It’s time to reveal which two college basketball teams have gone the longest without losing on the same day. It is an absurd piece of trivia, but among the many absurd facts that will be offered by various basketball people over the next six months, it is easily the most interesting.
It’s rare to see the unusual performance when you are waiting for it. And we don’t know about the record holders for this particular streak until they are on the cusp of rising to the top of the heap. The longest streak earned that distinction by surviving a series of high-probability events. You didn’t follow it from its beginning and by the time we know it’s made it to the top, it will not be around long. Well, there was that one time that Ohio State and Kansas went a whole season keeping their nation-best streak in tact, but I expect that won’t be the case for our current leaders.
I did give you all some advanced notice on the current leaders in this spot last season.
Other than the top streak, it’s mostly the usual matches involving a successful team from a top conference and a successful mid-major. Well, except for the Duke/Savannah State pairing. Savannah State has lost 93 games over the past six seasons, but somehow, never on the same day as Duke since early December of ‘08. The world truly makes no sense sometimes. Here’s hoping that streak makes it to the top for next season.
1. Ohio State/Kansas (2/19/05)
2. Fairfield/New Mexico (12/4/07)
3. Ohio State/Weber State (2/2/08)
4. Ohio State/Vermont (2/17/08)
5. Manhattan/Memphis (2/23/08)
6. Robert Morris/Vermont (11/21/08)
7. Duke/Savannah State (12/6/08)
8. Memphis/Murray State (12/20/08)
9. Iona/Ohio State (12/27/08)
10. Gonzaga/Richmond (12/31/08)
And amazingly, Duke and Savannah State did make it to the top.
The fifth- and sixth-longest streaks ended in the first two weeks of the season. The fourth-longest streak didn’t make it to 2015, either. Then came the mid-January weekend that would rock the foundation of college hoops. On the 17th, Ohio State and Kansas both took losses on their road trips to Iowa and Iowa State respectively, wiping out the longest streak in the land. Later that night, Weber State lost a game to Southern Utah as a decent-sized favorite, taking the 3rd-longest streak off the list. The following day, New Mexico and Fairfield joined the chaos by losing together. And thus, Duke and Savannah State improbably assumed the top spot.
In fact that same weekend, Duke had to win as an underdog at Louisville coming off consecutive double-digits losses. And two weeks later the Blue Devils had to overcome an 11-point deficit with ten minutes left to win at Virginia. Duke had to win these games, because as has often happened when Duke and Savannah State play on the same day, Savannah State lost.
The last time the Blue Devils and Tigers both lost was on December 6, 2008. Saint Louis beat Savannah State 55-37 in the second year of the Rick Majerus era and the first season for Chaifetz Arena. Michigan beat Duke 81-73 behind DeShawn Sims’ 28 points, avenging a 15-point loss two weeks earlier and a 28-point loss from the previous season.
Since then, the pair has shared the same day on the schedule just 72 times. Part of the streak’s existence is simply due to scheduling quirks – the duo doesn’t play on the same day that often. But the rest is because Duke has continued to win when Savannah State loses. Duke is 63-9 in those 72 games, while Savannah State is 32-40. Meaning Duke has won 40 in a row when Savannah State has lost on the same day. The pair may never lose on the same day, but they don’t actually win on the same day very frequently, either.
Still, on rare occasions the Tigers have had to bail out Duke. No small task for a program that went 0-28 the year before current head coach Horace Broadnax took over in 2005. They won a single game over a D-I team in his first season, and that by a single point. Since then, times have improved for SSU. They became a member of the MEAC in 2012 and won the regular season title that season. They even had the 16th-ranked defense in the land the following season.
Only one of the Tigers’ nine streak-saving wins was decided by fewer than eight points, a 46-44 win over N.C. Central on 1/20/10. A 46-44 win, by the way, that went to overtime. It’s tied for the third-lowest scoring overtime game since 2002. (Seton Hall’s 46-42 Big East tournament win over South Florida on 3/12/13 is the record-holder.) It was a game typical of Broadnax’s grinding, defensive style. Savannah State led 5-4 with 13:56 left after a basket by Rashad Hassan which would be the last points that SSU would score in the half.
How far were the Tigers behind after this epic 14-minute drought? Not very far, actually. Central led 13-5 at intermission. And the Tigers began the half by shooting technical free throws, of which they made one, so they had four actual points that were scored during basketball action to that point. Yet somehow they forced overtime at 36 when the aforementioned Hassan scored with eight seconds left in regulation. They never trailed in OT and the streak lived. That is the story of the one time Duke lost and Savannah State almost lost.
Despite the unprecedented success in 2012 and 2013, the Tigers dropped to 339th in the land last season with just seven wins against D-I competition. This season they start out at 348th. (Even Hanner has them at 339th.) That, combined with a schedule that features an abundance of mutual dates, means that you better savor this streak early in the season because it doesn’t figure to be around at this time next year.
Here’s the schedule breakdown and the chance of the streak’s survival for each date this season…
Duke Savannah St. Chance 11/13 Siena (H) Florida National (H) 100% 11/20 VCU (N) Oregon (A) 83% 11/29 Utah St. (H) South Florida (A) 94% 12/02 Indiana (H) Georgia Southern (H) 87% 12/05 Buffalo (H) E. Kentucky (H) 97% 01/02 Boston College (A) Missouri (A) 90% 01/09 Virginia Tech (H) N.C. A&T (H) 98% 01/16 Notre Dame (H) UMES (H) 89% 01/18 Syracuse (H) Delaware St. (H) 94% 01/23 N.C. State (A) Hampton (A) 69% 01/25 Miami FL (A) Norfolk St. (A) 61% 02/02 Georgia Tech (A) Bethune Cookman (A) 85% 02/06 N.C. State (H) Morgan St. (H) 94% 02/08 Louisville (H) Coppin St. (H) 94% 02/13 Virginia (H) S.C. State (A) 76% 02/20 Louisville (A) Howard (A) 65%
Due to Duke’s semi-permanent spot on Big Monday and the MEAC’s Saturday-Monday format for the league schedule, the teams share a whopping 16 dates this season. The Tigers are expected to go 5-11 in this stretch, which includes an automatic win against a non Division-I team. According to these numbers there’s just an 8% chance that the streak makes it to March (when it’s remotely possible that conference tournaments will add another game or two to the mix).
As it stands now, the Blue Devils will be favored in every one of these games, but some of the road games are close, and the combinations on January 23rd and 25th, when both teams are on the road, figure to be particularly difficult to survive. The streak has existed because of scheduling quirks and the impeccable timing of Duke’s losses, but these two can’t hide from the schedule this season.
Here are the ten longest active streaks for potential use as a dinner party icebreaker.
1. Duke/Savannah State (12/6/08)
2. Memphis/Murray State (12/20/08)
3. Gonzaga/Richmond (12/31/08)
4. Iona/Oklahoma State (1/31/09)
5. Iona/Iowa State (2/21/09)
6. Oral Roberts/Wichita State (2/28/09)
7. Iona/Murray State (3/6/09)
8. Iona/Minnesota (11/27/09)
9. Duke/Middle Tennessee (12/2/09)
10. Iona/San Diego State (1/9/10)