Saturday, March 16, 2013

16's against 1's

We always get more traffic this weekend during the year than any other time of year.   Mainly because fans are looking for information on the upcoming tournament or the bracket about to be released.   As the tournament has grown, and as seasons have gone by there are only a limited amount of things that can happen that haven't happened.  

Although we have not had a midmajor win a title, given VCU's, Butler's and George Mason's recent runs to the Final Four, really those schools have broken a sort of glass ceiling.   Among the limited number of things that could happen which would make everyone take notice would be one of our five "darling" schools making the tournament (see list to the right) -- Northwestern (13-19, 11th in the Big 10), The Citadel (8-22, 5th in the SoCon), Army (16-15, a narrow loss to eventual Patriot Champ Bucknell in the Patriot Tournament, but still not enough), St. Francis of New York (12-18, 8th in the NEC), and William and Mary (13-17, 8th in the CAA).    Again, these five have been fielding programs since 1948, yet none of them has ever been to the NCAA Tournament. 

Northwestern, likely limited by academic requirements in a rigorous power conference, just fired head coach Bill Carmody.   I'm not sure what Northwestern can do to compete in the Big 10.   I would love for Ken Pomeroy to analyze this on a per possession basis with some sort of recommendation.  Arguably, the head coaching position at Northwestern is the most challenging position in major college basketball.  Army and The Citadel, are limited by military restrictions.  William and Mary and St. Francis or New York, limited by ?    At any rate, none of these five will again be in the field which has now expanded to 68 teams.   So we can keep these events for next year. 

The second thing that could happen that would merit attention in the modern game would be the 16 seed over a 1 seed in the first round.   As the years have gone by, this seemingly probable event, I would argue has gotten more difficult to achieve.   Let's look at the history.   

Prior to 1985, there were only 48 teams in the tournament.  (Arguably, there were 'opening round' games similar to the play in game we now have, so the 1984 field actually featured 53 teams).   

Nonetheless, the top seeded teams essentially received a bye into the second round.   For example, in 1984, top seeds Kentucky, Georgetown, North Carolina, and DePaul were already in the round of 32.   This meant that for Morehead State, North Carolina A & T, Princeton, San Diego, Richmond, Rider, Northeastern, Long Island, Alcorn State or Houston Baptist to win the tournament they had to win seven games while any of the top 16 teams (1 through 4 seeds) only had to win five games.  

So in 1985, the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, making every team have to win six games to win the tournament.  This created the first year of the 16 seed vs. the 1 seed.    That year there were only 285 teams at the Division I level.   One might argue that given the limited number of scholarships available it was more likely that a 16 would beat a 1.  Or at least this factor would work toward the 16 seed's advantage and perhaps this is partially responsible for the results which are analyzed below.

So there have been 28 tournaments or 112 match ups featuring a 1 seed against a 16 seed since the advent of the 64 or present day 68 team field.   The closest match ups all occurred when there were fewer total number of teams playing division I basketball and when there was a 45 second shot clock with the exception of one game.   The closest were:

1.  (1) Michigan State 79  (16) Murray State 71  (overtime) --  1990 1st Round  --  At the time we didn't realize the magnitude of this game.  The Ohio Valley regular season and tournament champions were clearly under seeded but Michigan State entered the game with 6 losses and 3 non conference losses.  Murray State featured future NBA star Popeye Jones -- he scored 37 points in this game and grabbed 11 rebounds.  Jones played in the NBA for 11 seasons.  Additionally, Murray State's tradition and history made them a questionable 16 seed (See Link:  Murray State at A common theme of the 16's that almost pulled the upset is an NBA caliber talent having a big night. You won't often find a 16 seed with a future NBA player much less a future NBA star like Murray State had in Jones. 

2.  (1) Oklahoma 72  (16) East Tennessee State 71 -- 1989 1st Round  -- East Tennessee was hugely under seeded this was the start of a four year run of upsets by the Buccaneers as Les Robinson assembled a team that would later beat Arizona, Wake Forest, Tennessee, Memphis and N.C. State.  ETSU also featured a future NBA star in diminutive point guard-- Keith "Mister" Jennings and an NBA caliber center in Greg Dennis who was picked up by the Atlanta Hawks. 

3.  (1) Georgetown 50 (16) Princeton 49 -- 1989 1st Round  -- Probably the most famous of the 16's vs. the 1's because of Pete Carril's legendary offense.  Princeton entered the game as 23 point underdogs, but they also led the nation in defense that season.  Georgetown entered ranked #2 in the country.   Largely, a game dictated by Princeton's tempo in the 45 second shot clock era. 

4.  (1) Purdue 73 (16) Western Carolina 71 -- 1996 1st Round -- A game that doesn't receive the recognition of any of the above, but should because it is the exception that falls outside of the 45 second shot clock era.  WCU had two looks at shots in the closing seconds to win or tie.  Ohio State's Thad Matta was an assistant at Western Carolina.  Anquell McCollum (NBA talent) was a three time Southern Conference player of the year entering what would be his final game he scored 21 points in this game.  He is currently an assistant coach for the Catamounts.   Also, WCU featured the nation's leading three point percentage shooter in Joe Stafford who hit three three pointers in this game, but missed a shot at the end that would have tied the game.  Finally, there was a sense that Purdue was the weakest of the four number one seeds entering the tournament.   (See Link:  New York Times on the Western Carolina near upset of Purdue)

5.  (1) Michigan 59  (16) Farleigh Dickinson 55 -- 1985 1st Round -- A game dictated by Farleigh Dickinson's ability to control the tempo before the NCAA had even instituted a shot clock.  Essentially, Farliegh Dickinson may have had the actual best chance at winning given the rules of the game had not been changed and no team had even played as a 16 seed prior to them.   Given the complete lack of a shot clock, the 1985 tournament was easily the best opportunity for any 16 seed to beat a 1 seed.   

