Who's the next D-I team to take the plunge? In the matter of a few days, Xavier lost to Bellarmine, Tennessee lost to Indianapolis, Auburn lost to Columbus State, and Alabama and Indiana both needed overtime to take down Division II opponents that led late in the second half. Is this a trend?
If it is, it's a rather inconsequential one. Of course, the most shocking of these results are the losses, particularly No. 20 Tennessee's. It's also the most newsworthy, because the immediate questions ask themselves: What if Bruce Pearl's offseason NCAA trouble doesn't stay in the offseason? What if it's a distraction? What if, despite all that talent, Tennessee disappoints? The last thing Pearl needs is for the one place he can now control his future job prospects -- on the basketball court -- to become troubled, too. What does it all mean?
Fortunately for Tennessee fans, one fundamental truth about exhibition games remains: It's just exhibition. It barely counts as college basketball. You can't expect to make rational judgments based on the outcomes. You shouldn't worry if your team does poorly, and you shouldn't get too excited if your team does well.
That's not to say Tennessee fans should be thrilled with a 79-64 loss to Indianapolis, a team coached by one of Pearl's former players, who used Pearl's trademark high-pressure defense to force the Volunteers into 25 turnovers Monday night. It is slightly disconcerting. By Nov. 8, you would like to be rounding into some measure of quality. Other teams were playing real, actual basketball last night, and Tennessee's first game is just days away. Same goes for Xavier, Auburn, Indiana, Alabama and every other team limping through exhibition games. It's not the best feeling in the world, nor should it be.
But, much like last year's Syracuse loss to LeMoyne, the chances of an exhibition loss to a Division II school being season-defining -- which seem so likely in November, when the season is too young to lend the benefit of perspective -- are pretty slim. As someone who fell prey to the "Syracuse is done!" euphoria after their loss to the Dolphins, let me tell you first hand: deep breaths. More likely than not, these games will go down for exactly what they are, by their very design, supposed to be: inconsequential.
Or maybe your team is just that bad. Either way, chin up!