Looking Back And Moving Forward

Looking Back And Moving Forward

Obviously, once the 2012-2013 season came to its heartbreaking conclusion for the Kansas Jayhawks on a Friday night in Arlington, TX, it probably wasn't the best time to present the glass half full perspective.

Obviously, once the 2012-2013 season came to its heartbreaking conclusion for the Kansas Jayhawks on a Friday night in Arlington, TX, it probably wasn't the best time to present the glass half full perspective.

But, perspective and a positive one is exactly the way to look back on what transpired this season.

Let's face it, not every team gets to ride off into the sunset with their preferred happy ending. That's just not logical thinking.

The truth is that the odds are always very high that one will discuss and reflect on a season with a mindset of "what could have been" or "what should have been."

There are 68 teams now in the NCAA Tournament, every year and only one school gets to stand atop the college basketball world as a champion. When it comes, it's the best feeling you can have as a fan.

This year's Kansas team unfortunately, falls into the first and larger category. Thanks to Trey Burke and Michigan assured that there would be no all night celebrations on Massachusetts Street, nor the unforgettable wildness and eventual parade that comes with it.

To some fans, that might be good enough and they might look back at the season and consider it a failure and that would be very sad and a very pessimistic way to view life, let alone basketball.

The truth is, under Bill Self, Kansas basketball is always in contention to do big things year in and year out.

Once again, they claimed the Big 12 regular season championship, doing so for the ninth consecutive year. Let that marinate for a bit.

In the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City, they dominated, winning each game by double digits against high quality competition, including grudge matches with Iowa State and Kansas State.

They posted a 31-6 record. That's right, just another ho hum 30-win season at Kansas, as well as a number one seed and a great opportunity to win another National Championship under Bill Self.

Do you know how many elite programs in college basketball would kill for that? An even better question would be, how many elite programs can even say the same thing.

I'd argue no one, because every great program has had some pitfalls, some minor, some major. Yet, under Bill Self, the Jayhawks' success rate has actually increased than in the previous 15 years under Roy Williams.

Don't get me wrong, the manner in which Kansas' season ended was both shocking and sad, but if you follow this long enough, sometimes you get to be on the other side. For instance, April 7, 2008 in San Antonio.

What gets forgotten is that Kansas is often in position to win big because of what Self has built and the day he leaves Lawrence will be more than a sad day, because I find it hard to believe that KU will find anyone like him.

Oh, no doubt they'll hire someone great, but Self is special and too often gets taken for granted by some.

Not only, does he win and win a lot, he's been the voice of the athletic department when needed, even the voice of the university during the conference realignment fiascos of the past few years. He done all of this while conducting himself with style, grace and class.

In reality, Kansas basketball and their fans are in the midst of living in Camelot, right now. However long it last, it won't be long enough.

For, it's likely the Jayhawks will reached the summit of college basketball again and may do so multiple times while Self leads them, but to fully enjoy those days, one must also appreciate the struggles and heartbreak, as well as the good days imbedded within.

The team saw a unique blend of experience and youth, as well as raw talent in Ben McLemore, a kid who may be the top draft pick in June's NBA Draft.

Aside from McLemore, this team will forever be remembered for the four seniors, Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Kevin Young and Elijah Johnson.

Through good times and bad, they represented the heartbeat of the program and each brought something unique to the table.

There's the swagger of Johnson, who will be remembered for his coming of age in leading last year's team to the brink of the National Championship.

Releford, the guy who spent five years at KU and was affectionately known as "Big Homie," a name given to him by Johnson, led in many ways and against North Carolina in the tournament, refused to let his team lose in his hometown of Kansas City.

There's Young, the carefree, hardworking and selfless player, who has shown nothing to make one doubt that he's an even better person than the guy many watched nightly on the basketball floor. No matter what the circumstances were, he was always a person to remind anyone that would listen that this was a great time and that the players were lucky to have this time together, vowing to enjoy each minute of each day.

Then, there was Withey, a player who grew as much as a person as he did a player. The player? Yeah, he'll be alright, too. He'll likely get drafted in the first round of the draft and have a productive career in the NBA. The person, though? That's the one that will leave the biggest imprint.

Even after his final game, a loss in which his team dominated for all but two minutes at the end of regulation and an overtime, while he was sad, he didn't hesitate to put everything in perspective. If anything, he set the greatest example for all who care about Kansas basketball.

"A lot of people didn't have us doing that well," Withey said. "I feel like we were always underdogs and we kept up the tradition, we kept up the legacy, nine straight (conference titles), that's something that no one else in the country can do and say that they've in done. We've definitely left our imprint on the program. I'm sure I'll be able to look back and say we did what we could."

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