Despite NBA experts extending an invitation to the Western Conference Finals after their marquis offseason signings of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers Clippers predictably failed in their 50th attempt. The much anticipated “Battle for LA” against their Staples Center’s co-inhabitants, will be put on hold for at least another year.
Most Seasons Played, Current Franchises
No Appearances in Conference Finals
Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers
Columbus Blue Jackets
RIVERS STANDS ALONE
While blowing a 3-1 series lead to Denver adds to their latest franchise failure, Doc Rivers made history himself. Rivers stands alone as the only coach in pro sports history to lose three series when holding a 3-1 advantage.
Most Series Losses, Leading 3-1 in Best-of-7 series
Head Coaches in Pro Sports
2003 (ORL), 2015, 2020 (LAC)
1987 (WSH), 1991 (DET)
1995 (WSH), 1999 (PHX)
1998 (COL), 2003 (VAN)
2011, 2014 (PIT)
NUGGETS HOPE TO MATCH ROYALS SUCCESS
The Nuggets joined the 1985 Kansas City Royals and 2003 Minnesota Wild as the only teams to erase multiple 3-1 series deficits in a single playoff year. The Nuggets will try to equal the Royals in winning a title, while the Wild lost in the Conference Finals to Anaheim.
In this insane world of COVID-19, Esports is now non-fiction. Adjusting to the times, here are notes of interest surrounding professional sports in the United States.
While MLB adjusts to multiple teams administering quarantine guidelines, seven-inning doubleheaders, unequal amount of games, changes to extra-innings, and other rules, the NBA and NHL both resume this week minus seven and eight teams, respectively.
Five games on Saturday pushed the total to 13 since the restart on Thursday. COVID NBA produces dominant displays of offense, as point totals continue to soar.
NBA Per Game Totals
3PT FG Pct.
While the rest of the league benefits, the Lakers 35.4 shooting percentage in their 109-92 loss to Toronto equaled their lowest since 2016.
T.J. Warren scored a career-high 53 for Indiana, matching an NBA season-high 20 field goals as the Pacers 127-121 victory moved them one-game ahead of Philadelphia for 5th in the East.
Indiana Pacers History
>>Career-high (previous was 40)
Most FG Made, Single-Game
2019-20 NBA Season
T.J. Warren, IND>>
James Harden, HOU
Anthony Davis, LAL
Seven Players with 19
>> Career-High (Previous was 40)
n the West, New Orleans fell to 0-2 in the restart, falling 126-103 to the Clippers. Zion Williamson did not factor again, producing seven points in 14 minutes.
Totals, last two games
A pair of 12 seeds won Game 1, as Chicago (11 points fewer than Edmonton) and Montreal (15 fewer than Pittsburgh) took 1-0 series leads. In his first playoff game, rookie Dominik Kubalik set an NHL postseason record, registering five points (2 goals, three assists) in Chicago’s 6-4 victory.
Most Points, NHL History
Rookies,First Career Playoff Game
Dominik Kubalik, CHI
Daryl Evans, LAK
24 Players with 3
In the East, Jeff Petry scored his first career postseason goal (19th game) with 6:03 remaining in the first OT, as Montreal defeated Pittsburgh, 3-2. The game featured two penalty shots, as each team blew chances to put the game away. Game 2 is on Monday.
Overtime Postseason Penalty Shots
Jonathan Drouin, MTL
W, 3-2 (0T)
Aleksander Barkov, FLA
L, 2-1 (2 OT)
Aleksey Morozov, PIT
L, 3-2 (OT)
Joe Juneau, WSH
L, 3-2 (4 OT)
The New York Islanders won two of their final 13 games (2-7-4) before COVID-19 but entered Toronto winners of four straight against first-round opponent Florida. The Panthers scoring troubles against the Islanders continued, scoring one goal for the third consecutive game. The Islanders, outscoring Florida 7-3 in their last three wins, can take a 2-0 series lead on Tuesday.
In the East’s 6-11 matchup, the Rangers fell 3-2 to Carolina. New York was 0-7 on the power play in the loss.
For those who aren’t aware, we are in a recession that has been fallen upon us by a combination of bad economic policy racing face first into a global pandemic. To debate this is nonsensical, because if you could? We wouldn’t be here where we are.