6.  (1)  Illinois 77 (16) McNeese State 71  -- 1989 1st Round  -- Michael Cutwright scored 27 points for the Cowboys, he was a second round draft choice of the Denver Nuggets.  Again, an NBA talent on an obscure team that had a huge night. 

7.  (1)  Oklahoma 77  (16) Towson 68 -- 1990 1st Round --  Towson entered the game a 27 point underdog.  Kurk Lee of Towson scored 30 points he also spent one year in the NBA.  Again an NBA talent with a huge night in the 45 second shot clock era.    

8.  (1) North Carolina 82  (16) Fairfield 74 -- 1997 1st Round  -- Fairfield led at halftime after making 6 of 11 three point attempts.   The Stags entered the game with a losing record (11-18).  Maybe the most unexplainable of any of the eight games in the list. 

Most of these games were decades ago.  Why do 1989 and 1990 appear so frequently?  There were 287 schools playing division I basketball in 1989.  1990 featured another of our near upsets and there were 292 that year.  Secondly, the 45 second shot clock had not been around for very long.  Teams seemed to change the way they played in the tournament and it was more difficult for the one seed to adapt. 

More importantly, was clearly the advent of the shot clock.   The 45 second shot clock was first introduced in 1986.  In 1994, it dropped to 35 seconds.    Increasing the number of possessions and ultimately the number of shot attempts, placing a premium on teams getting shots quicker.     Essentially, forcing the less talented teams to settle for field goal attempts they would not have tried only a couple of seasons earlier often by players other than their "NBA Talented player", we have noted those players where appropriate above. 

The Common Themes:
There was a window during the 1986 to 1993 period where the 45 second shot clock clearly allowed 16 seeds a better opportunity at controlling the tempo of the game and I would argue allowing their NBA type players (Lee at Towson, Cutwright at McNeese State, McCollum at Western Carolina, and Jennings at ETSU) longer opportunities for their teams to find or create shot opportunities for them or for them to find shot opportunities for teammates.  Essentially, this allowed these teams better opportunities.   This era gave us six of the closest opportunities for a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed.   I would also point out that McNeese State, East Tennessee, Western Carolina and Murray State were southern schools -- their athleticism playing a factor in keeping them in the games. 

The increase to 68 teams likely gives a slightly better chance at a 16 beating a 1 than three years ago  as now two of the 16 seeds will have won a play in game just to get the opportunity to play a 1 seed.  Meaning (1) they are better because they won one more game and (2) they have had an opportunity to play before having to play into the tournament field and perhaps giving them fewer "jitters" in their second game. 

What to Look For:
Yet, the shot clock issue is still controlling factor in the modern tournament making it more difficult for the 16 seed to upend a 1 seed.  To summarize, when the brackets are released the following factors appear to be necessary for a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed and even then it's a long shot:

1.  An NBA caliber player
2.  A weak 1 seed.  The 1996 (35 second shot clock and still out best sample) near win by WCU was as much about Purdue as it was WCU.
3.  An obscure southern or city school (see Towson in  1990) with athleticism.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

More Gonzaga . . .

Previously, we looked at the number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament from non power conferences (See link:  Gonzaga a Potential Number 1 Seed).  However, Gonzaga's continued winning has vaulted the discussion even further --  focusing on whether Monday's major polls may show the Zags as the number one team in the country.   As we discussed with regard to the number one seed what makes this interesting is Gonzaga's status as being a major conference outsider. 

Since 1966, which I always classify as the start of "major college basketball" we have seen a few non power conference teams reach number one in the Associated Press poll.  Here is the list with the year:

1966:   none
1967:   none
1968:   none
1969:   none
1970:   none
1971:   Marquette (January 26 and February 2)  -- Marquette didn't lose, but UCLA took over #1
1972:   none
1973:   none
1974:   Notre Dame (January 22) -- Notre Dame was an independent.
1975:   none
1976:   none
1977:   San Francisco  (January 4 through March 1) -- has come up a lot as this was the last time
             a West Coast Conference team reached number one. 
1978:   Marquette  (February 1)
1979:   Notre Dame (January 16 through Feb. 6);  Indiana State (Feb 13, Feb. 27, and March 6)
1980:   DePaul  (January 15 through February 26th)
1981:   DePaul  (December 2 through January 6 and March 10)
1982:   none
1983:   Memphis (January 11); UNLV (Feb. 15 and Feb. 22)
1984:   none
1985:   none
1986:   none
1987:   UNLV (December 9 through January 13 and February 3 through March 3)
1988:   Temple  (February 16 through March 8)
1989:   none
1990:   UNLV  (preseason #1)
1991:   UNLV   (November 20 through March 5th) -- UNLV season long #1, lost in NCAA Semi
1992:   none
1993:   none
1994:   none
1995:   UMass (January 9th through January 30th)
1996:   UMass (December 26th through February 19th and March 12)
1997:   Cincinnati (November 12 through November 26th)
1998:   none
1999:   none
2000:   Cincinnati (November 16 through December 14 and January 18th through February 15 and
             March 7)
2001:    none
2002:    none
2003:    none
2004:    St. Joseph's (March 9)
2005:    none
2006:    none
2007:    none
2008:    Memphis (January 21 through February 18)
2009:    none
2010:    none
2011:    none
2012:    none

Essentially, we can see how hard and how special the season has to be for any team outside of one of the power conference to reach the top ranking.  In more recent seasons, as the number of schools at the division I level has increased arguably, the odds of one of them reaching the top spot should be greater as the number of power conference teams has not increased proportionately.  

