Monday night was about missed chances for a couple of teams that had gotten off to pretty significant starts. Upsets happen in basketball, and we estimate that a little less than 30 percent of games go against the favorite.
But the difference between being in consideration for an at-large bid in March and heading to the NIT or elsewhere is winning games in November. When you already have a couple of good wins under your belt, losing to a team in a way that might hurt you later is a problem.
Take Youngstown State, a team that we had already been looking at as one of the sleepers in the Horizon League. After all, the Penguins return two top 10 players in the conference, and considering the one-two punch they provide on offense and defense, they could be a surprise winner.
The Penguins have already rolled off wins against George Washington and Georgia, and were looking to add another big victory against North Dakota State on Monday. It just didn't go their way, despite 34 points from Kendrick Perry. He hits a career high and the team still loses.
Maybe that is underrating North Dakota State a little. The Bison are expected to be right there with Nate Wolters and South Dakota State in the Summit League now that Oral Roberts has left.
But this was a Youngstown State team that everything was going well for. They didn't even play badly in the game; the last couple of bounces just didn't go their way.
Shooting 38 percent isn't spectacular, but the Bison only shot a tad better at 40 percent. The Penguins rebounded on the offensive end (about 30 percent of chances) and the defensive end. And they held onto the ball, while forcing 13 turnovers.
The only category where North Dakota State had a decided advantage was 3-point shooting. The Bison were 8-for-15 from long range while Youngstown managed just 33 percent of their 18 attempts.
In total though, the game wasn't so much in North Dakota State's favor as it just didn't end up for Youngstown State on the scoreboard. These are the kind of games that keep you awake as a coach now, and as a whole team at the end of the season. If North Dakota State ultimately wins the Summit with its deeper team, could Youngstown be wishing they had one more win against a team headed to the NCAA Tournament?
There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but these things matter now, not just in February.
Ask South Alabama how they are feeling Tuesday morning, after losing to Tennessee State 68-57 on Monday in a game that was never really close. All respect to what Murray State and Delaware have accomplished in early season tournaments, but the signature win of the season so far has to be the Jaguar defeat of Florida State on opening night.
South Alabama should be right there in the Sun Belt, and when you add on the Florida State win, that gives them a lot of cache come February and March.
But that is lost when Tennessee State, a team that was winless and struggling badly upsets you. Not only that, Robert Covington, the player that should be focal point for the Tigers was basically a non-factor in the game.
The Jaguars don't have quite the statistical case that Youngstown State has: they turned the ball over way too much, didn't rebound at either end and were terrible foul shooters (60.7%). But all the same, this is a game that you need to win to move into that next tier of mid-major teams.
Missed chances? You bet. At the mid-major level, those pile up quite a bit over the course of the season. You have to hope that they don't come back to bite you come the end of the year.