Fearful Symmetry

Towson's Robert Nwankwo contests the shot by Thomas Robinson of Kansas in the season opener. Photo by Jeff Jacobsen for TowsonTigers.com

Records are made to be broken, according to the old saw, but some should remain intact as long as they please.  Especially this one – on January 7, the Towson  Tigers lost their 35th consecutive game, falling to Old Dominion 75-38.  This loss broke the Division I men’s basketball record of 34 straight losses set by the Hornets of Sacramento State in 1999.  Per Ed Miller of the Virginian-Pilot, Towson began the streak with a loss to ODU on January 3, 2011.   As of this post, Towson’s slide continues and now stands at 38 after a home loss to ODU on January 18 that put their record at 0-19 for the year.

(Like other dubious records, Towson’s comes with an asterisk – according to the NCAA record book, the NJIT Highlanders dropped 51 straight between 2007 and 2009, but the NCAA doesn’t recognize them as the record holders because they were “reclassifying” from Division II to Division I.  NJIT’s streak began at the end of the 2006-07 season, which was the first season that NJIT basketball competed in Division I.  Even though its teams competed in Division I, the NJIT media guide explains that the school’s teams were not eligible to compete for Division I championships until the school was approved for full D-I membership on September 1, 2009 – apparently this is the reason the Highlanders get a pass in the NCAA record book.

Also, 38 straight is not even in the same area code as the 117 straight losses by Division III Rutgers-Camden that stretched over four full seasons and parts of two more before arriving at its blessed end on January 7, 1997).

Maybe basketball karma is working against Towson – guess who handed NJIT loss number 36 on November 24, 2008?  If you said the Tigers, go to the head of the class.  Towson has never played Sacramento State, but Old Dominion owns two victories over the Hornets (neither one during the 34-game streak, though).

On the other hand, Towson hardly seems deserving of any bad karma.  You couldn’t blame first-year coach Pat Skerry or the staff responsible for making this year’s schedule if they had tried a preemptive strike against the streak by scheduling a Division III opponent or an NAIA school.  Instead, they opened this season by playing Kansas in Lawrence and also played road games against Virginia and Michigan.  According to CBS’ College RPI rankings, Towson’s strength-of-schedule rating is 96th (out of 344 Division I teams).  Cold comfort, but at least they have taken their lumps the right way.

Looking at the rest of the schedule as the season winds down, it’s hard to see a spot for Towson to mark one in the win column.  They play Hofstra (6-13 but, like Towson, winless in Colonial conference play) on February 1, but the game is at Hofstra, a notoriously tough place to play.

Towson is scheduled to play in the ESPN BracketBusters event on the weekend of February 17.  The match-ups will be announced on January 30.  The other winless team in D-I, Binghamton, is also in the field, as is UC Davis, which has not defeated a D-I team this season.  Could the stars align and pit Towson against one of those teams, giving the Tigers a chance to stop their skid while sending their opponent one step closer to taking on this albatross of a record?

Unfortunately, no.  All three are set to play road games.

Karma.  You know the rest.

Correction: January 26, 2012

A previous version of this post incorrectly identified the UC Davis Aggies as winless this season. In fact, they have one victory, which came on November 15 against the Division III UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.  It Goes to XI regrets the error.

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2 Responses to Fearful Symmetry

  1. Adam Kinnear says:

    Damn. Talk about an exercise in futility.
    Any chance you will do an analysis of the AFC/NFC Championship games?

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