Johns Hopkins was left out of the NCAA tournament Sunday night for the first time since 1971. The exclusion snapped a streak of 41 consecutive appearances in the tournament, which ended what had been the longest active streak in a Division I team sport.
The streak was a point of pride for the program, but could also be a burden as senior classes feared about being the one unable to extend the run. Coach Dave Pietramala said the streak did not weigh on him. But for the players? That might have been a different story.
“Streaks for me aren’t a burden because I don’t really think about them,” Pietramala said Sunday night. “They don’t concern me. But for kids, I’m sure it is. I’m sure when you’re constantly hearing that you don’t want to be that class that doesn’t make it, that you don’t want to be that class that doesn’t get to the Final Four, but I think there are really only two teams that understand that and I think that’s Syracuse and Johns Hopkins. You can throw the Princeton teams of the 90s and the teams that kind of came after them. If you look at Syracuse and all those trips to the Final Four [from 1983 to 2004] and when you’re having an up-and-down year, I can’t imagine it wasn’t challenging for all those kids to hear, ‘Well, you don’t want to be that team.’ I’m certain it’s been challenging for our guys to hear that, but this is what makes a place like this special. People do care and people do have expectations, and ours are every bit as high, if not higher. I guess we don’t have to concern ourselves with that any longer. The goal will be to try and just start things over again and get things back on track.”
Getting frozen out of the NCAA tournament is uncharted territory for the No. 13 Blue Jays, who finished the season with a 9-5 record. That’s especially true for Pietramala, who led the 1987 squad to the national championship as a defenseman and had guided the team to 13 straight tournaments. Asked if standing on the sideline was painful for him, Pietramala shrugged off the question.
“How I feel is really not important,” he said. “What’s important to me is our young men. I’m disappointed for our fans, for our alumni, for our administration, and I’m most disappointed for the young men I have the privilege of working with every day. For me, my focus now is, what do I have to do to change it? 2014 began for me the minute that last team was announced for the bracket and we’ll meet with our team [Monday] and we’ll part ways with our seniors and we’ll discuss what we need to do moving forward to help this program to continue the tradition of excellence that we have. One year away from the tournament doesn’t mean that the tradition of excellence will not continue.”
Maintaining that history is something Pietramala said he thinks the players and coaches will rally around.
“We’re going to use it as motivation,” Pietramala said. “I’ve already gotten texts in the last 10 minutes from a number of our returning players [saying] that 2014 has begun already. It’s a disappointment, but we have no one to blame but ourselves. We were inconsistent throughout the year. Early on, we were playing pretty good offense and our defense took some time to come around. And then late in the year, we were playing very good defense, and our offense wasn’t quite where we had hoped it to be. So it was a team effort across the board, and we were just too inconstant and didn’t get the job done as often as we needed to. We didn’t earn our way in.”