For St. John's fans, the hardest part of Thursday night was how much time they had to ponder what was lost as Gonzaga ran away with the game.
There was plenty of time to rue the losses to UCLA and Seton Hall that helped push them down the bracket and into a matchup with a seasoned foe.
D.J. Kennedy's injury also caused some sadness, although any pain had to be lessened by the fact that it is hard to believe he would have made much of a difference against the Zags.
Most of all, though, the mind turned to the future. Seniors dominated the team and Thursday's loss took the team from the giddy heights experienced this season right into the throes of uncertainty that comes with building a while new core.
After such a thrilling return to the limelight, the prospect of plunging back into darkness had to fill some fans with fear.
We can't know what will happen, obviously, but there are reasons to believe that such fears are misguided. Here are five of them, starting with the guy running the whole program.
1. The New and Improved Steve Lavin -- When Lavin was with UCLA, he was seen as a guy who could do everything as a coach except for actually run his team during games. That label might need to be retired. This was a team that got just about everything you could ask for from its talent, a sign that Lavin either learned while he was working in television or that hiring Gene Keady and Mike Dunlap was a masterstroke. Either way, Lavin seems to be a better coach today than he was in the past.
2. Blue Ribbon Recruiting Class -- Lavin changed in one way, but he remains a superlative recruiter. Shortly after taking over the reins of a wounded program and before they showed any signs of life this year, he started landing commits left and right. The Red Storm wound up with six of ESPN's top 100 recruits from all over the country, a very good sign for their ability to compete for talent with national powers.
3. One Good Thing Leads to Another -- Lavin is one block, the success of this season is another and the incoming class is a third block that represents the construction of a stairway to success, if you will. Winning programs build on each positive until there's no longer a question of the team thriving from year to year. St. John's used to be like that and there are plenty of signs pointing back in that direction.
4. New York, New York -- St. John's was never better than when they were in the middle of the city's hearts and minds. They got back there this year. Their wins and losses wound up on the back pages, Dwight Hardy became a star and the Garden rocked whenever they were on the court. Combined with everything mentioned above, it creates the kind of buzz that makes kids want to be a part of the action.
5. They Won't Sneak Up On Anyone Anymore -- This might seem counter-intuitive, but being back on the powerful side of the ledger serves them well. You want teams to feel overwhelmed walking onto the Garden court to face St. John's because it gives Lavin's bunch an advantage that they haven't enjoyed in quite some time. Being an underdog is all well and good, but being part of the upper echelon means acting like you belong. St. John's isn't all the way there, but they're on the right track and Thursday's loss doesn't mean they aren't going to get there.