This is the end

By Mark Fagan So this is how it ends. No trip back to California for C.J. Giles. No West Coast pilgrimages for legions of KU fans. And no shining moments for the Kansas University Jayhawks, whose supporters wanted to believe that the team could come back and win Friday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills, but ultimately closed out the year just like last year: another first-round loss, to a team outmatched on paper but superior what it counts most. On the court. Watching a game from courtside really is different from watching it on TV. I almost could feel the pain when Stephen Vinson – playing in what would be his last college game – struggled to front Marcellus Sommerville, Bradley’s star forward, in the first half. He had 21 points, and only a few, by my count, came against the smallish guard from Lawrence. Vinson fought and fought and fought, giving up 5 inches, 30 pounds and who knows how much on scoring average to the guy who would be the game’s leading scorer. Man, it was tough to watch. I didn’t make it into the locker room after the game. Instead I managed to check in with a fans as their own hopes were dashed once again. Some left early, unable to watch. Others stayed in their seats, like they could somehow stay till Sunday and see their Jayhawks take the court once again, this time against Pittsburgh for a shot at making the regionals in Oakland. Then there was Max Falkenstien, unplugging his headset after 60 years of calling KU games on the radio. I watched him move about the corridors and across the court, stopping to shake hands and accept well wishes. Verne Lundquist, who called the game for CBS, apologized to Falkenstien for not being able to get to a planned “tribute” for Max on the air. I couldn’t catch the explanation, but I do know this: Lundquist and his radio partner, CBS analyst Bill Raftery, have been calling NCAA games for ages, and if you take their CBS tenures together – 48 years between them – it’s still not even close to Max’s six decades. “Barring a miracle, I knew it would end on a downer,” Max told me, after slinging his bag over his shoulder. A couple weeks ago he told me that he’d still be going to games next season, only this time as a fan. I asked if he had enough “points” to qualify for seats at Allen Fieldhouse, and he assured me – with a laugh – that he wouldn’t have a problem. He’ll be there like the rest of the KU fans: Hopeful for another season of entertaining hoops, only next time with a better ending.