For a team showing so much promise, with expectations set so high, a game like this could easily be seen as a downer or a buzzkill for the Vikings. However, there is a good lesson to be learned from Portland State’s 82-57 loss to Boise State in Boise, Idaho.
Winning the Big Sky Tournament and receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament last season grabbed people’s attention. When a team gets attention, opportunities arise. PSU’s opportunity arrived in the form of a spot in the Preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament—one of the more prestigious tournaments the NCAA holds for women’s athletics.
This gives the Vikings a chance to test themselves against bigger conference competition early in the season, and the game in Boise served as a harsh reminder of what it’s like to step outside of the Big Sky. Give PSU credit for outscoring the Broncos in the fourth quarter to make the margin tighter (Boise State was up 70-35 after three quarters), but in the end, this performance from a Vikings coming off of a 25-win season was not what they had in mind.
This thumping could provide a valuable lesson in that previous success and preseason expectations hold little esteem when it comes time to prove yourself on the court. By winning 25 games and making the NCAA Tournament last season, PSU put itself on the map. Now the question becomes, will it stay there? Nothing is a given once teams see you as a viable threat and come gunning for you. What Boise State did was assert themselves as the big dog in the yard. PSU may have had great success inside the Big Sky conference, but the Broncos saw them as a little fish swimming into their pond.
Metaphors aside, the Vikings can look at the season with an underdog mentality and focus on competing to their maximum potential instead of worrying about slipping and falling from their plinth. Last season, the PSU women entered the conference tournament as a middle-of-the-pack squad with their backs against the wall. Winning three straight games was not the only way to make the NCAA Tournament but likely their only hope of postseason play.
With that in mind, the Vikings fought, scratched and clawed their way in, not worrying about expectations or other’s perception of them. Adopting a similar attitude heading into what is still a brand new season could pay major dividends.
PSU will face two more schools from larger conferences before they begin Big Sky play. Both will be at home in the comfortable atmosphere of Viking Pavilion. One of those teams, the Tennessee Lady Vols, will be by far the most accomplished and recognizable women’s program ever to pay a visit to the PSU campus.
The Vikings women can’t change what’s already happened, but they have a chance to change perception moving forward.