So in 1966 there were 53 schools in the AAWU (present Pac 12), ACC, Big Eight, Big Ten, SEC and SWC (present Big 12), what I would classify as "power conferences", but only 194 total schools playing at the division I level, this leaves  141/194 = 72% of the schools not in power conferences.   Current ratio is 272/347 = 78% of the schools are not in power conferences.   This is including the Big East, ACC, Pac 12, Big East, Big 12, SEC and Big 10 as the modern "power conferences".  

Yet, as the numbers show above, it has gotten more difficult for non power conference team to reach the top ranking as essentially, in the last decade, we have only seen Memphis and St. Joseph's reach the top spot.  Prior to that, Cincinnati, UMass and UNLV accomplished the task from 1990 to 2000.

The late 70's and early 80's were probably the heyday of non power conference basketball as San Francisco, DePaul, Marquette, Indiana State, Notre Dame, UNLV and Memphis all made some sort of run to the top spot.  

In 1979, 210 of the 264 total division I teams were from non power conferences (79%).  Very similar to today's ratio and this also likely contributed to the run of success by non power conference programs during this period.   More importantly during that time period and in the 1979 season in particular, without the the politics of the BCS and college football running college basketball 69 teams played as independents including much of what became the Big East only a season later -- such as major power programs like Georgetown, Syracuse, DePaul, Notre Dame, UNLV, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Marquette, and South Carolina.  With these type of programs it's obvious why non power conference teams made major poll ascents in the late 1970's.   However, as college football television dollars have begun to control college basketball it has become even more difficult for a run similar to what St. Joseph's and UMass made in the recent past and Gonzaga is now making.   

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fathers and Sons

As I make my way across high school gyms across the Rocky Mountain Region, I find a common theme.   The most frequent fan, the person that I most often see in the gymnasium is the parent.  The father or mother watching their son or daughter.   I often see people I have know for over twenty years now, people that I once played these same games against who are now the parents of a son or daughter that now plays in the same high schools that they played.  

Often, they are friends, often I have not seen them since the last time I played against them.  Having been out of the state of Wyoming for over ten years often they don't know my name, but I can remember them.   They are parents that yell at me now when I miss a call.  Often they are now coaching their son or daughter.   Sometimes, I'll have done so many games involving their son or daughter that they will recognize me from officiating.   This was true in Utah, it was true in Washington State and now it is true in Wyoming.

What I notice is the central theme -- that basketball, like baseball and like football is a game passed from generation to generation.  This is demonstrated at all levels of basketball from when you watch Larry Nance Sr. watching his son Larry Nance Jr. play for the University of Wyoming.  When the camera pans on former NBA star Dell Curry watching his son Stephon star for the Golden State Warriors or his other son Seth playing at Duke.   It's there when Mike Dunleavy is watching son Mike Dunleavy Jr. playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.   It's demonstrated when those fathers that once played high school basketball in Big Piney, Mountain View and Evanston are now yelling at me for the calls that I make against their sons or daughters.   Basketball is a family game. 

As a lifelong subscriber to Sports Illustrated, when Rick Reilly was the author of "The Point After" on the last page of each issue, I would turn to read the piece first.  It usually touched on something deeper than a score or a story.  Reilly had (and still has as an ESPN columnist) a gift for finding a chord and hitting it when he wrote.   There was an issue, maybe five years ago that featured a republished piece that he had written.  It was regarding "Nets".  Not the "New Jersey Nets" or even basketball "nets,"  but SI ran Reilly's (here is a link:  Life of Reilly -- Mosquito Nets ) column on the need for malaria mosquito nets in Africa multiple times.  The article  is exactly what Reilly does well.

The troubling part about the piece wasn't how powerful it was, but that Reilly later republished this same article in a later edition.   In an email I wrote to the esteemed columnist and questioned his dedication to his craft.  After all I'd paid for 52 issues wasn't I entitled to 52 new columns from Rick Reilly every year?  

Besides responding that he'd been on vacation Reilly responded that this piece had more meaning and had not nor could it ever be read enough.    With that thought, with the thought of Gonzaga's and David Stockton's role on the current Gonzaga team and the thoughts regarding fathers, mothers, sons and daughters from above I'm republishing something I wrote long ago regarding these relationships and the game which this blog touches on.   Similar to how Reilly felt about his piece on mosquito nets to prevent malaria, I felt this piece was not read enough when I first wrote it on January 8, 2008, it was titled Point Guard then, but perhaps a better title given what I point out above is Fathers and Sons.

