Publisher’s Note: This is a weekly column by former sports reporter and editor Mike Bass. Bass will contribute to The Enquirer by providing advice to sports fans, athletes and teenage sports parents and coaches through weekly Q&A. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ SportsFanCoach1.
Selection Sunday was switched down to Dejection Sunday in Queen City. No Xavier. No Cincinnati. No drama.
What’s an NCAA men’s college basketball tournament without at least one of them? You had no idea, unless you could remember 36 years when REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” topped the Billboard Hot 100.
On Dejection Sunday, Cincinnati and Xavier fans couldn’t fight theirs either.
“Pretty baffled, but I’m old enough to know that the college sports landscape is dwindling,” tweeted @ 00havoc. “A few years have passed for XU and UC, and that will happen. Still surreal not to see a team in the tournament. On the other hand, UK and Duke are not either. It was an (unusual) year. “
COVID-19 was eliminated from the NCAA tournament last year, and UC and XU didn’t stand a chance of being selected for the return of March Madness on Sunday. The Bearcats broke a run of nine NCAA direct bids. These are two direct mistakes for the Musketeers who only missed two of the previous 18 tournaments together.
With the help of beat writers Keith Jenkins and Adam Baum from Cincinnati and Xavier from The Enquirer, I went to Twitter to see how fans were coping with 0-for-Sunday.
“What’s frustrating is that COVID-19 makes March Madness and Selection Sunday seem pretty unimportant,” @bubbacody tweeted. “It’s hard to be disappointed with something that has been influenced by so many unknown factors, and has influenced everyone in different ways.”
“I stopped looking in December,” tweeted @cpdake. “Could never get into the sport – for the first time ever. Basketball is turned off when there are no crowds. Worry about the pandemic, the work situation and the new name of the Cleveland baseball team. “
It’s understandable when some of you are distracted, trying to process what is going on in the world.
It’s also understandable when some of you try to process what on earth is going on with your teams, too.
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Early last March, Cincinnati and Xavier looked like NCAA bubble teams competing in conference tournaments.
When the AACs for COVID-19 were canceled, The Enquirer reported that if there had been an NCAA tournament, UC with the highest stakes would have received the league’s automatic bid. That was also canceled later in the day.
By the time the Great East stopped, the Musketeers had already dropped their prelude, a third consecutive defeat that ended at 19:13 after the prelude of 11: 2. Sound familiar? That season, Xavier opened 11-2 and lost his Big East opener to complete a three-game skid. Selection Sunday was over.
A program that weighed Bob Staak, Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, Sean Miller, and then Chris Mack doesn’t feel the same love as third year coach Travis Steele. Xavier fans are not used to feeling this.
@ TheRealBMac7: “Frustrated and sad. Expectations from X are not unreasonable. Do the tournament most of the years and advance more often than not. There wasn’t a tournament last year, but when there was X it looked like it was looking outside. Don’t miss the tournament 3 years in a row at X. Make or break 4 Steele next year. “
@ drummerboy1744: “Sucked. Given that we were a 1 seed 3 years ago and have been in the bladder since then, that’s frustrating. The closet was bare for Steele, but it’s just unacceptable for this program to collapse the way X did.
@jmccabe_SC: “What was one of the best days in college basketball for Xavier fans has turned into a nightmare! I’m not popular for my dislike of Coach Steele, but he made the same mistake 3 years in a row. We have to change coaches and build up again. We can’t risk a fourth year with him! “
@ PatKelseyToXav1: “I haven’t seen the selection show for the first time in a decade and was saddened by the situation and frustrated with the coaching that brought me here.”
Frustration. Sadness. Dislike. We often lead with emotions in the moment and in the hours or even days that follow. The team means so much to you. It wins, you feel it. It loses, you feel it. Expectations play a major role in this.
That just doesn’t happen with Cincinnati or Xavier.
The Bearcats were at least stronger in coach John Brannen’s two seasons. Last season they won three of their last four and ten of their last 13. This season they have reached the finals of the AAC tournament. But if 13-8 didn’t make it at XU this season, imagine what 12-11 did for UC.
@hitman_meddy: “The most frustrating thing is losing. Losses to bad teams, losses to average teams, losses to Colgate at home. Always (against) 37.5ppg against Houston. How many tournaments can you miss? No, I’m not a Fire Brannen type yet. But I expected him to be better. “
It doesn’t help to lose that one game that means so much to fans of every school each year. Brannen is 0-2 in the Crosstown Shootout.
@bearcatflea: “Losing again to Xavier just sucks, period.”
