Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Moving Forward

Originally posted March 27, 2009

No matter which men's basketball team you root for in the Horizon League, the end of the season is always difficult to deal with. Some may joke that the season is "finally over," but what they're really saying is, "I can't wait to see how much better we are next year."

The reason I know this reality is difficult to deal with is two-fold.

1) It's difficult for me, and above anything else I'm a fan...just like each of you.
2) The response we've gotten from you this season on our little blog, makes it very clear just how passionate the fans are here in the Horizon League. Sure, we all might complain about attendance figures in the arena...but I can tell you whole-heartedly that each of our ten schools have a core of fans that want nothing more than success on the basketball court (and on the soccer field, volleyball court, or baseball/softball diamonds as well).

Despite detractors who fill message boards with unfounded claims that what we have here in the Horizon League is sub-par or 2nd-rate, those of us that see the big picture understand the growth that is taking place within all ten of our Horizon League men's basketball programs. We understand that down years happen. Just like the players that go to battle each night, it's more about how the adversity is handled...and what the response is. Looking ahead to next season, I surely like what I see.

An accomplishment such as having four teams earn 20-win seasons for the second-consecutive year (with the past two seasons being the only two times in league history this feat has been achieved) is certainly worth noting. A streak of five-consecutive years with at least 1 NCAA Tournament victory, isn't too shabby either.

What's more important to me, however, is what I see with my own eyes. Understand that the way a team like Cleveland State plays against Milwaukee, for example, is wildly different from the way the Vikings would approach a game with Wright State. Thankfully, I was exposed to many of these situations during the men's basketball season...and it was truly an eye-opening experience. I encourage any of you reading this to do the same next year, or at the very least, watch games on HLN that don't involve the team you typically root for. Really watch it. And if you want to go a step further...watch games from other mid-major leagues, and compare what you see. Trust me, you'll come to appreciate what the Horizon League is able to do in men's basketball even more, when you consider the resources available to them.

I use the word "resources" on purpose...as it brings me to my next point.

Many of you who read here are also readers of The Mid-Majority (and resources are discussed a lot over there). Chances are you've already read this year's edition of The Epilogue, but if you haven't read it, you should. And if you have read it, then you are probably already aware that I'll be joining The Mid-Majority next season as a freelance writer. Essentially, my work there will be in addition to my duties here with the Horizon League Network. No worries, you can't get rid of me that easily. Although, I'm sure many of you have come to realize this season that my cohort Adam Coppinger is a pretty talented fella...and without his help on a lot of this, it simply wouldn't happen. And there's no question this wouldn't happen without the support and forward thinking of the people at Horizon League headquarters.

It's worth noting that I'm not joining Kyle next season so that I can be a mouthpiece for the Horizon League's awesomeness (even though it's clear that I certainly appreciate what this league has to offer). I'm joining Kyle next season because it is an opportunity for me to learn about other mid-major programs that go through the same ups and downs as the programs here in the Horizon League. I will be thoughtful, objective, and as precise as possible...just as I have tried to be here on HLN, and just as I will continue to be both here at the HLN Blog and on HLN. My hope is that this opportunity will allow me to gain an even greater appreciation for what we have here in the Horizon League, and pass that perspective along to you.

For the next few months, we'll be on a quasi-hiatus. The posts will be less frequent, but Adam and I will surely keep you informed of anything that warrants discussion.

Thank you for your support this year. Here's to making next season...a beautiful season.