It is roughly sixteen blocks west and eighteen blocks north from Behnken Field House where the Westminster Griffins play their home basketball games to the intersection of 300 West (John Stockton Boulevard) and South Temple where the statue of John Stockton is prominently displayed in Salt Lake City.

It is impossible to be a basketball fan and attend a game involving the Westminster Griffins of the Frontier Conference of the NAIA level, see Stockton's son's name Michael Stockton in the program and not think of the greatest point guard that ever played. The Griffins gym is smaller than most high school gyms in Salt Lake City. In spite of this fact my thoughts are on Stockton's brilliant career as I watch his son and the rest of Griffins warm up.

In the realms of college basketball, the entire concept of the point guard was a new and developing one. I had heard the phrase used in my first summer at Camp Wahoo, but the necessity of having a guard who directed the offense and distributed the ball to the big men and the shooting guard (also a new concept) was gradually spreading around the theorists and innovators who created new wrinkles in offensive patterns and strategies.

Conroy on the advent of the point guard position.

I am still a bit surprised when I look up and see the greatest point guard that ever lived walking up the bleachers next to me. Stockton's first NBA coach Frank Layden advised him to not change the way he was when he first entered the league. That probably holds true even after he has left the league. Stockton's admonishment and desire to not be bothered is so well respected at Behnken Field House that aside from only a couple of young kids who ask for autographs at halftime he is completely anonymous as he sits only two rows away from me. This is a player that never missed the playoffs during his nineteen year NBA career. This is a player who has spent the longest time with one franchise in NBA history, right here in Salt Lake City. Stockton retired as the all time steals and assist leader. In seventeen of his nineteen season Stockton played in every single game. Additionally, Stockton is the only NBA player former UCLA coach John Wooden has said he would pay to see play. Yet, tonight, he has somehow managed to escape all that - tonight, he is a father watching is son.

My philosophy of life was caught up with what I believed were the responsibilities of a point guard -- the importance of outhustling your opponent, watching for the unexpected, moving teammates to their proper spots on the floor, barking orders and calling the plays, exhorting and inspiring your team, and never quitting until the buzzer has sounded.
Conroy, who like Stockton attended Gonzaga Prep, albeit in different locations, could never play the position as well as Stockton, but his philosophy of the position is the same.

The Griffins play at the NAIA level, they enter this game against Lewis-Clark with a record of 10-2 -- it is the Frontier Conference opener for both teams. Westminster is rated 12th in the country slightly ahead of Wiley College. The same Wiley College that Denzel Washington coached to victory against Harvard in the movie the Great Debaters -- no word yet on whether either Wiley's basketball team or debate team has won today.

Michael Stockton, is left handed, he wears number 20, he plays point guard like Conroy and Stockton, but only briefly in the first half and in spite of the fact that his father's number is retired in the rafters only 38 blocks from here Michael gets called for a questionable travel midway through the first half. He does hit one of two free throws moments later.
Former Utah point guard Tommy Connor coaches the Griffins and both he and Lewis-Clark coach Tim Walker are as animated as any division I coach. There are no cheerleaders or drill teams at this level. This is all about the game and it is as competitive as any game I will watch this season. It goes into overtime. The crowd, Stockton included, spends most of the last five minutes of regulation and the overtime period standing. In the end, Westminster's point guard Danny Reeder is fouled with .8 seconds remaining and the Griffins down by a point. Reeder misses both free throws and Lewis-Clark wins by a point.

On the drive home, my father critiqued every aspect of my game, slashing the air with his index finger to emphasize his points as he listed my shortcomings.
Pat Conroy.

Hopefully, John Stockton is a little kinder to Michael than the Great Santini was to his son.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Most NCAA Tournament Appearances

This is a bit over done, but given the time of year and what everyone is talking about is worthwhile analysis.   Although, we always show the five that have never made the tournament on this blog (see upper right hand corner).  Just to remind you they are Army, The Citadel, St. Francis of New York, William and Mary and Northwestern.   It doesn't look like any of these schools will break their droughts this year either.  

With the tournament just around the corner, I thought it might be interesting to just list what schools have been in the NCAA Tournament the most.  Hopefully, I have not missed a school and it gets a little confusing at the end as there are several teams with 20 to 22 appearances that may have made it the last couple of years when I had to manually tabulate each school.   For purposes of this list even vacated appearances are counted.   (IE:  probation or scandal caused the NCAA to require the school to vacate an appearance it previously made). 

1.    Kentucky                  53
2.    Kansas                      44
3.    UCLA                       44
4.    North Carolina          43
5.    Louisville                   38
6.    Duke                         36
6.    Indiana                      36
8.    Villanova                  32
8.    Notre Dame              32
10     UConn                      31 
11.  Marquette                 30
11.  Temple                     30
11.   Texas                       30
14.   Illinois                     29
14.   Arizona                    29
14.   Arkansas                  29
17.   St. John's                  28   (and 27 NIT appearances)
17.   Ohio State                28
17.   Georgetown             28
20.   Utah                         27
20.   BYU                        27
22.   Oklahoma                26
22.   Cincinnati                26 
24.   Kansas State            26
25.   Oklahoma State       24
26.   Princeton                 23
26.   Memphis                 23
26.   Maryland                 23

