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Into the Long Dark

The worst months of the year are upon us, but salvation lingers just over 70 days away.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Seton Hall at Xavier
Sean Miller ponders the grim fate of having to live through another February
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arctic explorers in the 1800s frequently set out with the goal of finding whatever it was they were looking for, the Northwest Passage, farthest north, a pole or two, before darkness fell. In those areas nearest the poles, at the outer limit of human existence, night can fall for over a hundred days. Even now, in inhabited places in the Arctic Circle, inhabitants are faced with long winter periods where interior lights are required 24 hours a day. To bolster themselves against the depression that sets in with no sunlight, they hold festivals, have street fairs, and count the days until the sun returns.

Nothing that extreme will happen in Ohio this year, even if the wind chill does hit -30. While the nights are long here, there is at least the unremitting grey and snow during daylight to look forward (?) to. But the holidays are gone now. All of the anticipation of Christmas Eve, the excitement of Christmas, and the fun of Boxing Day are in the rearview. All that lies ahead is the cold, dark grip of January and February. There is nothing to look forward to in that time. It is the nadir of the year. It’s a time where what passes for fun are the few days the thermometer hits 20 and sitting on a freezing cold sled becomes an option. It’s grim.

But in that Long Dark blinks one light of hope. One, if you will, festival or street fair to gather around. That is college basketball. For most of us here, that means Xavier. The Musketeers are 10-3, they are nationally ranked for the little that matters, they are top 30 in the KenPom, they are 35th in the NET after a rocky start. They’ve done all that while playing an entertaining if light on defense style of basketball that is a great deal of fun to watch.

January and February are painful. They are long, cold, dark miserable months of the year. Xavier is there for at least a bit of reprieve during those nights. This year, especially, they seem poised to make the run through the Long Dark more palatable than years past. Selection Sunday is 76 days away. We can make it.