We have watched every Xavier player we have ever loved leave the court in defeat in his final game. Some of them hurt worse that others, but it has always invariably ended with the ultimate realization that this would not be the year Xavier was the last team standing, and the players we had grown to adore would never wear the uniform again.
Last night was perhaps the most shocking season ending loss in recent memory, which added a whole new layer to the end of Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, Sean O’Mara, and Kerem Kanter’s tenure at Xavier. This was a team that had been to the brink of the Final Four last year, had returned all their major pieces, had added Kanter, Naji Marshall, and Paul Scruggs in the offseason, and had battled to a Big East title and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. This was supposed to be our year to finally, if not win the tournament, at least last until the event’s final weekend. All that went up in smoke last night during a befuddling collapse, showcasing the worst of this team’s frailties.
Sports are a curious two edged sword. They can bring us some of our happiest moments, while also dealing us crushing blows, all while being completely beyond our control. For every Kris Jenkins draining the shot every kid dreams of making growing up, there is a Marcus Paige, watching his childhood dream die in one horrifying moment. For every Tony Fernandez belting a home run into the Baltimore night to take the Indians to a World Series, there is Tony Fernandez looking like he wanted to hide under second base in Miami after his error cost the Indians a chance to win said World Series.
Last night, Xavier was, once again, on the wrong side of the equation as they watched Florida State celebrate progress to the next round. My advice to you is this, though. Let it hurt for now. It stinks to see your team lose when you want so desperately for them to win. It feels awful to see players you have come to actually care about crushed by the sting of a final defeat. It is saddening to run through it all back in your mind and think about the ways it could have turned out differently, but ultimately the facts do not change. Another Xavier season has ended in hurt, and that is tough. However, the beauty of sports is that our hope always returns.
After a crushing loss in the 2016 title game, Roy Williams’ band of illiterates banded together and bandaged that hurt in the hearts of their mostly intolerable following. There may come a day when the Browns win a game, or the Indians overcome their jinx and win it all. Am I saying X will win it all next year? No. But I can always hope they will someday. For now it hurts, but hope will return next November and maybe, just maybe, we will finally send our players out with a win.