But explaining reality is only part of this article. Also, today we intend to educate. So let’s deal with reality and talk about how taxpayers expected a public fix based on the years and decades they’ve paid taxes into a system, with no thanks in return, while businesses saw the present disaster as an unmitigated cash grab.
The US Congress- the most powerful part of the government as per the US Constitution- decided when seeing unemployment numbers compete with the Great Depression, that maybe they should do something. Their response was the CARES Act.
The CARES Act gave leeway to personal finances like hardship loans on your retirement savings, or for colleges to tend to foreign students who for whatever reason had to live on campus, but its bulk was to allow small businesses- small meaning under 500 employees- to apply for loans from the government to keep their employees off of unemployment. These Small Business Association (SBA) loans would be forgiven if a company keep a benchmark number of employees on the books through a pandemic, and even offered small bonuses as an incentive for such to the employees. Solid plan, yes?
Many companies applied for loans made available via the almost unanimously passed CARES Act. The Federal Government “kicker” adding $600 a month to unemployment- doubling what you receive in states like New York- seemed a way for the Federal Government to apologize for wholly screwing up their “Worse Death Toll than the Vietnam war in only 3% of the time” response to COVID. For small companies that have budgets that are more quarterly or even month to month than multi million and multi billion dollar corporations, this seemed like a boon. Seemed.
Neither of these groups took something as insignificant as $20. They took millions. Multimillion dollar companies taking millions instead of dipping into their own coffers. Why? Because that way it wouldn’t cost THEM to support their workers. It would cost YOU.
Only when bad press hit these companies that they found the conscience of bad publicity and returned their money. To a program that didn’t have enough money to approve even half of the small businesses loan applications in the country. And then they immediately laid off workers- for example, the multimillion dollar company AutoNation. Because if you weren’t paying for their employees, why should the company?
Whereas I am not a regular customer of AutoNation, Shake Shack, or Ruth Chris, it’s safe to say that unless I get free food and cars for life for socializing their owners, I’ll never eat in their shit boxes or buy their overpriced lemons EVER. But I will make it my business to tell everyone how scumbagish their move was and is.
But truth be told, I can see why a million dollar fast food shitbox would want some free money. In the long run, will anyone give a shit about shake shack? There are 1000 better substitutes and Shake Shack will fold, so why not prolong the ride if someone else is paying for gas? And if you live in New York- ANYWHERE in New York- and go to a Ruth Chris Steakhouse, you’re a complete dipshit. I’d be willing to bet residents in any other state know a better place for a steak than Chris as well. ANY other state.
**I just randomly asked a neighbor that if he wanted a steak would he go to the nearest Ruth Chris, or somewhere else? He chose Cliff’s Elbow Room in Mattituck NY, a roughly 2 hour drive from his home. He said the marinated Porterhouse is legendary. Is anything in Ruth Chris legendary, save for the stories that they make up about quality and character?**
So million dollar companies at this time can be greedy without consequences. Legal, yet greedy. Like women making $150,000 a year demanding child support. So what happens if a billion dollar company takes small business money? I mean, once an industry hits the billion dollar mark, they’re a full on legitimate industry. But a billion dollar FRANCHISE? Not an industry, but a fractional part of a multi billion dollar industry? Taking money as a billion dollar franchise may be the most insulting fuck you of all. And you want to know what? A BILLION DOLLAR FRANCHISE TOOK SBA MONEY.
The Los Angeles Lakers decided that, despite being worth over $3 billion dollars, revenues were so tied up in giving individual players tens of millions of dollars that they needed about $5 million more to pay the guys that make popcorn and the valet parking people because, well, money was tight.
In an economy that basically is facing the second Great Depression- how we got here is an article not for a sports blog- for a $4 billion dollar franchise to take $4.6 million dollars is like Mike Tyson punching a 3rd grader for the change from his lunch money.
IT IS FUCKING DISGUSTING.
