Anyone who knows me knows I'm an avid Arizona Wildcat fan, and tonight's first round loss hurts - maybe more than any tournament loss I can remember.
I think what made it hurt so much is that I had misunderstood the trends this year, so my expectations weren't properly aligned with reality.
The Cats entered the tournament as a 6-seed, with a record of 25-8. But when I reviewed our losses (some of which were heartbreakers), I noticed:
- Providence - an early season 4-point loss to a tournament team.
- UCLA - a 3-point loss at Pauley, where the Bruins hit a 3 pointer at the half-time buzzer and another 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
- USC - a 2-point loss in LA in quadruple overtime.
- Cal - a 1-point loss in Berkley, where we missed a chance to win at the buzzer.
- Colorado - a 3-point loss in Boulder, where we missed a chance to tie at the buzzer.
- Oregon - an overtime loss to a #1 seed, where we were down by 20 at one point in the game and yet still had a chance to win the game in regulation if we had hit a free throw with less than 1 second left.
I rationalized each of these losses as "could have been" win-able. That means 6 losses which could easily have been wins instead. My thinking was that our #6 seed based on a 25-8 record made us very dangerous; but for a few bounces of the ball we could have been 31-2 and a favorite to win the whole tournament!
I trusted our excellent coach (Sean Miller) would have used each of these losses as a learning experience, and we would be ready to put his lessons into practice come game time.
Turns out I was wrong, very wrong. We didn't lose these close games because of bounces. We lost them because (and it pains me to say this) - this year's team was soft. S O F T. We lacked grit, and a competitor's heart. (Not everybody on the team was soft, but the overall makeup was.)
Now, if I had read the trend correctly, and considered our team as soft, I would have known the outcome before the game started. Wichita State is a team that makes a living out of beating more talented, but softer, teams. The only way to beat the Shockers is to match their intensity AND have more talent.
And if I had expected us to lose, I wouldn't be as angry with our team. Disappointed, sure, because losing in the tournament always sucks. But I would have already come to grips with the team's weakness. Instead, I had my expectations blindsided tonight - for a double whammy of bummer.
What are your trends telling you?
You can take this approach with your own business as well.
- Are you marketing up to your level of expectations?
- Is your customer service as over the top as it should be?
- Are you staying in touch with your friends and former clients as often as you should be?
Doing the little things right can be the difference between winning and losing a future client that you wouldn't even know about if you had lost (because the phone simply wouldn't ring.)
- Answering the phone instead of letting voicemail pick it up, even if the timing of the call isn't very good.
- Responding to a text message late at night.
- Sending out a monthly (or bi-weekly) high quality newsletter to everyone you know.
These are the difference makers - it's what you do when you play our game with heart. It's what it takes to be the best. And it's what it takes to succeed over the long term.
Yep, tonight wasn't a good night. And I'm dreading the "good-natured" ribbing coming from my Sun Devil friends. But the Cats will be back - Coach Miller will reload with hungrier recruits and cut out any dead weight, and we'll make more noise next year.
In the meantime, let's make sure we're learning from the Cats' mistakes, so our business is ready to win.
- Chris Butterworth