The first seven are really no surprise.   Villanova appears high and for those that don't know their history might be surprised.   Temple and Marquette might be surprises also given their midmajor status.   Also, note that besides UCLA and Arizona, none of the Pac-12's long time member schools (discounting Utah as  new member) appear (Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC or Washington State) all of which have storied traditions, just not NCAA Tournament tradition. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gonzaga a Potential 1 Seed

This week’s  AP and USA Today Polls find  Gonzaga University as the number 6 ranked team in the country.   Kenpom has the Zags at #9.  The BPI ratings have Gonzaga at #9 while the RPI has the Zags at 12.   Not great numbers, but Gonzaga has only two losses, to Illinois and at Butler.  The Zags are going to likely end up in the discussion to be a #1 seed if they can win out in the West Coast Conference. 
If Gonzaga keeps winning and winds up as a 1 seed it will follow some exceptional “midmajor” teams that achieved this feat.   Here is a list of schools that reached a number 1 seed as a midmajor since the committee began seeding teams in 1979.

Year                         Team                      Seed                     League                                     Result
1979                        Indiana State        1 Midwest           Missouri Valley                   Lost in NCAA Final
1980                        DePaul                   1 West                  Independent                       Lost in 2nd Round
1981                        DePaul                   1 Mideast             Independent                       Lost in 2nd Round
1982                        DePaul                   1 Midwest            Independent                        Lost in 2nd Round
1984                        DePaul                   1 Midwest             Independent                        Lost Regional Semi
1987                       UNLV                       1 West                   Big West                               Lost in NCAA Semi
1988                       Temple                    1 East                    Atlantic 10                           Lost in Regional Final
1990                       UNLV                        1 West                  Big West                                Won NCAA Tourney
1991                       UNLV                        1 West                  Big West                                Lost in NCAA Semi
1996                      UMass                       1 East                   Atlantic 10                              Lost in NCAA Semi
2002                      Cinncinnati               1 West                 Conference USA                    Lost in 2nd Round

2004                      St Joseph’s               1 East                    Atlantic 10                           Lost in Regional Final

2006                      Memphis                   1 West                Conference USA                  Lost in Regional Final
2008                      Memphis                   1 South               Conference USA                 Lost in NCAA Final
DePaul’s four number one seeds were done while it played as an independent.  UNLV received a number one seed three times out of the Big West Conference. 

What makes Gonzaga’s rise to potential number 1 seed unusual is that they are doing it outside of the Atlantic 10 or Conference USA where St. Joe’s, Temple, and Cincinnati came from.  They aren’t UNLV or Memphis, with large NBA type arenas and metro areas that support the program the way some cities embrace an NBA team -- making Gonzaga's potential top seed, as a small Catholic school, in Spokane, Washington  more of a true aberration than anything the NCAA tournament has seen since Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in 1979. 





Saturday, January 26, 2013

Most Played Rivalries

Last weekend Oregon beat Washington 81-76 with the Ducks playing at the Matthew Knight Center.  Last Wednesday Oregon beat Washington State 74-66.  Also on Wednesday, Oregon State beat Washington State 68-61.   On Saturday Oregon State lost to Washington State 71-68.  All of these games added to some of the most played rivalries in the history of college basketball.  

Sometime over the next month, ESPN will play up "rivalry week."  Rivalry week will feature games played from whatever it seems ESPN has deemed "rivalries."  Yet, the most played rivalries are almost exclusively in an area and region that ESPN rarely covers.  

Duke and North Carolina will receive an extensive amount of coverage when they meet.   However, North Carolina and Duke have played only  234 times entering this season and they did not first meet until January 24, 1920, while the ACC was not actually formed until 1956, limiting the number of conference match ups that they had.  North Carolina leads the all time series 132 to 102.  However, this does not even place the rivalry in the top 10 most played. 

Easily the most played college basketball rivalry is the Oregon/Oregon State basketball version of "the Civil War".    In fact, the Pacific Northwest dominates the list of the most played rivalries with seven of the top ten featuring schools from the region.   The Oregon/Oregon State rivalry started when the teams first met on January 24, 1902 when Oregon State beat Oregon 32-2.  Since then they have played at least one time every year, with Oregon State holding a 184-153 advantage.   The series primarily featured two conference match ups annually, however, in 1913-14 they played six times and in 1953-54 and 1959-60 the schools met five times.  They played four times in a season multiple times, most recently in 1975-76, during that season, Oregon State won a game played on December 30, 1976 which was ultimately forfeited back to Oregon. 

The Far West Classic, played from 1959 to 1990, featured eight teams and also increased the number of match ups the schools had with the Beavers and Ducks playing an additional time often at a neutral arena in Portland, Oregon.  In 1991 the Far West Classic was not played, however, it returned in 1992 and in '92, '93, '95, and '96 the Beavers and Ducks played an additional third time in this tournament.  (Including the two Pac 8, Pac 10 or now Pac 12 Conference match ups.)   However, 1996 was the last year for this event.  Oregon and Oregon State have played in the following locations:  Portland, Oregon (10 times), Salem, Oregon for the Pacific Coast Northern Division Playoff Championship game and of course Corvalis and Eugene multiple times.  

It is interesting to note that in the state of Indiana, often cited home of college basketball,  IU has only played Purdue University 198 times with Purdue holding a 112-86 advantage, in spite of the fact that these schools first met in 1901. 

Previously, we wrote a little about the BYU/Utah rivalry.  (Here is a link to that article including Conroy's account of his rivalries with VMI (   Interesting to note, however, that the Citadel's most played rival is Furman whom they have met 196 times entering this season.

