Since it’s repeated hundreds of times throughout the NFL season, I’m sure we’re all aware that the last undefeated NFL team (Miami 1972) gets together and celebrates when the final unbeaten team loses. Though the ’76 Indiana squad apparently chooses not to toast to others’ misfortunes, I’m guessing Bobby Knight will be a little bit anxious this year until we lose. I’d love to see UK go undefeated this season first because I am a fan and second because I think it would burn Knight to no end (not to mention my obnoxious IU fan co-workers).
Texas’ loss to Kansas State on Tuesday night left the Wildcats as the last remaining undefeated team in the land. Around this time every year, much debate seems to ensue about the value of experiencing losses during the season. All those message board-eers love to point out the character building and fire lighting that a loss can bring. All those years of losing Pong tournaments have made them experts in competition.
Let’s look at the last ten years’ final unbeaten teams and their final results:
2001-2002: Duke (Lost to Florida St. 1/6/2002)- Sweet Sixteen
2002-2003: Duke (Lost to Maryland 1/18/2003)- Sweet Sixteen
2003-2004: St. Joseph (Lost in the 1st round of Atlantic-10 tourney)- Elite Eight
2004-2005: Illinois (Lost to OSU 3/6/2005)- Runner-up
2005-2006: Duke/Florida (Lost on the same night (1/21/2006))- Sweet Sixteen/Champions
2006-2007: Clemson (Lost to Maryland 1/13/2007)- NIT
2007-2008: Memphis (Lost to Tennessee 2/23/2008)- Runner-up
2008-2009: Wake Forest (Lost to Virginia Tech 1/21/2009)- 1st Round of Tourney
National Champions: 1
Elite Eights: 2
Sweet Sixteens: 3
Since my husband’s dream is not reality and we cannot in fact time travel or exist in alternate realities to test out theories (sorry honey), there’s no way of telling if and when you lose during the regular season makes a difference. Clemson was the last unbeaten in 2007 and entered a landslide that resulted in an NIT bid. Contrast that to 1996 Kentucky squad that lost their first game 2 games in and is still considered one of the greatest of all time.
It’s nice to be the last unbeaten through January, but as all UK fans know, March is when it matters.