You may be wondering how the Lakers qualified for ANY money from the SBA. I know I was. Apparently they are a company that employs less than 500 people. According to the Lakers themselves, they employ about 300 full time and part time workers. That’s a per capita worth as an organization of $13,333,333 per person. So…that $4.6 million pays for the per capita worth of less than one half of an employee. And no, they don’t pay their ticket takers that much. It probably went to subsidize LeBron’s ego after missing the playoffs last year without an all-star cast to carry him. Did Larry Bird or Magic Johnson ever miss the playoffs?
More to the point, the Lakers just didn’t want to pay the people you don’t see on TV, but they wanted you to. Again, FUCKING DISGUSTING.
Of course when caught, the Lakers gave the money back. I wish these same standards went for something more exciting, like a bank robbery. “Oh, you caught us! What silly fools we are. Keep the money, and we’ll try again next week. Why face a punishment in court for this?”
Fact is, every company that looked to steal taxpayer money should have taxpayers pissed off, and should have prosecutors filing criminal charges. But they won’t, because it wouldn’t fit the marching orders that they and we have been fed.
At this point, some folks may be feeling bad for that multimillion dollar company or multibillion dollar franchise for getting caught with their fingers in the taxpayer cookie jar, because economic growth or some other uninformed myth. At this point, they’ll even rear their anti-intellectual heads and blame colleges for being greedy, too. Shitty schools like…Harvard. So check out this Editor’s note:
*Editors note- you may be reading this yelling “What about Harvard?” at the screen. So I wanted to point out three inconvenient realities to people too willfully uneducated to recognize research funds are different than foreign borrowed payroll funds to artificially prop stock prices up:
Harvard was not receiving SBA money, instead it was money earmarked for colleges that have students who have to stay on staffed campuses during quarantine. Different field.
Other colleges took federal money to pay their highest paid sports coaches instead of support students, like Ohio State, who is using CARES funds to pay the entire student body $7 for every $1 it pays its head football coach. Yes, sports make money for colleges. but a multimillion dollar scandalous head coach can take a pay cut.
Some media (MSM) outlets are wondering why an endowment can’t be drained before federal funds are given. That’s like asking your bank why can’t they give you your neighbor’s money before yours. An endowment is a trust fund that’s specifically directed towards a purpose to support someone’s tax avoidance. Some of the people complaining about endowments not being spent are the same people who created them to avoid paying taxes, and are now bitching because it might- MIGHT- prevent them from future tax avoidance.*
Normally these articles are more sports driven than from an economic point of view. Unfortunately, sports and economics are pretty much married right now, maybe more then ever. But it all swings back to this simple question:
How is a multibillion dollar company like the LA Lakers a small business?
And how are you not questioning their access to funds before your neighborhood bar? Please explain what a downtown main street global brand is for me, thanks.
And if you believe that the Lakers are in the exact same financial boat as the local diner? I have a bridge in Brooklyn that you want to get in on. The LA Lakers aren’t Main Street. In reality, they don’t even have a lake. Maybe consider a name change before taking the money? Like the Los Angeles Bank Robbers? LA Scumbags? LASsholes??
Your local major league sports team is not a small business. They have an international industry with federal monopoly protections. That such provisions were created to let billionaires take $1 million from a small company with 450 workers is horrific. Or to let fake billionaires take free tax money from Mom and Pop businesses? Fucking disgusting. Even the New York Mets- who run a poor house franchise- didn’t ask for free cash. That itself is a statement on how horrible these companies were in stealing from taxpayers. So the next time you think about spending your dollars on some national or international brand, ask yourself this- “Did they take money from me?” If the answer is yes, spend your money somewhere else. Those companies certainly aren’t charities, and shame on them for trying to screw over their fans.
This is part one in a series of relative greatness in professional sports. What’s relative greatness, you ask? It’s a simple concept, actually. Greatness in a sport is often considered in “eras,” a period of time when the game was similar to itself, but not with how it changed over time.
For instance, people call Michael Jordan the greatest of all time, or the GOAT to use the hip lingo. But was he? 6 titles over a what, 8 year span is a pretty strong argument to his greatness. His rising to a new level in big games is also part of his legend.
So I have two questions- and again, I am not questioning that Jordan is great. But Magic Johnson won his first title in his rookie year. Larry Bird won his first title as a sophomore. It took Jordan seven seasons before he won a title, which was faster than the 9 needed by Lebron James. So, how do we tell which is better? Did Jordan just wait out the older guys?
