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Winless Watch: Examining chances two teams wind up without a W

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Grambling State coach Joseph Price talks to Terry Rose. The Tigers are tracking toward a year without a win. (US Presswire)

The storyline of college basketball's last remaining unbeaten team -- or sometimes the final two -- captures the sport's attention every season. It's a fun thing to track, and if the streak carries well past the new year, pressure begins to build as attention continues to spread. In some seasons, we're treated to a drawn-out and dramatic denouement before the inevitable L finally comes. And in the modern era, or even the one that preceded it, that L most definitely always finds its way into the standings.

You most likely remember St. Joe's and Stanford in '04. Illinois the year after. Memphis in 2007-08, the year it reached the title game. Even Murray State last season led some to believe it could reach the end of its regular season without a loss. This year, we actually saw an early ending to the impractical tease of a flawless season when Duke and Michigan fell on consecutive days last weekend and turned out the lights on that party. (If you want to see when and to whom the last undefeateds fell from 1977-2013, Patrick Stevens did the legwork and made a chart on it all.)

But enough about the good teams. Let's talk lousy, the squads that we never see and who play out the pressure in reverse, going months into a campaign and exasperating themselves in desperation, all to avoid further humiliation and embarrassment. Just one win. That's all it takes to avoid infamy. This season, we have two squads left with nary a victory: Grambling State and Maryland-Eastern Shore. And although seven weeks remain in the regular season, the odds that the bagel stays put in the win column look pretty "good," all things considered.

The case has already been made that Grambling State is assembling the worst season in modern college basketball history. (If you'd like to see/compare the team's resumes, we have just the tool for you to do that.)

For history's sake, let's look back on the past decade and observe when the final two teams finally got off the schneid and compare that to where we are with the Tigers and Hawks. There is recent precedent for teams to end up without a win.

TEAMYEARFIRST WIN: WHEN AND TO WHO
2003Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Feb. 3 at Jackson State. Finished 4-24.
2003North Carolina A&T: March 3 at Norfolk State. Finished 1-23.
2004N. Carolina A&T: Jan. 27 vs. Bethune Cookman. Finished 3-25.
2004Loyola-Maryland: Jan. 29 vs. Marist. Finished 1-27.
2005Prairie View A&M: Jan. 3 at Alcorn State. Finished 5-23.
2005Savannah State: WINLESS as independent.
2006Morgan State: Jan. 30 vs. Howard. Finished 4-26.
2006Baylor: Feb. 1 vs. Kansas State. Finished 4-13. Bears endured rare NCAA "half-season" punishment, played no non-con games.
2007Delaware: Dec. 28 vs. Niagara. Finished 5-26.
2007Iona: Feb. 3 vs. Rider. Finished 2-28. Second W: beat Delaware.
2008Grambling State: Jan. 19 vs. Texas Southern. Finished 7-19.
2008New Jersey Institute of Technology: WINLESS as independent.
2009North Carolina Central: Jan. 14 vs. Texas Pan American. Finished 4-27 as an independent.
2009NJIT: Jan. 21 vs. Bryant. Finished 1-30 as an independent. First 30-loss team in D-I history.
2010Alcorn State: Feb. 13 vs. Mississippi Valley State. Finished 2-29.
2010Bryant: Feb. 18 at Wagner. Finished 1-29.
2011NC Greensboro: Jan. 13 at Appalachian State. Finished 7-24.
2011Centenary: Feb. 24 vs. Western Illinois. Finished 1-29.
2012Towson: Jan. 28 vs. UNC Wilmington. Finished 1-31, most losses in a single season in D-I history.
2012Binghamton: Feb. 21 vs. Vermont. Finished 2-29.

My thanks to the whiz man, Ken Pomeroy, for offering up the data on this in quick fashion. You notice a few road wins mixed in with the victories above. Here are quick calculations on what the past decade has given us.

  • Average date of penultimate winner: Jan. 21.
  • Average date of final winner (winless seasons not counted): Feb. 12.
  • Average record of penultimate winners: 4-25.
  • Average record of final winners (Baylor's NCAA-hacked season not counted for aberrational reasons): 1-28

So, the good news is we're not yet at par for the poor. Maryland-Eastern Shore hosts 6-9 Delaware State on Saturday. But what are the odds that we see either or both of these teams get to the end of the road without shaking hands as victors? Pomeroy (whose site requires a subscription) has a lot of faith in Maryland-Eastern Shore, pitting the team's zero-victory chances at just 3.7 percent and an overall 3-24 projected record as of this post. Grambling State is a different story. Pomeroy's probability factors the Tigers to wind up winless at an astonishing 56.8 percent.

The reason for this is due to Grambling State's ineptitude everywhere. It finishes last not only in revealing stats like points per possession scored and allowed but also in traditional measures as well, like its unforgivable 48.5 points-per-game clip. Or its dead-last 36.2 field-goal percentage from 2-point range and 12.3 steals allowed, also worst in the nation. Comparitively, the Shore is in much better shape.

If you want tangible reasons for why it has reached this point, you can also look to the schedule. Both teams have fallen prey to being "buy" programs, meaning they stuff their schedules with road games well into January before playing in front of home fans.

Both squads are more than halfway to infamy, but here's to hoping neither gets there. Win a game as soon as possible, you two, because no one wants to be remembered for this.


For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

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