Sunday, November 26, 2006

Take a Deep Breath

If there's one message to get out of the past few weeks it's this: Take a Deep Breath. The fact is that teams don't perform to the same level every night. Teams have bad days and teams have good days. Gonzaga's win over North Carolina doesn't mean Gonzaga is better than North Carolina. It means that they're good enough that on a good night they can beat the Tar Heels. If a team loses a game, it doesn't mean they're inferior to the team that they lost to. Maybe they just had a rough shooting night. Maybe their star got into foul trouble and couldn't play. Maybe they just had bad luck. Over a larger sample size these things even themselves out. But in the early season, when a lot of teams have only played one decent opponent (if any), people's expectations sometimes just explode. So: Take a Deep Breath.

Another interesting issue this season has been that not only have the mid-majors not regressed this year, they've seemingly gotten stronger. It's interesting how casual fans have enjoyed this emergence, even if they don't exactly understand all that much about these schools. Earlier today I was on a plane, and the college kid in front of me was convinced that Southern Illinois, Missouri State, Butler, Oral Roberts and the others were all in the same conference. Sorry to disappoint - there's no mid-major that tough from top to bottom. The Horizon and Colonial Conferences are actually both down relative to last year - although not by much. The Missouri Valley, on the other hand, is doing a good job at establishing itself as the next major conference now that Conference USA is done as a power. Nearly half of the Valley has already established a pretty good tournament resume so far.

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