And question two- what if you won your first championship as a rookie, then did it 10 more times over the next 12 years? And was the best defensive player in the league in that time? And led the first ever down 3 to 1 playoff series upset in NBA history? And was the first black head coach in NBA history, winning 2 titles as a player coach?
Oh, this guy also won two NCAA titles, and an Olympic Basketball gold medal with the highest point differential in Olympic history for a winning team. And also offered to compete in the high jump for the US, as he was a champion high jumper.
Ladies and gentlemen, the GOAT- Bill Russel.
But very few in the media saw Russell play. He retired in 1969 in a shocking way, and made enemies in the media and in Boston. But the guy has more titles than Tom Brady has Super Bowl appearances.
So we maybe have to change the focus on what GOAT means.
Let’s talk about hockey. Wayne Gretzky holds over 60 individual NHL records. My personal favorite? Fastest player to 1000 points, and also the second fastest player to 1000 points, because he scored points 1001-2000 faster than anyone else scored 1000 points, except Wayne Gretzky.
But the GOAT? Henri Richard won 11 Stanley Cups in a 20 year career, and won Cups in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. So a question, is greatness an individual measure, or is it a team effort?
That’s a question I posed to former NHL player and current consultant- coach without realizing that he is, Rob Schremp. Rob played for 3 NHL teams in his NHL career in two different conferences, and had a pro career nearly spanning three decades, so I felt he would be qualified to answer a simple question:
Who were the players when you played that made you say “That man is great?”
Understand that this is a hard question for any athlete, especially a professional. A pro athlete made it to the highest level of the game based on a mixture of talent, confidence, attitude, and effort. You would be hard pressed to find a pro who says about themselves, “I suck. I just got lucky.”
So I asked Schremp who were some players that were not better per se, but who did you enjoy watching play, or respect their approach to the game, at forward, defense, and goal. One of the picks was surprising until he explained the math behind it.
Beast of a Forward: Pavel Datsyuk. Not the Arizona Coyote version.
On Datysuk – “I didn’t understand how his body got into position. Nobody pulls off a breakaway like Datsyuk. It’s crazy. His deception was nasty. The way his body is presenting and the way he’s selling, there’s no way a goalie doesn’t bite. Physically his weight transfer doesn’t make sense. You could blow your ankle trying to duplicate his body movements.”
“He mastered the art of weight transfer. It’s like water moving, it’s so fluid and graceful. A lot of what is about being a dangler is like dancing. You need to practice the steps with your footwork so that your hands and feet work in synergy, that way your moves create the space you will need to move the goalie. His fluidity and footwork made goalies bite so hard. He was born to be a hockey player.”
Monster Defenceman: Shea Weber
On Weber- “I’ve never seen anyone shoot like that. I played against him in the Memorial Cup at 18 and he was 19, and he ripped a slapshot and broke a guys’ shin pad. He has a hard shot that releases quick and its heavy. He has an accurate, quick, heavy shot. 6’3’, 230 lbs. I don’t know if I’d say he’s underrated, but I’d take him on my team every day of the week. His shots hurt goalies.”
“Shea isn’t a super fast guy, but when do you see him getting posterized on a dangle? He’s always in the right position and makes the right play. His play looks slow on the Canadiens because they skate like waterbugs, but he is calculated. Not everybody has to skate at 100 mph.”
Goalie that solved him: Dwayne Roloson
On Roloson: “Dwayne Roloson had my number. In practice or in games, Dwayne gave me nothing to shoot at. Experienced goalies will fool the players, by trying to make them shoot at a spot, and then take that spot away.”
“There are players like Brodeur that were masters at playing angles, they showed you a place to shoot and made you shoot there, and could throw out an arm or a leg to stop you.”
Schremp described goalies as able to essentially create math in the net, where the positioning of a goalie can geometrically take away all shooting angels for an approaching forward, which led to a question I had that spoke to an NHL specialty of his:
Why are so many NHL players- especially talented scorers- bad at breakaways and shootouts?
