Wake, Kansas and others judged on final impression

Originally Published: March 19, 2005
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Wake Forest is out.

Kansas is gone.

Boston College is done.

Gonzaga is toast.

Who's next? Someone is sure to go down Sunday to keep this trend going.

So, how will Friday's and Saturday's losers be remembered? Unfortunately, for how they finished rather than the respective seasons they had or the stretch runs that they endured to earn top-four seeds.

The NCAA Tournament is the greatest three weeks in sports, but it can also be the cruelest. One loss and the season ends. Then, the team is likely dissected based on that one loss, rather than the full body of work.

That's not to say all of them didn't have their fatal flaws throughout the season.

Wake Forest struggled on defense at times. Allowing West Virginia, a team that has struggled to score, to break 100 (regardless of the two OTs) is the reason the Demon Deacons are out of the tournament in the second round.

Kansas had its stretches when it played down to its competition and was unable to establish its experience and seniority. Scoring problems also plagued this team in some key games in February and into March.

Boston College had a tremendous 20-0 start but the Eagles will likely be remembered as the team that couldn't finish.

Gonzaga beat Washington, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State when all three were undefeated, yet couldn't guard in the final few minutes Saturday against Texas Tech.

Wake Forest was built for a Final Four run. So, too, was Kansas. Gonzaga and Boston College grew into Final Four contenders during the season.

Now, none will get the chance. They all had seasons worth remembering (and certainly cherishing), but the finality of losing before the Sweet 16 is the epitaph.

If Chris Paul returns for his junior season, Wake Forest could have another shot in 2006. Gonzaga loses Ronny Turiaf but Adam Morrison is expected back to make the Zags the favorite in the WCC again. If Craig Smith returns for his senior season then BC could have another special season, but it would have to occur in the ACC. Kansas, though, loses its core of four seniors, including Wayne Simien in the middle.

The flip side of these teams' pain is other teams' pleasure. The Wake Forest and Gonzaga losses have opened up an opportunity for either Texas Tech or West Virginia to play for a Final Four berth in the Albuquerque Region.

Got that? West Virginia or Texas Tech will play for the Final Four next Saturday in Albuquerque. Also, Washington, who wasn't given a chance to win its bracket by the SportsNation majority, could have a path to the Final Four.

Remarkable.

So, who will be next? Connecticut? Oklahoma State? Illinois? North Carolina? Duke?

We'll see on Sunday if any other potential Final Four teams fall, too. If any of them do, then their legacy of the 2004-05 season will be remembered for March more than the previous four months.

Should it be that way? No. But will it be? Probably.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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