Wednesday, December 05, 2007

They Call Him The Streak

I'm not a superstitious man, although I understand why folks won't talk about no-hitters and the like while they're going on.

So I'll risk upsetting that group and the Sports Luck Deities and talk about the momentous event most likely taking place around 9pm on Saturday. When the Northern Illinois game ends, Mike Brey's squad hopefully will have set a new Joyce Center win streak record with their 25th straight victory in that duck-taped edifice.

A couple weeks back, I talked about the streak, and at the time, I didn't think much of it. But as the date drew nigh, I realized I didn't want to give Rob Kurz, Tory Jackson, Luke Harangody, Kyle McAlarney, and all their teammates short shrift if they were entitled to a taller one.

So I decided to set the wayback machine for February 3rd, 1973, the day the current record streak of 24 games started. The previous home game had been an 82-63 loss to UCLA, in which the Bruins had set a record of their own -- their 61st consecutive win. The streak started with a blowout of Xavier, 94-68, and the Fighting Irish held serve until Bob Knight's Hoosiers ran off a 94-84 win in December of 1974. Along the way, we had the big 71-70 win over UCLA and a 69-63 nailbiter against #5 Marquette. The undefeated-at-home season of 1973-74 was ND's first in 14 seasons.

So let's look at how the current streak compares:

Last season, ND went undefeated at home for only the second time since that 1973-74 slate (1985-86 was the other). That's a pretty damn good accomplishment. Some ND teams played tougher home schedules in those 33 seasons, but others didn't, and none of them pulled off what this team did in that third of a century.

ND went 684 days between losses back then. Assuming the record is set on Saturday, ND's last loss will have been 652 days prior. Not sure what that means other than this streak team played more home games in their seasons than the prior one.

It's hard to top UCLA as a crown jewel for the current run. But the 24-gamer had a total of four ranked teams -- #19 South Carolina, #1 UCLA, #5 Marquette, and #7 Kansas -- while the current streak features three -- #4 Alabama, #21 West Virginia, and #16 Marquette. Teams like DePaul and Villanova were victims in both streaks.

Any dispassionate analysis of both streaks would indicate the slate of the prior version was tougher overall, but it's not like the current streak was against Division II opponents. To that end, my prior commentary linked above was probably too harsh, not to mention incorrect ... Indiana and Kentucky weren't home games during that streak, and Michigan State wasn't ranked.

Mike Brey and the guys have worked hard to put this streak together, and a second look tells me there's more to it than I thought. I hope to be there on Saturday to cheer them on and celebrate the win, but if not, I'll be watching on UND and quaffing a beverage in their honor, and I'll catch them up at the San Francisco game.

Next on the docket: ND's overall home win streak record of 38 games, set by the 1943 through 1948 squads in the old Fieldhouse. If the Irish can finish this season undefeated at home as they did last season, they'll have won 37 in a row and can tie/break the overall record next year. To do so, they definitely will have earned it -- WVU, UConn, Marquette, Pitt and Syracuse stand in their way. We'll check back on this one in February.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

duct tape

12/06/2007 06:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, Great analysis, but I think a comparison of the absolute doormats (to start each of the 2 seasons in this streak) compared to the teams played 35 years ago would show that advantageous scheduling of D-II worthy teams made this streak real.

12/06/2007 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its "duct tape", not "duck tape" (though there is a Duck Tape brand duct tape). Otherwise, great article.

12/07/2007 07:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Kbyrnes said...

I was there for 73-74, and comparing the current edition to that one, it's plain to see that the "hard work" you cite -- along with team spirit and all the intangibles that help you achieve 110% -- is just as important as raw talent or "x's and o's" (maybe more so).

12/12/2007 06:03:00 PM  

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