I have been thinking about all of you a lot since I read about the loss to Ball State. It must be really strange to have the next two weeks sprawling in front of you, weeks you thought would be spent preparing for each round of the tournament, traveling, eating at steak houses, staying in shape (it is so easy to get out of shape during tournaments), studying up on your opponents, and taking the occasional hard-earned day off. Now you are faced with a gaping hole of days off, but they don't really count as days off with nothing else around them to mark them as such.
You probably have a constant sick feeling deep in your guts, nervousness about what the summer will hold mixed with resolute vows to work harder than ever before, mixed with uncertainty about when Pat will speak to you, and when she does, what she will say. You are probably by now a bit tired of hearing people greet you with the words "what happened?" even though they really do want to hear what you think about what did in fact happen, but the truth is, it's impossible to say. You run through answers--"everybody guns for Tennessee"; "they played out of their minds"; "we were complacent"; "it wasn't our night"; "we didn't show up"--and all of these are just a little bit true, but still the game itself collapses, for each of you, into that turnover, that missed box out, that lost step, the weighty, unshakable dread of physical memory.
As awful and endless as this gut pain might seem, I can tell you that it will get better, but it will take time. As odd as it will be to be in town in late March, you'll figure out what to do: buckle down in your classes, attend those meetings with coaching staff, hang out quietly with friends and teammates, and probably, let's face it, cry a little. But spring in Tennessee--the dogwoods, the warmth, the greening hills--will remind you that you will get another chance, that there's more to the big picture than one game (though this game, I'll not lie, will be seared into your gut for decades to come). October seems a long way away, and I know you wish it would hurry up. But you have a summer to heal, to help your coaches get past this, to win their trust again, to gain re-entry into that locker room.
And in the end, what Nietzsche says will hold: "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It's just that going through that which nearly kills you is probably going to suck pretty hard. I'm sorry you have to go through that.