally--FINALLY--the pieces have come together for Coach Ham. He's got a young team loaded with talent and although they may not have gotten as far as they wanted to this year, they have laid the building blocks for the future of FSU basketball. Though it will hurt to lose Toney Douglas, if (and that should be a size-72 if) the Seminoles' promising new cast returns, next season will be just as good.

However, while I have moved past the bitterness of the loss as a fan, I have not moved past my overall bitterness toward the ACC and its royal screwing over of my bracket. Big props to Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida State, and Clemson for punking out in the first round. Thanks a lot guys. Way to represent. And don't think that just because those guys are out I'm going to turn my conference support to UNC and Duke. Bump that. I'm sticking by my pick to win the whole shabang, UConn.

Well that's more than enough yammering for tonight! Tune in later this week for a blog on women's sports (it's not what you think, I promise) sparked by the thirty minutes I spent watching my other FSU basketball team lose in the NCAA Tournament last night (like once wasn't enough).

Later days!