The most played rivalries are (again number of games entering the 2012-13 season):

1. Oregon State vs. Oregon,  184-153 (337 times) Oregon State advantage
2. Oregon vs. Washington,   187-105  (292 times) Washington advantage
3. Oregon State vs. Washington, 154-137 (291 times)  Washington advantage 
4. Oregon State. vs. Washington State,   163-123 (286 times) Oregon State advantage
5.  Montana vs. Montana State,   147-136  (283 times) Montana State advantage, play again on March 2. 
5. Oregon vs. Washington State, 160-123 (283 times) Oregon advantage
7. Washington vs. Washington State, 174-100 (274 times) Washington advantage
7. Kansas vs. Kansas State,  183-91 (274 times) Kansas advantage
9.  Kansas vs. Missouri   172-95 (267 times) Kansas advantage not playing this year and no longer a conference game. 
10.  Cal vs. Stanford  143-114 (257 times) Cal leads
11.  Utah vs. BYU 127-125  (252 times)   BYU leads, also no longer a conference match up.

There are certainly other notable rivalries not on this list, and some observers might be surprised as to the number of times they have played (results following are only through 2009 season)  Mississippi and Mississippi State (Miss. State leads 134-105) and  New Mexico with a 108-94 series lead over NMSU. 

Some of the midmajors have storied traditions, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State is interesting because Sam Houston State shows SFA with a 91-90 series lead while SFA shows the lead as 98-88.  Others of note include Santa Clara and Saint Mary's (Santa Clara with a 131-74 advantage),  Murray State and Austin Peay (Murray with a 69-40 series advantage), Penn with a 122-98 advantage over Princeton and Niagara and Canisius (Niagara with a 94-72 series edge).

Boston College and Holy Cross is also of special note as Holy Cross actually leads the series.  After discontinuing it's program in 1909, BC actually helped revive the Holy Cross program.   However,  thanks partially  to legendary Bob Cousy and its domination during the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's Holy Cross leads the rivalry 58-54 (including the 2012 BC win).  However, the rivalry was discontinued in 2006, but renewed in 2010 with Boston College winning the first match up of the renewed Boston rivalry and the most recent one in 2012. 

Enjoy rivalry week when it comes, but keep in mind that these are often just games and schools that ESPN has marketed as rivalries.  The true rivalries started long before this. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Oldest College Basketball Arenas

The Gonzaga/Butler game on Saturday night brought extensive attention to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse as the ESPN crew played up the age, history and tradition of the facility.  Butler proceeded to win a nail biter.  However, ESPN left us in the dark as to other arenas, saying only that Hinkle was the 6th oldest arena in the country.   Leaving the true basketball purist to wonder what the five older ones were?  

The great thing about college basketball is that the older arenas have taken on an historic place rivaled only by major league baseball stadiums -- Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.  Universities and the communities around them have taken to refurbishing or remodeling the classic historic ones as opposed to opening new ones. 

Oregon shutdown its Mac Court only two years ago, facing extreme opposition and in fact tried to replicate its historic Mac Court when it replaced the 84 year old facility in 2011 with Matthew Knight Arena.  What every true Duck and college basketball purist knows is that you can't reproduce the history and tradition that these facilities have. sat down and did the homework.  Compiling the following list showing the gym/arena name, the year that it opened and the capacity as well as a significant or historic note where appropriate. 

1.  Rose Hill Gym, Fordham, 1925, Fordham University capacity of 3,470 -- Hosted the final high school game of Lew Alcinder's (Kareem Abdul Jabaar)  career. 

2.  The Palestra, January 1, 1927, University of Pennsylvania capacity of 8,722. -- The home of the Big 5 and "The Cathedral of College Basketball."  We have talked about the Palestra before.  (Link:

3.  Hec Edmundson Pavillion, 1927, University of Washington, capacity of 10,000.  Washington has the most wins of any school in its existing arena going into this season.  Now 85 years old, the Husky basketball team started playing there, in 1927.  "Hec Ed" hosted the 1949 (Kentucky wins title) and 1952 (Kansas coached by Phog Allen victorious) Final Fours.  The largest attendance at "Hec Ed", however, was the 1957 semifinals of the Washington State High School basketball tournament when 12,961 fans sold out "Hec Ed".  What is great about this is that at no point was the capacity of "Hec Ed" ever close to 12,961!    "Hec Ed's"most memorable game, however, may have been Seattle University's 1954 victory over the Harlem Globetrotters   (See link from this blog:

4.  Williams Arena, 1928, University of Minnesota, capacity of 14,625.  From 1950 to 1971, Williams Arena  had the largest seating capacity of any arena in the country. BYU's Marriott Center opened in 1971 and toped Williams.   In  1950, Williams was split to house both a hockey arena and a basketball arena in separate sections of the facility.   The unusual feature of Williams is the raised court, which puts the first row and fans sitting in it below court level.  Hinkle Fieldhouse and Memorial Gymnasium at Vanderbilt are the only two other college arenas with this feature.  Williams hosted the 1951 Final Four (Bill Spivey and Adolph Rupp lead Kentucky past Kansas State) and the 1958 and 1966 Frozen Four. 

