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Euro 2012 and Xavier

No, Ashley!
No, Ashley!

My favorite team (England) went out of the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament last night. (For those of you not familiar, Euro is a tournament held every four years to determine the best international soccer team in Europe.) In typical England fashion, my boys suffered some key injuries, had a crisis over who should be the captain, played well enough to win the group stage, and then lost to a technically superior team via penalties in the quarterfinal.

If you are wondering what this has to do with Xavier basketball, I'm getting to that. You see, the thing about cheering for England is that you don't ever, ever expect them to win anything. Not since 1966 have the Three Lions won a tournament. Not since 1996 have the English even won a penalty shootout in a major tournament. England is almost always good enough to qualify, good enough to make it our of the group, and never nervy or good enough to go much farther. In short, England arrives, beats up on some minnows, and then loses to a better team. Two years later (for the World Cup) they do it again.

That brings us to Xavier; very nearly to polar opposite. Consider Lionel Chalmers leading The Run to Xavier's first Elite Eight in 2004. A team that finished third in their division of the Atlantic 10 and started 10-9 finished one bad call against Anthony Myles and three points short of the Final Four. Two years later, a Xavier team that went 8-8 in the A10 stormed through the conference tournament to again make the big dance.

More recently Xavier overcame back to back bad starts in the first two years of Chris Mack's tenure in order to make the tournament, even going so far as the Sweet 16 on the back of Jordan Crawford. Last year, no amount of media critique and derision could stop the Musketeers from again nearly making the Elite Eight.

All of those runs, though on the surface somewhat England-like, represent success. Xavier has not, until recently, been a major power. Xavier fans are currently content in making the Sweet 16 and consider the quarterfinals of basketball's major tournament a major accomplishment. Should this success continue though, things will begin to change.

The reason that England is always considered a disappointment in these tournaments is because they are always ranked very high before the tournament begins. Despite not having won anything in over 50 years, England is considered one of the top 10 footballing countries in the world. Xavier is beginning to approach this status in the world of college basketball. Xavier continually makes the top 25 in both polls and yet hasn't made the Final Four well, ever.

All this to say, a lot of what you get out of watching your team depends on what you expect from them. I'm currently happy watching England because I don't expect much from them. Xavier, on the other hand, I'm starting to expect a lot more from. At some point, those expectations begin to hamper enjoyment no matter how much you want them not to.