One way or another, the show must go on. This show will just go on without Stanford.
The Sweet 16 run was fun and refreshing and relieving and surprising, but Thursday against Dayton, the magic ran out much the way we expected it to - the way we had all expected a round or two earlier.
Finally, all the chickens that plagued Stanford basketball this season came home to roost - Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic picked up fouls with reckless abandon in the first half, the defense was lackluster, the bench was essentially useless, John Gage continued to play terribly and a little overaggressive officiating topped it all off. None of it individually was enough to doom Stanford to a loss (Dayton did shoot 48% from the floor, after all), but in the end it added up to an 82-72 loss.
Stanford's run to Memphis wasn't expected by anyone, which made it so much fun, and that ultimately helped deaden the pain of the loss for a little while - until Josh Huestis' tears began to flow. Watching the senior's emotions finally come unstitched seemed to be the equal and opposite reaction to his joy after the upset over Kansas.
It had to be inevitable that the Cardinal's inconsistency was going to manifest itself at some point - no matter how much we all shut our eyes and tried to deny it for a little, swept up in the emotions of a "Cinderalla" Sweet 16 run. But it was all fun while it lasted.
Going forward, this surprise run will be the standard that Johnny Dawkins and this program are judged by, though. Was it a fluke? Or was it the progress we've all been promised finally showing itself? It's unclear at the moment and far too soon to judge, but the foundation seems pretty strong for next season. Nastic, Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown are all returning. The Cardinal's recruiting class is in Rivals' top 15, with Reid Travis, Michael Humphrey and Robert Cartwright in the Top 100 players nationally. And the bench should be stronger and healthier next year.
Act 1 of Dawkins' career looked like it might be his only act as Stanford coach, but he and his team stepped up, faced the pressure and succeeded when they needed to, for better or for worse.
And now so begins Act 2 of the Johnny Dawkins era at Stanford.
How will his show go on?