“You play in a game that is structured around team and systems. Players are organized by a system and can learn success through it. In a shootout you are doing everything on your own. Goalies have an advantage- you have to make them move. Players have to get the goalie to move. They are the doorkeepers to the face of the net. If they don’t move, you’re shooting at a roadblock, and you need to find the angle that may not be there.”
“The net has faces to it and the more you move laterally, the harder it is for the goalie to keep the face of the net covered completely. If you’re a shooter you have to move yourself to find the faces because coming at a goalie straight on gives the goalie an advantage. They’re a roadblock that you want to make move.”
Schremp mentioned Patrick Kane as a guy that’s good at getting goalies to make the first move, which shifts the advantage to the shooter.
In the long run, Rob’s answer was a mix of both of my premises. There are great individual talents, but that doesn’t matter if there isn’t a system to create a team. Which may be why a guy like Datsyuk was never traded- he helped a team win- and a guy like Weber was- he was great but never got a cup in Nashville. And a guy like Roloson? A career journeyman, but maybe if he’s not injured in game one of the 2006 finals versus the Carolina Hurricanes? It could have changed that label.
Also, despite his insisting that he’s not a coach? Schremp still maintains contact with the game via video consulting. He does so to both stay involved in the game to help players and teams get better. Schremp feels that he has had excellent coaching and professional experiences in his career, and wants to pay forward what he’s learned.
For people interested in contacting Rob for lessons, you can reach out at 44VisionHockey.com (Link).
Schremp also works for a company called AG Health and supports their CBD product VedaECN.com (link).
There may not have been a better set up team in recent
history than the New York Knicks. Not in ownership. That guy is a fucking
idiot. But in opportunity? The Knicks may be able to turn a corner, and awfully
What’s the genesis of such a thought? There are four,
actually. In no specific order of importance:
New team President
Upcoming new Head Coach
7 first round picks in the next 4 years,
including a guaranteed lottery pick
Salary cap flexibility lacking long term deals
First off, the Knicks made a move to add a team leader,
which considering the results of the last few leadership groups have been
nothing. Not nothing but underwhelming. No, nothing, Absolute zero. Zilch.
But we should look at the sunshine that is behind the dark
clouds of this disaster of a franchise run by a micromanaging douche who walked
into family money and makes maybe the most compelling argument ever that the
inheritance tax is too forgiving. And if Dolan can just keep from being Dolan,
there is still a silver lining.
Let’s start with the new Team President, Leon Rose. Rose is
a successful player agent, which is a growing trend both inside and outside of
the NBA. After all, who can value players while seeing through bullshit inflation
better than an agent? Especially in a time where a decrease in the NBA salary
cap is expected? So Rose is clearly on board to attract names and to change a
culture that looks like a train parking lot carnival, which a $4 billion
franchise frankly should not resemble on any level. And a guy known working
with players in a time when the cap is decreasing may be able to use his cap
space asset now to acquire bad deals from winning teams in return for future
assets from winning teams, or to burn off the remaining bad Knick contracts.
Luckily, Rose has a roster that has nothing but short term
deal. Only one player is under contract three years from now. And their only
buyout will also be burned out by then. So really when it comes to flexibility,
outside of the Julius Randle contract- a guy who was almost traded- there is no
major money in the Knicks near term future. And Randle may be moved next season
if the Knicks are just as bad as the last two seasons.
The choice of General Manager for Rose’s is crucial. Dolan
has been a headline grabber for the Knicks when it comes to acquiring mostly
washed up names for futures or for burnt draft picks- come on, who from the
Carmelo Anthony trade with Denver do you want back? But the GM will be running
the draft, and this is a team that should be building through the draft
hardcore. Here’s why.
Rose’s GM will have two first round picks in 2020. One WILL
be in the lottery. He will have two first round picks in 2021. One will
PROBABLY be in the lottery. Add to it that the one from 2019 was in the
lottery. That’s three consecutive lottery picks. That should be a core.
