By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff
Throughout the season for the Boston University men's basketball team, BU coach Patrick Chambers emphasized the importance of his team continually working to improve and "tapping the stone," but ultimately, it was a rock that proved to be too much for the Terriers to crack -- a Rock Chalk Jayhawk, that is.
But even in a losing effort to the No. 1 seed University of Kansas, BU, as it had for much of the season, put on the proverbial blinders and remained as focused as ever going into the game.
None of the outside influences and distractions seemed to matter to a Terriers team that was seemingly the only group of people that didn't give much credence to the high stakes of the program's first NCAA Tournament game in almost a decade. To them, it was just as every other game was to them throughout the season, be it against University of Maryland-Baltimore County or the University of Kentucky -- it was simply the next game on their schedule, and they prepared for it and treated it as such.
"We went into this game very prepared," Chambers said. "It was the next game on our schedule and we stuck to our gameplan. Unfortunately, we needed to make shots at a certain time and we couldn't, but we were very prepared to play this game."
The concerted effort to maintain focus and composure heading into the game's biggest stage began as early as Selection Sunday when the Terriers were announced as a No. 16 seed. Many felt that given BU's 129 ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index and its relation to other automatic qualifiers that it was very possible that Chambers and his squad would be a No. 15 seed.
But even though that hope didn't materialize, Chambers emphasized that his team not focus on the seeding and instead look forward to the task at hand.
"I didn't think we were a 16-seed, I thought we were better than that," Chambers said. "I just told our guys that I believe we're a good basketball team, don't worry about the seeding. Kansas is the next game on our schedule, let's just try to get better this week, and I thought that's what we tried to do."
This idea of avoiding distraction extended to Chambers quelling any desire to put this game into a larger, more grandiose context. The story of the scrappy underdog trying to become the first No. 16 seed to take down a No. 1 seed may make for a compelling headline or lead to a story, but it was nothing more than clutter to this BU team.
It also meant not harping on and emphasizing Kansas' past struggles in the NCAA Tournament in the past ten years, notably upset losses at the hands of Bucknell University in 2005, Bradley University in 2006 and the University of Northern Iowa in 2010.
While it may suit other coaches well, Chambers had no interest in being Norman Dale, Gordon Bombay or any other fictionalized coach trying to rally and galvanize his overmatched squad -- he just wanted them to be ready for the game at hand, the next one on the schedule.
"I didn't try to do any slay-the-dragon, David-and-Goliath stuff," Chambers said. "I didn't do any videos of Bucknell beating Kansas or Northern Iowa beating Kansas or Morehead State beating Louisville, I didn't do any of that. I felt like we came in and truly believed in the gameplan, we truly believed in one another and tried to compete."
Even though the Terriers couldn't turn their surprising first half showing into a win against the Jayhawks, players like senior forward John Holland feel like future No. 16 seeds can remove distraction and maintain focus in an effort to maybe, just maybe one day make history and knock off a No. 1 seed.
"It's all about sticking to whatever that team does and believing in one another and themselves," Holland said.
Although the loss to Kansas meant not only the end of an 11-game win streak but also the end of BU's season, the resilience and tenacity displayed by the Terriers throughout the game against a nationally-ranked opponent marks a proper bookend to a historic season for the team and program. In just Chambers' second season, BU managed to overcome injury and adversity to play its best ball at the end of the season, an effort that culminated in an America East Conference Tournament title and the program's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in almost a decade.
Even with the loss of a decorated and accomplished senior like Holland to graduation, Chambers and his BU team returns virtually its entire roster next season as it will look to build upon a banner 2010-11 season and attempt to take the program to even greater heights moving forward.
"I think we gained valuable experience," Chambers said. "This was a great first step for this young group and hopefully that gives us experience going into next year."