The thing that most people will remember about the 2016-17 Augustana men's basketball team was its terrific run to the NCAA Division III National Championship title game and the fact that that game came down to the final possession.
The 79-78 setback to Babson left the Vikings with a second national runner-up finish in three seasons, which is pretty impressive.
"What a terrific run in the tournament,” most said.
"A heck of a finish,” thought others.
Those back in the Viking camp this fall, though, have many other memories of the 24-9 season. Those are being used as motivation for the team in hopes of an even bigger and better season that tips off for the second-ranked Vikings tonight against Heidelberg on a neutral court in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
While proud of the run through six grueling NCAA tournament games and the thrilling finishes it took to punch another trip to Salem, Virginia, the Vikings also remember what didn't get accomplished.
Senior captain Dylan Sortillo still agonizes over an outright College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin regular-season title that slipped away with three straight road losses to end the regular season in a three-way championship share.
Then there was the 69-64 loss to North Central in the CCIW tournament title game and the second of two goals that went unaccomplished. Then there was the tough-to-swallow loss in the national title game.
“There's a hunger to get back to where we were,” junior captain Chrishawn Orange said, “But it's a process to get back to where we were.”
That process seems to be fueled by what didn't get accomplished last season.
“The way last year ended, we've all been very motivated throughout this offseason,” said Sortillo, a former Bettendorf standout.
That has meant just as much offseason work, if not more. It has meant harder work. Sortillo admitted that there has been more focus on details. That includes everything to finishing sprints in practice and touching lines to close out those drills.
“We wanted to do more so that when we get in those situations we can finish.” Sortillo said.
The level of excellence has been raised, along with expectations. But the focus remains the same.
“It's step-by-step; we can't skip any steps along the way,” Orange said. “A lot of people are saying 'You're going back to the national championship.' We can't think about that at all. We have to get better in practices and focus on our first game. We can't overlook anything or overlook any opponents on our schedule.”
Veteran coach Grey Giovanine has seen that desire to excel in this talented and experienced bunch.
“There's a hunger there when you get that close and want to get there again,” he said. “They appreciate the investment you have to make.”
Those in the Viking camp are hoping the work nets the desired payout on the road to another memorable season.