5.  Hinkle Fieldhouse, 1928, Butler University, Capacity of 10,000.  The largest basketball arena in the country when it was constructed, Hinkle hosted the Indiana High School State Championships from 1928 (its construction date) to 1971.  Butler University still plays on the original floor.   In 1968 Hinkle hosted the East/West High School All Star game where Pete Maravich outplayed Indiana legend Rick Mount and of course Hinkle was where Milan's legendary Indiana State High School Basketball Championship took place -- which became the version of the movie "Hoosiers". 

6.  Payne Whitney Gym, John J. Lee Amphitheatre, Yale University 1932, capacity of 2,532.  Houses a swimming pool on in one wing and the basketball arena on the other.   Also features facilities for crew, gymnastics, fencing and four indoor basketball courts.  .

7.  Fogelman Arena, 1933, Tulane University, Capacity 3,600.  Opened December 15, 1933 when Tulane beat Southwestern Louisiana 38-34.  On February 11, 1966, Pete Maravich set a still standing building record by scoring 66 points.  Tulane, however, still won  the game 110-96.  Tulane did move some of its games to the Superdome, but after renovations returned a full slate of home games to Fogelman Arena. 

8.  Gallagher Iba Arena, 1938,  Oklahoma State University.  Capacity is 13,611  -- First game featured Phog Allen's Kansas Jayhawks against Hank Iba's Cowboys, Iba's squad won 21-15.  Called the Madison Square Garden of the Plains when it originally opened, Oklahoma State continues to play on the original maple floor from 1938. 

9.  McCalister Fieldhouse (originally The Citadal Armory), opened in 1939, The Citadel, capacity 6000, renovated in 1989, farthest seat is only 24 rows from court level.  The arena where Conroy played.  The same arena where on February 13, 1967, Conroy and The Citadel played "in one of the most exciting games I'd ever seen.  I watched the boys on both teams honor the character and nature of their schools by playing a game that glitters in remembrance."   Conroy's words on the epic contest.  In this game, Pat Conroy, as The Citadel's team captain led the Cadets past VMI in a four overtimes.

I pump-faked, and put the basketball high off the backboard with an underhand scoop.  I was on the ground when I saw the ball slip through the net.  The Armory approached meltdown.  The score was 72-70....I looked out to the Corps and I drank in their applause through the pores of my skin as I tried to memorize how I felt as the happiest, most fabulous moment of my life.  I sank the free throw.  In what seemed like seconds later, the buzzer sounded to end what is still the longest basketball game in Southern Conference history.  We won, 73-70.

Conroy on his game winner at The Armory. 

10.  Cameron Indoor Fieldhouse, Duke University, 1940, capacity 9,314, dedicated January 6, 1940, at the time Cameron was the largest basketball facility south of The Palestra.  In fact the same architectural firm that designed The Palestra designed Cameron.

It's the intimacy of the arena, the unique seating arrangement that puts the wildest fans right down on the floor with the players. It's the legends that were made there, the feeling of history being made with every game. And it's something more than either of these, something indescribable that comes from the building itself. No one who has experienced it will ever forget it.   From the Duke University website on Cameron Indoor Arena. 

There is obviously more on Cameron, see:   "Home Court - Fifty Years of Cameron Indoor Stadium" by Hazel Landwehr. 

Those are the top 10, however, like any other list, there is a subjectivity to it as the above arenas feature teams that have played in the facilities consecutively from their inception. 

The four arena's below would all rank high on the list however, their basketball programs did not start playing in these facilities until much later.   So the building might actually be older than those facilities shown above, but the school/university has not played in the building as long as those listed above.   Accordingly, they don't appear on the list above, however some have an extensive tradition and history that rivals anything on the list.

Lundholm Gymnasium,  1930, New Hampshire, capacity of 3,000.  Originally, UNH played in the Field House, Lundholm Gym was added as a component of the Field House and was opened in 1960. So technically Lundholm has not been the homecourt of New Hampshire since 1930, only since 1960. 

Matthews Arena, opened in 1910, Northeastern University.   Capacity 6,000.  Formerly, Boston Arena, technically, it could be argued that this is actually the "oldest" active arena and I'm certain that the ESPN research crew was counting Matthews when it stated the Hinkle was the 6th oldest active arena.  However, Northeastern didn't actually start playing here in the facility until 1981 and even played at Solomon Court at the Cabot Center from 1997 through 2005.  Matthews was the original home court of both the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.  Matthews also was the home arena for The Beanpot Tournament and hockey teams of Boston University, Boston College, MIT, Northeastern, and Tufts and is still the oldest indoor hockey arena in the world.

Rod Laviates Basketball Pavillion at Briggs Athletic Center, 1926, Harvard University.  Did not become a basketball facility in November 26th 1982 when the men's and women's programs began playing games here.  Capacity is 2,195.

Municipal Arena, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1936, capacity is 9,827; UMKC has fielded a basketball team since 1969 so technically not in use as a college arena since 1936, however, the history of Municipal Arena rivals that of any arena in the country.  It was opened in 1936 and has a storied basketball history having hosted the NAIA Tournament from 1937 to 1975 as well as the three of first four Final Fours (1940 Indiana over Kansas), (1941 Wisconsin over Washington State) and (1942 Stanford over Dartmouth).  Kansas City itself is home to the college basketball hall of fame. 

