Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Numbers Game

There are no more Joyce Center games for Rob Kurz and his Irish teammates, and kudos to them for pulling off what no Big East team has done before: Completing a home conference schedule unscathed two seasons in a row. They haven't set the home conference win streak record yet ... Pitt still owns that 20-game mark ... but we'll be looking for that in January.

I've talked before about the 24-game record Mike Brey and his charges broke back in December. As I said then, I believe pulling off a second straight undefeated season at home makes this streak superior, UCLA or no UCLA. And as I also said then, it's time to start looking at the 38-game streak the Irish are poised to break as the next season dawns.

The current record home win streak started December 11th, 1943, with a 41-31 win over Wisconsin, and ended February 9th, 1948, with a 68-51 loss to St. Louis. It spanned five seasons and almost as many coaches -- Moose Krause bookended it in its first and last two seasons, with Clem Crowe and Elmer Ripley taking one season each while Moose was in the Service. All-Century Team member Leo "Crystal" Klier (yes, that was his nickname) and All-American Vince "Magilla" Boryla (no, that most definitely was not) spent the first part of the streak claiming and re-claiming the Notre Dame scoring record, and fellow All-Century man Kevin O'Shea contributed at the other end during his outstanding freshman season. Marquettte and Piggy Lambert-led Purdue each fell four times during its course, with Northwestern and Butler three times and Wisconsin and Michigan State twice. And the streak even had its UCLA: the 1948 Kentucky team they beat was a juggernaut featuring Ralph Beard, Wallace Jones, and Alex Groza that went on to an NCAA championship that year.

So which one is superior? Which cuisine reigns supreme?

Part of me says the 38-game streak. But then I remember some other things about it.

As impressive as three straight undefeated home seasons is, in the days of the Fieldhouse, most top teams wouldn't play ND there and ND played most of their games on the road or at neutral sites. In addition to its reputation as a snake pit, the Fieldhouse only sat around 4,000 people, and once you factored in the students (who watched games for free), there was precious little gate to split with the road squad. ND did beat that 1948 Kentucky squad, but that was the only time the Wildcats appear on the victims list. Meanwhile, Loras, Bunker Hill, Franklin, Drake, Alma and Valpo are all taking up slots too.

There was also a war on, and a lot of major programs were shells of their usual selves. Notre Dame, thanks to the Naval ROTC on campus, was able to stay competitive, but a lot of programs had to shut down during the 1945 and 46 seasons. Even ND had to employ journeyman coaches to stay afloat.

The current streak still lacks the top-five (or top-ranked) crown jewel to really make it special, and maybe next season we'll see one. But they've added a couple more ranked teams to the list of pelts this season in #13 UConn and #21 Marquette. They've done what no team in Big East history has been able to do, winning the conference home slate two years in a row. And they've captivated crowds that wandered away from the program during the dark decade, making the Joyce Center a feared venue once again.

Perhaps this will be like breaking the 24-game record ... right now, the current streak hasn't differentiated itself enough to make the comparison clear. But a couple more games, and there'll likely be no doubt.

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Blogger Craig said...

Alabama was top 5 at the time we beat them last year, although that turned out to be wildly overrating the Crimson Tide.

3/06/2008 12:05:00 AM  
Anonymous GeronimoRumplestiltskin said...

"making the Joyce Center a feared venue once again."

I've heard the JACC described twice this season by opposing coaches as one of the most intimidating venues in the country. I haven't heard such things said about ND basketball since Digger was wearing the green carnations....

Good times. Then and now.

3/06/2008 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BYU only has a longer home win streak because they play their big home games in a bigger venue still in Utah. They have 2 loses at that venue this year which were home games.

3/06/2008 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Current Home Winning Streak Ranks:
ND is #2

3/06/2008 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

What does BYU have to do with anything? I'm talking about ND's overall win streak as compared to its history, not national history.

3/06/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UCONN lost last night to unranked Providence at home which shows that going two seasons undefeated at home in the Big East is very difficult.

The only thing really missing is a win over Georgetown but that isn't ND's fault.

3/07/2008 11:48:00 AM  

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