A year ago today at about this time, I went for a run. St. John’s and Creighton were playing a game that was nearing the half and it seemed as good a time as any to get some exercise in before another day spent watching basketball and, increasingly, the ticker at the bottom of the screen.
Somewhere near the two mile mark my phone, in the vernacular, blew up. The Red Storm and the Bluejays were not coming back out to finish their game. Xavier’s loss to DePaul had, in effect, ended the Big East season. I run with my phone in my hand so I can listen to music, not my own labored breathing, and the vibrating from the Banners group message, Twitter, texts, and a confused phone call from my confused 10 year old son brought my run to a sudden halt. The mile plus back home went by in a blur.
The writing is on the wall for the NCAA tournament. Batten down the hatches, America, we're headed off the map. #hcsvntdracones https://t.co/EHFRvwWSwT— Banners on the Parkway (@BannersParkway) March 12, 2020
That tweet went out at 1:14 pm. By then the MAC, WAC, A10, PAC 10, Big 10, and ACC had all canceled that day. Akron and Ohio had been pulled off the court in the same dramatic circumstances as Creighton and SJU. Once the Big East canceled, there was no basketball left. A day that in most years contains a full slate of some of the best basketball of the year was left with absolutely nothing. The bright sunshine outside was suddenly stark and incongruous. By 6pm, the tournament was canceled.
A year on and things have changed drastically, there was no NCAA tournament or gathering of any size or any sort last year, and stayed the same. Xavier is once again on the razor edge of the bubble, teams are missing games because of positive tests, and a sunny day beckons outside while ball beckons inside. Most of us have not set foot in the Cintas Center this season. No one got to a baseball game. The Browns were finally good and had to do it in front of essentially no fans.
We are now a week away from the start of this NCAA tournament. Virginia may not be able to play despite having a bid locked up. Covid is still ruining things both ultimately trivial and very serious. The light at the end of the tunnel is no longer a train, but it isn’t within reaching distance just yet. Still, March 13th of 2021 will dawn with a great deal more optimism than March 13th of 2020. 365 days later, we’ve made it almost all the way through.