Howard Herman: Questions about a first loss


There are two undefeated teams left in men’s Division I college basketball, Syracuse and Wichita State. The Orange were three seconds away from getting that first loss on Wednesday night.

So, when you’re undefeated, is there ever a "right" time or a "wrong" time to get that first loss.

It all depends on who you talk to.

"There’s no good time to lose," Williams men’s coach Mike Maker said.

The Williams mentor is duly impressed with the job Jim Boeheim is doing at Syracuse this year.

"I think what Coach Boeheim has done at Syracuse is incredible," said Maker. "They stay true to who they are."

But when it comes to that first loss, Maker would rather not have it.

This year, Williams lost its opener to Southern Vermont and then won 11 straight. Under Maker, the Ephs opened the 2010-11 season 13-0 and finished 29-3, while the year before, the Ephs started 9-0 and won 21 straight games before losing in the NCAA Division III title game to Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Under current Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen, the Ephs opened 13-0 in 2007-08, 11-0 in 2003-04 and 14-0 in 2002-03. The loss that stopped the 14-game winning streak was the only one Williams suffered on its way to an NCAA Division III title.

"I don’t believe in good losses," said Maker. "We want to win every game we play. We treat every game as if it’s the most important game we’re going to play this season.

"You certainly don’t look in the rearview mirror. You always look forward. You stay process driven and the results take care of themselves."

Maker, who has been an assistant at places like West Virginia and Creighton, did say that it can be easier to get a team’s attention after a defeat -- no matter if it’s a good or bad one -- than after a win.

"It’s easier to get their attention after a loss. There’s no doubt about that," said the Williams coach. "Losses sting when you don’t lose often and we’ve been blessed to have a good amount of success because we have a lot of good players. When a loss occurs, there are lessons you can learn."

Pittsfield boys basketball coach Steve Ray agrees with Maker on one point, that it is easier to teach after a loss. The Generals had a doozy, losing to Wahconah last month for their first defeat of the season.

"We learned from that loss [to Wahconah]," he said. "We learned a lot about ourselves."

As to the bigger question, Ray said that wasn’t the worst time to pick up a loss.

"The worst time to get that first loss is in the [Western Massachusetts] tournament," he said. "No one likes to lose. We’d like it to come in the early or mid-season."

Ray also said that if Pittsfield had taken an undefeated record into Saturday’s game with Wahconah and lost, it might have hurt more with the Western Mass. seeding meeting only six days away.

"If we played the same game like we did at Wahconah, it would have left us with some doubt," said Ray.

Two coaches, two answers.

If Syracuse or Wichita State loses before the NCAA Tournament, we might just get our answer.

To reach Howard,or (413) 496-6253.On Twitter: @howardherman


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