As I laid out my March Madness bracket over the past 15-20 years, every year I picked Kansas to reach at least the Sweet 16, often the Elite 8 or Final 4, if not the Championship Game. It was usually a solid pick--KU has the 2nd longest consecutive streak of tournament appearances after Arizona for a reason. Sometimes they would find a way to disappoint themselves and the fans, like losing to UTEP when they were a number 1 seed, or the losses to Bucknell and Bradley this decade. The hope of a title was on the fingertips of fandom, only to have the nails and skin ripped away.
All was set right in the universe after the Jayhawks won the title last year--it had been almost 20 years since a favorite team won a title, and the last one even had its own degree of unsavory--the split title of the 1990 Washington Husky football team. My fan angst was cooled and the sport euphoria permeated daily thought. Though the title game of 2008 was AMAZING, I watched alone, doing my lunatic Jim Valvano run around the house looking for someone to hug.
This was my first year living as a pessimist for Jayhawk basketball in the tournament--I had them losing in the round of 32 in one bracket, and to NDSU in another. I was mentally prepared for an early exit. I believed in the tools--Collins and Aldrich are excellent players. I thought the matchups presented problems. I thought they were capable of more as I watched them. That loss to Michigan State wasn't warranted. They weren't beaten by a better team--the supporting cast played tentatively--it was like watching a deer in the headlights moment.
Regardless of my mental preparation for that loss, it still sucked. Regardless of how far I think KU will advance, it still hurts when they lose.