At the beginning of the season I had only one goal for the Illini and that was to get to the tournament. Well, they accomplished that goal, as they'll be playing Colorado on Friday afternoon in Austin, Texas. So no matter what happens in that game, this has been a season that has pleased me.
But that doesn't mean the greed isn't setting in.
It's only natural, really. Sure, reaching the dance was the goal, but considering the time that elapses between seeing Illinois next to Colorado on the selection show and the game actually being played, I can't help but want more. Getting to the tournament is great, but it's better to win a game or two once you're there.
So here I sit on Wednesday afternoon and there are still more than 48 hours remaining until the Ililni finally play again, and I'm not sure how I'll survive these next couple of days.
The First Four began on Tuesday night and will continue tonight. Tomorrow morning I will wake up and the best two days of the year will commence. It's going to be awesome, but I don't know if it's enough for me right now.
In recent years the NCAA Tournament has been nothing but mindless entertainment for me. The Illini weren't playing in it, so other than my brackets, which would be useless by about 3pm Thursday afternoon, I had absolutely nothing on the line. It's different this year, though. Illinois is playing in this tournament.
And as great as it is to have Illinois in the tournament, it also brings that fear we as a fan base haven't really had to cope with in recent years.
Watching the Illini in a tournament game is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. It's not like the regular season where a bad shot is just a momentary problem that might mean something that day, but in the big picture it's of no consequence.
No, on Friday a bad shot could mean the end of the season.
A good shot can mean the extension of that same season.
It's that thin line between joy and agony that makes this tournament so great because an entire season of hard work can fall apart in an instant in this format. It's what brings millions of us back to it each and every year.
Now if only Friday would fucking get here.