Other than hitting a baseball, there are few times in competition when a 40-percent success rate is cause for celebration.

Yet, in most sports in this state, a .400 win percentage is the standard to reach the state playoffs.

The perception is that by winning just 40 percent of games, that virtually "everyone" makes states. But this is not the case.

Don't get me wrong, winning eight of 20 games in certain conferences and for certain programs is a cakewalk. However, if a team thinks that it will simply "do enough" to make the state tournament, it may suffer the fate of the Fairfield Warde boys basketball team.

The Mustangs were clearly more talented than most of the teams they played but they sleepwalked through the regular season, ending with just seven wins and an early spring.

"We came here with a goal, and it was like losing a playoff game," Warde coach Ryan Swaller said after losing its must-win game at Danbury on Tuesday.

The Ludlowe girls basketball managed to improve and evolve from a youthful and inexperienced team to win five games. Despite working hard and improving, the Falcons discovered how hard it is to reach the state playoffs, failing to get there for the second consecutive season.

Notre Dame-Fairfield boys hockey also is coming to realize that the states are no "gimme." The Lancers started the year 1-9 but have rebounded, going 4-2-1 since then.

Still, the Lancers would need five points in their last three games --against Fermi, Hamden and Xavier -- to make the playoffs, which they haven't missed since 1995.

These may be the only teams in Fairfield this winter to miss states, but grinding through the regular season and even qualifying for the playoffs with eight wins does not afford teams many luxuries. Eight-win teams generally get the honor of travelling far, far from home to play some of the best teams in the state.

Naturally that doesn't typically end well.

However, what teams can gain from actually missing the state playoffs is the knowledge that working hard and taking games one at a time is essential. The hubris of assuming that making the states is a formality can come back and bite them in the behind.

For a team that is building with the states as a goal, just reaching the playoffs can be the ultimate sign of progress. If the Ludlowe girls reach the states next season, we will all see that the program is progressing.

In that case, a .400 win percentage would be something to celebrate.