You have may have noticed that Pac-12 basketball appears to be in, uh, a rebuilding year.
The concrete somebody ordered for the footings is right now on back order.
Washington’s 92-73 defeat Sunday to South Dakota State was merely another in a steady line of awful developments for a league that had already piled up defeats to Cal-Riverside, Middle Tennessee State, Cal Poly, UNC-Asheville, Fairfield and Northern Arizona.
Then, of course, there are just the garden-variety losses. Utah appears to be the undisputed doormat of the league, having plodded through a recent seven-game losing streak in which it got schooled by 24 points per game.
But the sadistic among us can always turn lemons into lemonade. We figured it was a propitious time to assess the 10 most horrifying losses ever suffered by the Pac-12. And that includes you, Utah and Colorado.
Virtually all the games are in the last generation. Go back 25 or 30 years and beyond, and you don’t find nearly as many cream-puffs on the schedule as today. The term “guarantee game” didn’t exist yet (even if the concept did).
We had to define terms. We threw out conference games, because in those, someone’s misery is somebody else’s profit. So Steve Lavin can breathe easier knowing that the 109-61 loss his UCLA team suffered to Stanford back in 1997 isn’t on our books.
We broke it down further. Essentially, we did away with losses against “like” programs. That took Dick Bennett, and the 81-29 defeat Washington State sustained to Oklahoma State in 2004, off the hook. We reasoned that if you’re getting walloped by a BCS-league outfit, that diminishes your shame (although the Cougars certainly shouldn’t have been very proud of that one).
What’s left, then, is non-league losses against programs that, well, shouldn’t have been on the same floor with the high-minded (but low-leaping) Pac-12.
Except they were. And that’s the beauty of college hoops. It only takes several guys playing cohesively, with maybe a difference-maker among them, and you’ve got a chance. Especially when you hit the bigger name at the right time. So none of this is intended to take away from the splash the underdogs created by winning.
They earned it.
So did the unsuspecting victims.
1. Seattle 99, Oregon State 48, 2010. Millennia from now, archeologists will puzzle over this score, throw up their hands and assume it was some intergalactic cataclysm at work. The Red Hawks were playing their first season as a Division I transitional team. The Beavers were coming off a championship in 2009 of the College Basketball Invitational. But Seattle U. carried the fight all night, and it didn’t matter that Charles Garcia, the ninth-leading scorer in the nation, got in foul trouble and had a single point in 35 minutes.
Perhaps we should have known the Beavers were capable of this. In their season opener against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, they lost 67-43, scoring 13 field goals, going 13 for 28 at the foul line, totaling six assists and 25 turnovers.
2. Oklahoma Baptist 85, Oregon State 69, 1993. You’ll notice a lot of Oregon State representation on this list, and it’s tough to argue it isn’t deserved. This was Jim Anderson’s last year at OSU, and I have to believe this weekend had something to do with it. After the Beavers lost to the NAIA team in the opening round of the Cougar Classic at BYU, they went out and proved it wasn’t a fluke by losing to Nicholls State in the consolation game.
3. Cal-Davis 64, Stanford 58, 2005. Trent Johnson’s second team at Stanford traveled to Davis – which wasn’t a very good idea to begin with – and lost to a team that was transitioning to Division 1. This was a Stanford team that would finish 16-14, 11-7 in the Pac-10. And it was a Davis team that after eight games, was 1-7 – with a win over Stanford. The hell of it was, UC-Davis had beaten Stanford in football three months earlier.
4. Southwest Baptist 80, Utah 79, 2008. Utah would become a 24-10 team that tied for the Mountain West title. It was the first victory over a Division 1 school by the Bolivar, Mo., school, which is where former Washington coach Lynn Nance coached and worked for a time after he left the UW. Some Utah fans never forgave coach Jim Boylen for this and he was fired after last season.
5. St. Martin’s 56, Washington State 50, 1980. At least the Cougars can say they were a weak team (3-15 in Pac-10 play, albeit coming off an NCAA-tournament year). St. Martin’s was 20-12 that season. WSU coach George Raveling liked what he saw so much from the Saints that he eventually hired the coach, Len Stevens.
6. Eastern Montana 51, Washington State 48 (3 OTs), 1981. “I’m totally confused,” Raveling said after the game, played in front of 600 people in Spokane. The Cougars, who would be 16-14 (10-8 in the Pac-12), were tied at 43 after regulation with the winners, now known as Montana State-Billings and a Division II school. It wasn’t exactly a frenetic pace; each team scored two points in the first overtime, and none in the second. For the cognoscenti among the readers, the officials were Irv Brown, Carter Rankin and David Libbey.
7. South Dakota State 92, Washington 73, 2011. What can we possibly say that Lorenzo Romar isn’t already screaming at the Huskies at practice? For the record, Basketball Times picked the Jackrabbits fifth in the Summit Conference.
8. Middle Tennessee State 86, UCLA 66, 2011. Granted, the Blue Raiders are 10-2, but it’s not a substantial 10-2. They torched the Bruins, purportedly a Pac-12 contender, in November.
9. Cornell 74, Cal 54, 1993. This was the same 21-9 Bears team that would smash two-time defending NCAA champion Duke to get to the Sweet 16. Lou Campanelli, the mercurial Cal coach, took his team back to the Meadowlands Classic and his Jersey roots, and they proceeded to get waxed by James Madison (his old school) the first night, and by the Big Red in the consolation game. A raging Campanelli knocked over a table with lunch boxes in the locker room and stormed out to take a cab back to the team hotel, abandoning the Bears. Five weeks later, Cal distanced itself from Campanelli, firing him with a month left in the regular season.
10. Montana 78, Oregon 39, 1991. This would be a portent of what was to come for the Ducks, who ended 6-21 and saw their coach, Don Monson, get fired. The game came in the season opener for Oregon and Monson at Missoula’s Dahlberg Arena, whose fans used to roll potatoes out for Monson’s Idaho teams. This night, they didn’t need any such props.