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Being unbeaten is no guarantee of a titlePosted Thursday, January 20, 2011, at 2:56 PM
The Eastern Greene Thunderbirds currently sit No. 5 in the Class 2A rankings and are sporting an area best 11-0 record.
But as coach Andy Igel has reminded me during or after most interviews, it doesn't make you anything more than what it is -- unbeaten at the time.
Since the season began Igel has maintained an attitude of "we have to continue to work hard to stay where we are" and I respect that.
But just for the sake of this column and for anyone who might have the slightest bit of interest, I thought it would be interesting to find out how many teams that have went unbeaten in the regular season have won state titles.
Before I get into the numbers, I'd better qualify my stuff. I went back to the 1993-94 seasons as a starting point for the boys and the 2000-01 season for the girls.
I realize there have been unbeaten teams in the years prior -- including the 1999-2000 White River Valley Lady Wolverines -- who have both made runs to state titles and runs through the regular season.
But for the purpose of this column I'm limiting the data to the years previously mentioned.
Just to further throw some historical contexts on the pile, with the help of B.J. Hargis, I was able to ascertain that there were handful of unbeaten boys teams to claim the state crown.
That's a group that includes the 1969 Indianapolis Washington squad anchored by George McGinnis and Steve Downing as well as Crispus Attucks in 1956, South Bend Central in 1957 and East Chicago Roosevelt in 1970.
Just a matter of personal pride here, but at the behest of B.J. Hargis, I'd also like to include some numbers from well beyond the current sampling.
In 1922 the Vincennes Lincoln (then called the Buccaneers) won 38 games in a row before finally falling in the state finals.
At the time that was a state record for most consecutive wins in a season, one that was later surpassed by Crispus Attucks in the 54-55 through 55-56 seasons, both culminating with state championships.
The Buccaneers were under the control of legendary coach John Adams (yes the one the coliseum in Vincennes is name after) and went on to win the state title the following year.
And just for the record, I did research on the name while I was confined to the Lincoln High School Library as a youth and found out the name "Alices" came from not the tale of Alice of Old Vincennes, but rather from the sports writer who covered them during their tournament run in 1923 and dubbed them the Alices in Wonderland.
The school didn't officially adopt the name Alices until around the late 60's or early to mid-70's as far as my research on the subject shows.
I would also like to mention that there was at least one Greene County team to go through the regular season unblemished outside the perameters of my research.
It was the unbeaten regular season of L&M in 1984.
The Braves were 23-0 before they were finally thwarted at the Terre Haute Regional with a 64-56 loss to Terre Haute South.
With all of that in mind here is how the numbers crunch on the subject in the time frame mentioned.
Beginning with the Leo and Valparaiso teams of 1993-94 until last year's Brownstown Central and Bloomington South squads, there have been 24 undefeated boys teams entering the sectional (That includes two repeaters -- Bloomington South and Lewis Cass).
Of those 24, only six (25 percent) have reached the pinnacle of Indiana high school basketball.
The first time it was done was during the 2002-03 season when two teams -- Lewis Cass (26-0) and Pike (29-0) accomplished the feat.
Lewis Cass finished off their perfect run with a 57-48 win over Forest Park and Pike closed out their year of perfection with a 65-52 win over DeKalb.
It happened again two seasons later (2005-06) when Lawrence North, who was anchored by the duo of Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr., won 29 straight and finished it off with an 80-56 win over Muncie Central.
It was another three seasons before a team with an unblemished mark earned a state title. In 2008-09 two teams once again pulled it off.
Princeton (29-0) and Bloomington South (26-0) captured crowns.
The Tigers defeated Ft. Wayne Snider 69-62 while the Panthers finally prevailed in double OT 81-79 over Manchester.
The rest of the boys numbers break down like this: two teams -- Valparaiso (1993-94) and Bloomington North (1999-2000) -- fell in the state finals while two others (New Albany in 2007-08 and Bedford North Lawrence in 1994-95) lost at the semistate round.
The largest number of unbeaten teams (seven in each) have been defeated in the regional and sectional rounds.
When you take a closer look at the numbers for the girls teams who have went unbeaten in a shorter time frame, again since the 2000-01 season, there have been 10 more (34) teams and even fewer champions from the group.
The group includes just four teams that have run the table.
In 2000-01 only Ft. Wayne Luers was able to pull it off. They were the only one of seven squads that had the chance to bring home a title.
They did it with a 55-39 win over Shenandoah.
The feat wasn't accomplished again until the 2002-03 season when a whopping eight teams entered the sectional with no marks on their record.
When it was over only Kokomo was able to sustain it all the way to a state championship. They defeated Perry Meridian 44-42 in the title game.
Six seasons and a dozen teams later Indy Ben Davis won the first of it's two back-to-back, unbeaten state crowns.
In 2008-09 the Lady Giants defeated South Bend Washington 71-69, then repeated the accomplishment last season with a 99-52 romp over Merrillville.
Surprisingly or not, there have been five teams run to the state finals before falling. They include Vincennes Rivet (2009-2010), who went to the Class A title game in 2009 as well, South Bend Washington (2008-09), North Vermillion (2002-03), Oak Hill (2007-08) and Shenandoah (2000-01).
Six teams have lost their bid for perfection in the semistate round, including WRV's 50-42 loss to Rising Sun 11 years ago, while 11 have fell in the regional and eight in the sectional.
Placing the boys and girls side-by-side for the years available shows the number of teams able to just pull off an unbeaten regular season are minuscule compared to the number of teams playing the sport in the state.
The largest number of unbeatens in the regular season combined between boys and girls was during the 2002-03 season when 10 teams (eight girls, two boys) did it and the fewest is just two teams (one each) in 2006-07.
So there you have it, a statistical breakdown for you to ponder as you sit through the snow and ice, just in case you were wondering.
Rick is a sports writer with the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487 ext. 20 or by E-mail at email@example.com.
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