When an NAIA school like Tabor College chooses to play an NCAA Div. II basketball program, it comes as no surprise when Tabor loses.
It?s true that each team can only play five athletes at a time, but it?s also true that the caliber of athlete tends to be a little better the higher up the ladder you go. And the fact that you almost always have to play the bigger school on their home court doesn?t help the underdog any.
Hence, twice this past season, the Tabor men?s basketball team stepped into the lair of bigger schools and twice the Bluejays were thumped. Tabor lost to the University of Northern Colo?rado 93-52, and to the University of South Dakota 122-71. It?s probably fair to say the outcome of either game was never seriously in doubt.
What is in doubt is how much playing bigger programs helps or hinders the smaller school.
Tabor has played NCAA Div. II teams and sometimes larger NAIA programs in the past. Tabor has rarely won any of those games, although I recall Tabor beating Washburn Uni?ver?sity a long time ago when the game was played in Hillsboro. It?s probably no coincidence that it?s the last time the Washburn men?s team has been seen in town.
I wasn?t able to find out how much Northern Colorado and South Dakota paid Tabor for making those two trips, but one would hope Tabor got more than merely expenses to help its athletic budget.
Even so, playing bigger schools isn?t necessary a bad thing. In fact, there are several ways it could be seen as positive.
First, the experience of playing a higher level of competition can be beneficial.
Second, being soundly beaten may remind some of the student-athletes that they aren?t quite as talented as they think they are.
Third, if you are competitive against bigger programs, you have reason to believe you can compete with anyone in the KCAC. It should also be pointed out that Tabor almost upset Newman University this season, losing 85-77 in overtime.
About the only downside is if your team loses confidence. But one or two thumpings by bigger programs shouldn?t be a confidence killer.
Hindsight is 20/20, but clearly the two losses to Northern Colorado and South Dakota didn?t hurt Tabor when it came to conference play. After all, the Bluejays easily exceeded preseason expectations by competing for a conference championship.
I want to say publicly thank the Tabor College baseball team for coming to the rescue and helping shovel snow from my driveway and sidewalk following the big Feb. 8 snowstorm.
I was more than halfway through shoveling my driveway when a bunch of baseball players walked up with snow shovels and basically said they?d finish the job. They were walking up and down Hillsboro streets lending a hand and shovel to many people who needed help. They took care of my driveway and sidewalk in short order and saved my back additional pain.
What a blessing! They didn?t ask for a dime, but they did encourage me to come out and support them at some of their home games this spring.
And I got to meet Coach Mike Standiford, who was a standout baseball player in his own right back in the day at Wichita State University.
Standiford has moved Tabor?s baseball program in the right direction, and if his players are as good at handling bats and gloves as they are snow shovels, I like their chances.