But wait, there’s more. In 2022? One first round pick SO
FAR. But in 2023? Two more first round picks. That is 7 first rounders in 4
years in a sport with a 12 man roster. Which gets to the next GM question or
Are Kevin Knox and RJ Barrett players you build a team
around? Are they parts of a team you build with? Or are they trade bait for
Let’s start with the veteran Knox. Much like free agent
signing Alonzo Trier, Knox has taken a step back with decreased minutes in a
year where he should have been playing. But Fizzdale, knowing he was coaching
for his career, was absolutely going with his best odds, and not the odds of
the franchise. A lot of coaches on the hot seat do that, giving the finger to
Know inarguable had a huge year over year decline in
production. Also, his per minute play was stagnant. Maybe it’s why you don’t
draft players as freshmen unless they were dominant in college, as their games
are undeveloped. But that creates a different quandary- Is Kevin Knox tradable?
His stats say no. Not for a first round pick, which is the
only way to salvage him. Maybe for an expiring, overblown contract with a
sweetener. But one on one? Knox will get you nothing, so it’s best to burn a
year to blow him up as a focal point of offense, and to create a market for his
game. And ideally to ensure another lottery pick in 2021.
Which brings us to Barrett. Barrett shows flashes of being a
well rounded player. But the guy can’t shoot a free throw. I absolutely wait a
year or two on Barrett before making a decision, because contractually you can-
he has the longest term contract on the team. But also? He seems to fill in
what isn’t going on. If he developes a free throw and a 30+% three point shot?
He could be a swing piece at shooting guard and small forward that would be
worth 36 minutes a night, at a fair price.
But today? Barrett looks like a part, not a whole.
Maybe the biggest deal for the Knicks is a new head coach. You need a coach that will be able to develop but also manage pro egos. I wrote about such here but be sure that you can not underestimate the importance of who the next head coach is. I am happy that David Blatt is in the organization, because in his head coaching career he has been nothing but a winner. Ideally he has input in finding the next Blatt. And let’s not forget it was Blatt who ended the Cav’s franchise titleless streak, not the other guy they fired after.
The takeaway? This will be the best chance for the Knicks to
make moves for the next decade. They will need to draft very well in 2020. They
will need to consider moving their bad deals in the same year. They can maybe
pull off two 1st round picks 4 years in a row with a Randle trade.
That along with cap flexibility would be absolute firepower.
They also maybe have to consider changing coaches two years
from now, from a developmental coach to a pro coach. Or maybe they find a guy
that can do both. No matter how it breaks down, the Knicks are entering a
crucial time in the next few weeks, one that will define this franchise for the
next decade. Which can either make the Knicks super interesting, or save the Knicks
fans plenty of time from having to watch horrible basketball games.
47-35 halftime deficit. Malachi Flynn inefficient from 3. Yanni Wetzel in single digits. Less than 40% field goal percentage as a team. All these factors contributed to San Diego State, the last remaining unbeaten team in college basketball, finally suffering their first loss to a 14-14 UNLV team that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2013. This is a bad loss that could affect them from being a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is a bad loss that could potentially give other teams with similar styles coaching film on how to take down San Diego State. All of that is understandable. However, at the same time, I believe this is a blessing in disguise for them, as the winning streak they were on is just not sustainable for the rest of the season. If the Aztecs want any shot to win a title, this loss will allow them to refocus rather than remaining overconfident they can win with a lot of the same styles of play on the big stage.
I mentioned in an article I wrote a few weeks ago how the pressure of being undefeated was going to make it difficult for San Diego State to succeed in the tournament, in addition to being a mid-major Top 2 seed, likely a 1. Even a team as talented on paper as 2014-15 Kentucky couldn’t finish off their undefeated season, losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four 71-64. There are too many good teams and a strong amount of parity in college basketball now, and that makes this kind of feat next to impossible, hence why it hasn’t been accomplished since Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers in 1976.
