North Carolina’s inexplicable 90-57 loss on Saturday to a Florida State team that had lost to two Ivy League teams this season has started raising some questions about this season:
—Q: Has a team that lost a regular-season game by 33 points, as preseason No. 1 North Carolina did, ever gone on to win a national championship?
A: No. The largest regular-season loss by an eventual champ was Illinois’ 27-point defeat of 1965 NCAA champion UCLA. Only six times in the 73 years of the NCAA Tournament has the champion lost a regular-season game by more than 20 points.
—Q: Why is it that Syracuse — a unanimous No. 1 in the coaches poll, the only unbeaten team from a major conference and the first-place team in what is often considered the nation’s best conference – seldom mentioned as a possible national champion?
A: The Orange has not beaten any teams currently ranked in the top 15, and its only wins over current top 25 teams – Florida and Marquette – came on Syracuse’s homecourt. Syracuse doesn’t play a ranked team on the road until it faces Louisville on Feb. 13, and the slumping Cardinals have lost five of their last seven games. It may be awhile before the Orange convinces people it is better than Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State and Ohio State.
— Q: Should Murray State be ranked in the top 10, as it is in the coaches’ poll this week?
A:The Racers are one of two unbeaten teams, but they have beaten no teams currently ranked in the top 25, and there are no more ranked teams on their schedule. Their RPI strength of schedule is ranked 218th in the country. The key for Murray State’s image will be its bracketbuster game on Feb. 17, 18 or 19. Bracketbuster matchups will be announced Jan. 29, and St. Mary’s could be the opponent for Murray State on the Racers’ home court.
—Q: Will the West Coast Conference have more NCAA Tournament teams than the Pac-12 for the first time ever?
A: It sure looks like it. Even with two more teams this season, the Pac-12 probably will get only two teams into the NCAA Tournament, and may get just one for the first time since 1978, when only 32 teams were in the NCAA Tournament. The WCC is a good bet to get three NCAA bids, with BYU, Gonzaga and St. Mary’s looking like tournament teams. If a capable team like Loyola Marymount should win the WCC tournament in Las Vegas, the WCC could have four NCAA teams.
—Q: Is it possible for a player who wasn’t even a starter as a freshman and sophomore to be national player of the year as a junior?
A: It is. Kansas junior Thomas Robinson probably would be the choice today, in his first year as a starter. He’s endured more than just his two years as a Jayhawks reserve. One year ago this month, he lost the three people who had raised him — both maternal grandparents and his single-parent mother – all of whom died within a three-week span.
Towson now owns of the longest Division I losing streak in history, and it may not end for a while.
Here are the pertinent numbers:
37 – Consecutive losses by Towson, which broke the previous Division I record of 34 by Sacramento State when it lost to on Jan. 7 to Old Dominion.
16 – Consecutive losing seasons for Towson, including this one.
51 – Consecutive losses from 2007 to 2009 by New Jersey Institute of Technology, a Division I school, although that streak does not count as a record because NJIT was transitioning from Division II.
207 – Consecutive NCAA losses by Division III Caltech from 1996 to 2007, the all-division record for consecutive defeats.
310 – Consecutive conferences losses by Caltech over a 26-year period before the Beavers beat Occidental by a point in their final game last season.
49.3 – Towson’s scoring average, which ranks 344th of 344 Division I teams.
9-3 – Record of the Towson football team in 2011, one year after going 1-10 – so there’s hope.