The criticism of Brannen increased this week. When the two players who entered the transfer portal made it difficult for Xavier fans, half a dozen Bearcats angered UC supporters. As The Enquirer’s Jenkins tweeted, “Now every member of the freshman class that John Brannen was openly so excited to build around with is gone.”
Which got this quote tweet from @TyFromTheSky: “Bruh …….. You can’t lose an entire freshman class and keep your job. He has to go. The bearcats are in ruins. I’ve never seen anything like it. “
And that from @marquesharveyNB: “This needs to be fixed now!”
And a creative set of GIFs:
@ jenag13 tweeted a burning dumpster going down the river.
@ uconnfan2021 tweeted “Sesame Street” character Elmo in front of a blazing fire.
@nikgazcs tweeted, “Live insight into Cincinnati basketball right now …” over a sinking ship.
On the other hand, @ Jim25304344 tweeted this answer under Jenkins’ post: “The head coach can’t prevent the players from transferring more than 300 players on the transfer portal via their annual free option since March 1st. Know your stuff fans. “
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Over time, we can put all of this into perspective. This was a strange time of year. Xavier and UC and so many other schools have had to start and stop their class schedules due to COVID positives and contact tracing.
@redlegcraig, a UC alum and fan and former newspaper stringer, wrote in a direct message, “As for selection Sunday, I thought we didn’t have a chance until January, but I didn’t think we’d get one at the start of the season Had a chance. Too much lost from last season and not enough “glue” kids to bridge the gap, especially with all the troubles of the pandemic. But it wasn’t just us – check out Duke and UK. Stripes are supposed to be broken, but after the AAC tournament I had hopes that a new series would start next year. But with all the news … I’m not sure UC can build anything to start a new series. I wish there were more games for these kids to play together. “
How do you get on as a Xavier or UC fan?
Sometimes you can check out what helped you leave past disappointing seasons behind. That idea got no response from a Xavier fan who’s now looking at three straights – and that’s absolutely fine, especially so soon.
@jmccabe_SC: “There is nothing that can help you fail the NCAA tournament! If you’ve worked for a team that is a traditional winner for 35 years, the trick for three consecutive years will stand without invitation. We may be spoiled, but 35 years of success shouldn’t go by so quickly. “
There is no right or wrong answer to how or when to go ahead. The emotion is real. When you’re ready to let it go, it can help to think about gratitude. One XU fan was open to going there.
@ TheRealBMac7: 1. The fact that there was a season. I love Xavier basketball so it would have been terrible if they hadn’t played. 2. The team is better than last year. Especially at the beginning. 3. Big wins against Oklahoma and Creighton. 4. Win the Crosstown Shootout. “
UC fan @redlegcraig wrote, “I’m grateful that Keith (Williams) had a slightly older season. I am grateful for the ability to follow them from afar and take an interest in the Bearcats until the Red and Bearcat football gets going again. “
@RedsBurrowBrady: “I miss my bear cats, but it’s nice that Xavier is no longer nationally relevant.”
Check out the shift a XU fan used to get through Selection Sunday. The start, tweeted @ andypic17, went like this: “A lot of depression. I couldn’t even imagine seeing the show. Not because I was angry with the committee or anything that was just disappointed and sad that my team didn’t do what we expected. Spent most of the day talking and thinking about a bright future. “
Hope can bring you over hopelessness. And there can be gratitude that there is even an NCAA tournament.
@KeitelWill tweeted about Selection Sunday, “I mean, it obviously sucked, but having not had a tournament last year it’s hard not to be excited about this year’s tournament whether or not Xavier doesn’t make it!”
It is a spectacle. How can you enjoy it to the fullest?
@ 00havoc: “Presumably a candidate for a dark horse / Cinderella is being adopted to make some noise in the tournament. Or to lose to all of my least favorite teams. Everyone has these “bad guy” teams they can’t stand, right? “
Absolutely. Just ask a Bengals fan how pleasant it can be to watch rivals Steelers or Browns lose.
@ andypic17: “Personally, I just love basketball very much and it’s the best 3 weeks in the sport, so I won’t let my personal disappointment miss me. I have friends who root for other teams in the tournament so I’ll probably watch with them and root hard for their luck. “
Doing for others can be a powerful way to break through feelings of powerlessness or frustration, anger or sadness.
There are other options, but only if you are ready. If you can’t fight this feeling you have now, what if you stop trying? What if that’s what I’m supposed to feel? Lean in Feel it. Then let it go.
In the meantime, be nice to yourself. Whether you follow the Bearcats or the Musketeers, you deserve it after Sunday.
Be sure to email Bass at [email protected] or reach him on Twitter at @ SportsFanCoach1 if you want to be included next week. His website is MikeBassCoaching.com.