From that logic, would your team rather have that loss then within the tournament or even within the conference tournament which would directly affect seeding even more, or would you rather have it happen now when there is still time to turn things around? I think 99.9% of people would take it now, and have time to focus and reset rather than just trying to play with the same overconfidence, because it is not sustainable. Throughout recent NCAA Tournament history, there are plenty of cases where teams that have streaked into the tournament and then lost early, whether they were 1 or 2 seeds. In 2015, we saw Villanova end the regular season on a 12-game winning streak and win the Big East Tournament, and then within 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament get shocked by #8 seed North Carolina State, leading to the famous crying flute girl meme. That team entered the tournament having not lost since January 19. In 2016, Michigan State ended the season on a 10-game winning streak, including winning the Big Ten Tournament, and then got shocked by #15 seeded Middle Tennessee State in the first round. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know what I know now and fell into the trap of picking that Spartan team to win it all. But 4 years later, they help prove this theory. Gonzaga in 2013, aided by the easy West Coast Conference, entered the tournament on a 14-game winning streak having not lost since January 19 against Butler. In the NCAA Tournament, they ended up almost being the first 16 seed to lose to a 1, but surviving against Southern University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference 64-58. After that, they lost 76-70 to #9 seeded and eventual Cinderella team Wichita State. Ironically, the year after, Wichita State did the same thing, entering the tournament 34-0 and then losing in the Round of 32 to a #8 seeded Kentucky team. Lastly, we have my favorite of them all, 2018 Virginia, engraved in history as the only 1 seed to lose to a 16. While their winning streak wasn’t as big (8 games), they hadn’t lost since February 10, and they kept winning the exact same way, just thinking their philosophy of defense was going to carry them through. Then, they made the wrong side of history, getting obliterated 74-54 by #16 seeded UMBC, hitting the lowest of lows for a 1 seed the NCAA tournament has ever seen.
There are also examples the other way too, where good teams can have good losses and that will help them go far. I’m not saying these teams end up going all the way, but they make it to the Final Four or Elite Eight overcoming other expectations, which San Diego State will likely have to do being a Mountain West team. Examples of this include Gonzaga in 2016-17, that made their first Final Four in school history and eventually went to the National Championship Game, falling to North Carolina. Before that run, they lost 79-71 in the final game of the season to BYU, allowing them to refocus and play with that extra effort to do the little things in the tournament, which they did in a lot of key games later on in that tournament. Granted, they were aided by the worst non-call I have ever seen in an NCAA Tournament, when Zach Collins stuck his hand through the hoop and got away with what should’ve been a goaltending call against Northwestern. However, that doesn’t guarantee that Gonzaga would’ve lost that game either, even though it was more likely the case with Northwestern having a big second half. Looking 9 years before, 2007-08 Memphis had very similar circumstances, back when they had John Calipari and were still in Conference USA. They lost on February 23 of that year to Tennessee, which wasn’t a bad loss, as Tennesee was a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament that year. However, that loss helped them reset and allowed them to make it to the Final Four and within seconds of a National Championship before Mario Chalmers broke their hearts. In 2004-05, Illinois lost in the final game of the season to a 20-12, not bad but not great, Ohio State team. They ended up using that loss as a wakeup call and made it all the way to the Final Four and then the National Championship before, similarly to Gonzaga, losing to Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Go back a year, you have St. Joseph’s, who similarly to 2014 Wichita State ended the regular season undefeated. However, they got shocked in the Atlantic 10 tournament by Xavier. However, they still recovered nicely and made it all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to a good Louisville team. Lastly, a team that did win it all was the 2005-06 Florida Gators, who lost on February 26 of that season to a very average Alabama team. That among with some other losses knocked that team down to a 3 seed. However, that didn’t phase them and stop them from taking home their first of two National Championships. Not to mention, despite being a 1 seed, the second championship team also lost February 27 of that season to Tennessee before being able to refocus and overcome the pressure of repeating as National Champions.
This is far from a perfect theory, as most Championship and Final Four teams are somewhere in between the two extremes being shown here, and most Top 3 seeds that get upset in the Round of 64 and Round of 32 are in the same boat. However, if I’m trusting a team with a good loss to reset and refocus or a team riding an unrealistic winning streak into the NCAA Tournament, I’m taking the team with the good loss. San Diego State would’ve been the unrealistic winning streak team had they stayed undefeated into the NCAA Tournament, almost guaranteeing they would’ve lost the first weekend. This loss puts me slightly more confident in this Aztecs team, especially since they are well-rounded and well-coached. They will still most likely have the pressure of trying to succeed as a mid-major conference Top 2 seed in a weird year, which still could get to them. However, they avoid having the double whammy of that paired with an undefeated season and an unrealistic, unsustainable winning streak.