Expectations.  It’s a tricky word.  Mostly because it changes constantly.    For a sports team, expectations change for a myriad of reasons.  A star player joins the squad and expectations rise.  A new coach?  An injury?  Momentum?  So many ways for expectations to rise and fall following any team, and when you’re talking about young men in college, there are even more variables than ever, like a team’s maturity level and experience in big games.

Tonight the University of Rhode Island Rams start conference play in the Atlantic 10.  They have a 5-8 record thus far out of conference, in what has been called one of the toughest OOC schedules in the nation.  Like any young team, expectations for conference play hinge on so many factors:  which Nik will show up?  The slashing, rebounding, 3-point-hitting team leader?  Or the brick-throwing, disappearing, what-was-he-thinking player that pops up every few games? Will Aaman be healthy and aggressive?  Will Munford be a second-half only scoring machine?  Will Jordan Hare be the Freshman who stays away from contact or the windmill-jamming, shot-blocking prospect who shows flashes of greatness?

Ahhh, expectations.

At the start of the season, some would have been happy with total wins in the single digits, as long as the team showed signs of improvement, hustle, cohesion.  Many just wanted to see a team with an aggressive defense and a semblance of a structured offense.  Those modest expectations were in place as the team lost its first handful of games.  But then we wanted more, after a few victories and near-wins against decent teams.  Now, at 5-8, we talk of not only having the solid D, the offensive structure and the team discipline, now we can see having a better record than last season (not too hard of course), and possibly taking a few games in conference we are expected to lose.  Most of us even hope we are headed to the A10 tournament.  This, even before the transfers are eligible to play and the new recruits are in Kingston.

Expectations are a funny thing.  Now let’s go beat Richmond.