It’s going on right now in stadiums, field houses, coliseums and arenas all over our country. It’s buzzer-beaters and overtime winners, critical turnovers and timely saves. Seasons and careers come to an end in an instant.
I’ve been to all but one Big Ten men’s basketball tournament since the event’s inception in March of 1998. I spent my first few tournaments as our basketball sports information contact. But for about the past six or seven years, I’ve taken part as a volunteer for the Big Ten. My job is to moderate the postgame news conferences and it’s a unique perspective.
Earlier today, we all watched Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State win games over Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana, respectively. Today’s winners are all, we Big Ten fans hope, in the NCAA Tournament. Among the three teams that lost, only Northwestern will continue to play next week. There were hopeful, satisfied looks on the faces of coaches Tubby Smith, John Beilein and Ed DeChellis. Their teams lived to fight another day.
The coaches all sit right next to me in the postgame as they take questions from the media. Iowa’s Todd Lickliter is on my mind. His team was one-sidedly beaten by Michigan and they are finished. The Hawkeyes were 15-17 overall this season. A reporter asked Lickliter about the state of his program and something the coach said in response really summed up not only coaches and athletes, but also the month of March.
Lickliter said that, although his team wouldn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, the Hawkeyes’ postseason would be in Europe where they will travel to play for 10 days in May. It struck me that, with nothing else to play for this season, Lickliter was looking ahead to the next time his team would play. Even if it was in Europe.
March is about playing for the next game. It’s about hope. It’s knowing that if there is time on the clock, there’s always a chance. Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State are now looking ahead to Friday. The Badgers are looking toward Friday’s matchup with Ohio State. If they win that one, it’ll be onto Saturday. And so on.
There’s always tomorrow in athletics. Sometimes tomorrow is tomorrow. Sometimes it’s in a couple months. And sometimes it’s next season. But there is always tomorrow.