Other arenas.  There is a large gap between these 14 and the next "wave".  Not until 1950 do we see arenas built that are still in use.   Likely due to World War II, when most programs did not field teams or only fielded teams on a limited basis.   The next series would include, although not entirely complete:  Elon College Alumni Gym, 1950, featuring all chair back seating; Niagara University Gallagher Center, 1949; Gill Coliseum, Oregon State, 1949, and St. Joe's Memorial Fieldhouse (present day Michael J. Hagan Arena), opened in 1949.  St. Joe's played in the Palestra prior to this period.   

Thursday, January 10, 2013


The title and home page of this blog is "My Losing Season" stolen from Pat Conroy's account of  the Citadel's 1966-67 season when he served as the team's point guard.   And while we consistently write about the College of Southern Idaho and its national championship (See Link:, the longest winning streak's to start a season at the division I college level (See Link: , the "Cinderellas" in the NCAA Tournament like Davidson and Butler (See Link:,  and the high schools with the most state championships we cannot ignore the teams that lose.   Every game has both a winner and loser.   It's the loser that nobody writes about and that's Conroy's and one of the main points of this blog. 

For in every game that their is a team that we call a winner there is a losing team.  What benefit can they take from these contests? 

Winning makes you think you'll always get the girl, land the job, deposit the million dollar check, win the promotion, and you grow accustomed to a life of answered prayers. . . Loss is fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted but clear-eyed in it understanding that life is more dilemma than game and more trial than free pass.  My acquaintance with loss has sustained me during the stormy passages of my life when the pink slips came through the door, when the checks bounced at the bank, when I told my small children I was leaving their mother, when the despair caught up with me, when the dreams of suicide began feeling like love songs of release.  It sustained me when my mother lay dying of leukemia . . .(Pat Conroy)

Yesterday, I drove six hours round trip in a car with a pair of other officals and officiated two games involving Pinedale High School in Pinedale, Wyoming -- a basketball wasteland.   The Wranglers boys team is 0-9 this year.  A year ago they won one game, going 1-24.   Over the past three years the Wranglers have a combined record of 1-57 with a sole victory against Jackson Hole in January of last year.  There have been three coaches during those three seasons (all coaches that I would argue understand the game).   This losing would not be so troublesome except for the fact that Pinedale High School was the zenith of my playing ability, it's where I formed relationships with many of the people I still call friends and it's where I learned to love the game of basketball.  I am an alum of the school, the same way Pat Conroy is an alum of The Citadel, so I understand the basketball program and the town better than most anyone.   When I officiate their contests against Star Valley, there is nothing that I can do (nor would I try) to impact the result of their game against Wyoming's top 3A rated team (Star Valley) on January 5th.

We have addressed the phenomenal difficulties of winning basketball games in ski towns previously (see link on Park City High School:   Pinedale, Wyoming is perhaps even more challenged.  

First, three years ago a new ownership group took over the ski area that sits above town, and although not Park City, they brought a new found enthusiasm to the sport in a town that has only 2500 residents.   ( 

Besides the state of the art gym that the Wranglers play in, the natural gas boom that hit the area ten years ago has provided dollars to the school district and county that have been used to produce other activites that take away a youths interest in basketball.  There is an indoor hockey arena (Pinedale Glaciers link:   which provides free ice time to local high school and junior high players (I doubt you will find this anywhere else in the continental United States), an aquatic center with an Olympic size swimming pool (See link for aquatic center information:, a state of the art "wrestling room", and a new theatre for drama performances   (Pinedale Fine Arts:  

Finally, Pinedale, Wyoming features some of the best summer activities in the country that take more time away from any potential interest in basketball.  The neighboring Wind River Mountains provide fishing, hunting and climbing opportunities that have produced some of the top outdoorsman in the country.   The National Outdoorleadership School bases itself out of Lander, but the Wind Rivers are its real home.  (See link to sign up:  The world's top rock climber honed his skills while living in Pinedale ( 

This is only complicated the fact that Pinedale High School features one of the lowest enrollments of any school classified as 3A by the Wyoming High School Activities Association (with approximately 250 students).  By comparison, Saturday's opponent -- Star Valley features one of the largest enrollments at the 3A level, with over 650 high school students.

On this Saturday both the jayvee and varsity boys' games as well as the varsity girl's game implement Wyoming's new 40 point rule where if a team gets ahead by 40 points a running clock is utilized.    Arguably, this only adds insult to the injury as midway through the third quarter, Star Valley's public address announcer blares out that "Wyoming has instituted a new rule with a running clock when a team gets ahead by 40 points."   As if the Pinedale players and fans needed a public declaration of their struggles. 

As I write this, at this same time, Pat Conroy's alma mater, The Citadel, finds itself ranked 345th out of the 346 teams that play division I basketball ( with its lone Division I victory coming against equally militarily challenged VMI in its opening game.    We have previously addressed the challenges that come with coaching college basketball at a military academy (see link:   Conroy writes, "Winning basketball games in a military college is as perilous a way to earn a living as exists in American coaching." 

I doubt Conroy was aware of Pinedale High School's challenges. 

I don't have answers.   I can only fall back on what Conroy writes above, that somehow these losses and the players that endure them will take something from them for later in life, something that will provide more resolve, give them more tenacity, learn lessons that might help them deal with disappointments that will undoubtedly come to them, as they come to all humans, better than those kids that are experiencing the victories against them.