Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Memphis Vs. 1976 Indiana

The guys at Basketball Prospectus are debating the merits of Memphis' basketball season, given their status as the top team in a very poor conference. Should they go undefeated, how does that relate to the last team to go undefeated, the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, of the perenially strong Big Ten, who went 32-0.

Ken Pomeroy states that it would be, obviously, quite an achievement, and states that it is even more impressive given that "IU's tourney run was in a different era: five games with a field that wasn't as deep, due to different selection rules back then. Winning the tournament carrying a zero in the loss column in 2008 would be an amazing achievement to me...." http://basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=164

Ken Pomeroy is a giant in the field of basketball analysis, but perhaps not history.

Ken actually does not know what he is talking about here when discussing 1976 Indiana, something I would rarely say about someone I greatly admire.

Indiana faced one of the most difficult journeys to their title in 1976 in the history of basketball, far more difficult than anything today. Ken is thinking of UCLA, which often did have a cupcake path to the Final Four in the West back then. Ultimately, after its grueling five game path to the title, Indiana tied 1957 UNC's record by achieving the most wins in a season without a loss by a national champion.

Just take a look at who Indiana beat in 1976 to win the title. Because the regions were not seeded, Indiana had to face the number two team in the country, Marquette, in their regional final. Should I repeat that? Number one played number two in the nation in the Mideast regional final, not the Final Four or the Final game. I remember watching it, and yes, everyone in the country figured it was probably for the national title.

Indiana's region had, overall, depending on the poll, five of the top ten teams in the country, including a 25-3 North Carolina with four future Olympians and NBA players, and Alabama's best team probably ever, with Leon Douglas. Alabama gave Indiana its toughest test, with the Hoosiers edging the Crimson Tide.

In the Final Four, it got easier. Indiana only had to defeat defending titlist, UCLA and then a Michigan team that it had already faced and beaten twice (although this was something Georgetown could not pull off in 1985 against the similarly twice-defeated 'Nova).

I don't even like Indiana and I despise Bobby Knight, but at some point you have to give the Devil his due. Should Memphis go undefeated this year, it will not even be close to comparing to what Indiana did, after a grueling 18 game Big Ten schedule, followed by the incredibly loaded Mid East regional.