Basketball: Is a 39-point loss the end of things?

Can a team that has lost a game by 39 points win the Pac-12 Conference championship?

Technically, of course, it is possible. There are no regulations banning such things.

The question here is whether there is historical precedent for Cal — 4-1 but coming off a 92-53 undressing at the hands of Missouri — to win the conference crown. The Bears, after all, were picked second in the conference, and no other Pac-12 team  looks invincible, either.

Note: Pac-12 favorite UCLA is 1-3 with a victory over a Division II school and coach Ben Howland is busy trying to squeeze himself into the mixed-up head of star forward Reeves Nelson. So things could be worse, Cal fans.

First, some bad news: No Pac-10/Pac-8/AAWU/PCC champion dating back to 1950 has ever lost a nonconference game by as many as 39 points. So, if the Bears go on to win the 2012 Pac-12 crown, they would boast an ignominious distinction.

The flip side is that teams that have won or shared the conference title over the past 62 seasons have routinely suffered one-sided defeats somewhere along the way. Twenty-four of them have lost at least one game by 20 points or more during their championship season.

Everybody has a bad day. Well, except for John Wooden’s UCLA teams of 1964, ’67, ’72 and ’73, which all went undefeated.

Last season, Arizona lost by 22 outside the conference to BYU, then by 22 to UCLA, and still won the Pac-10 crown. The year before, Cal lost by 22 to Syracuse, then captured its first title in 50 years.

Eventual co-champ Arizona lost by 26 points at LSU in 2000, Oregon State by that same margin to UCLA in 1980, and the Beavers by 26 to Bill Russell and USF in 1955.

UCLA’s 1952 PCC championship team was crushed by No. 1 Kentucky 84-53 in a pre-conference game.

Two in-conference wipeouts stand out as particularly intriguing because of what happened next:

   — In 1966, Oregon State lost 79-35 — by 44 points — on the road against UCLA, the two-time defending national champion. In the rematch, the Beavers reversed things, winning 64-51.

   — In 1997, eventual champ UCLA lost 109-61 at Stanford — by 48 points! — in what then-Bruins coach Steve Lavin referred to as the Maples Massacre. The Bruins beat Stanford 87-68 in the rematch at Pauley Pavilion, an unlikely 69-point swing in less than a month.

So Tuesday’s result is just one ugly loss to a quick and superb team, but not the end of things. There may not be a team in the Pac-12 as good as Missouri, or at least as problematic.

It’s still November. Cal’s top-25 status is torpedoed, but there are a lot of games ahead, and the chance to learn and grow and be better the next time.

Not that Mike Montgomery and the Bears will be asking for a rematch with Missouri anytime soon.

Jeff Faraudo

  • milo

    It was ugly but I’m writing this off due to:

    A) Absolutely terrible stacked officiating
    B) Mizzou’s home game advantage
    C) Cal traveling and back-to-back games

    Sure the Bears looked terrible but officials were so bad in the opening first half that everything seemed to domino from there.

  • bigdruid

    We’re still a contender for the conference crown and a near-lock for the NCAA tournament. My concern is that playing well in a game like this is the difference between us getting a decent/good seed in the tournament (shot at the Sweet Sixteen) and the crummy seeds/guaranteed second-round exit that we’ve been given lately.

  • Will

    We got buzz sawed by the same Mizzou team in 2009 as well. And we wound up being pretty good. I think we have more upside this season with Kravish and Cobbs. But still our short 7 man rotation (Thurman, Bak Bak and Murray are not ready) will mean heavy minutes again on the front end of the rotation. We can’t chase a crazy fast, athletic, skilled and experienced team like Mizzou for 40 minutes, with our rotation.

  • H8sRed

    Jeff — I know you discounted the officiating in your game string, but the Bears were essentially playing 5 on 8 last night. No, the officials can’t account for a 39-point margin, but they took Cal so far out of their game, there was no hope for recovery.

    Did you see the look of utter exasperation on the players’ faces after the third charging foul? In each of those plays the defender was either in the circle or still moving, or both. There were numerous push-offs by Missouri as they were driving, but no calls. I almost never turn off a game, but I did last night with about 5 minutes left because the fix was in.

    Bob Knight would have thrown about six chairs across the floor if he had been coaching Cal, and it’s unfortunate that he wasn’t the commentator last night. Instead we were subjected to that blowhard Vitale. He is so enamored with the sound of his own voice, that he doesn’t bother to actually break down what is happening on the floor.

  • SteveNTEXAS

    Jeff statistics are irrelevant because the sample is low -not many decent teams have 39 point losses.

    Milo poor excuses.

    Whining about home team advantage is worthless when we have to play in much more hostile places. The refs didn’t account for 39 points. Traveling?

    Is there something Cal can learn from this game? Are there things that they can improve on substantially?

    Those are the key questions.

  • Rollonubears

    I think it’s best to write this one off and move on. Win the rest of our ooc games and we’ll be in dandy shape, and back in the top 25.

  • Randybear

    No worries …. we’ll shake it off. Basketball RARELY gets blown out and always competes for the conference championship; Football FREQUENTLY gets blown out and is NEVER in the running for the conference title. Monty gets a free pass in my eyes when it comes to stuff like this. JT doesn’t. When will he be held accountable???

  • Rollonubears

    I knew a guy in college who was a shameless bandwagoner. Seriously bought clothes and cheered on whatever team was doing best. Sometimes I wish I could do that, but it’s not possible. At least we aren’t Cubs fans. Maybe some of you are. That’s
    Even worse.

  • Bears

    A game like this shows how important it is to get a solid seed, good location and good draw to go far in the NCAA’s.
    I hope this beat down will motivate the team to have an outstanding regular season the rest of the way and earn a favorable position when the tournament is announced.
    They will have to be much tougher than they showed last night when adversity hit to do that.

  • Joey

    H8sred- you summed it up exactly.

    Lots of top 25 teams have 1 loss. Not sure why Cal will fall out with a loss to a top team.

  • I will root like heck for Mizzu for the rest of the season and I hope that we just got our LONE ooc loss outta the way last night. Wow! Wakeup call anyone?

    Monty now has some things to teach our hopefully humbled (but still very, very hungry) Golden Bears. In Monty I trust…

  • Daveinthehills

    What a lot of people don’t realize (because they turned off their TVs in disgust) is that Mizzou kept running up the score. They launched threes until the very end. I believe their last four FGs were 3s. This was a blowout, but not a 39 pt difference between these teams.

    If they played this game 100 times, Mizzou would not be able to replicate what happened lat night.

    Unfortunately most pundits didn’t watch this game in it’s entirety, and we’ll be judged according to the final score. Frustrating for tournament seeding reasons.

  • Rollonubears

    Classy coach, running up the score. Monty emptied the bench and hot some guys some experience. I’m proud we have a coach like Montgomery.

  • Sean

    Yes, it sucked to watch. But this morning I realized, given the chance, I wouldn’t switch our team or our record with any other team in the pac-12 right now (not even that 5-0 team whose name I won’t mention)

  • covinared

    Its long season. One bad night on the road coinciding with an on fire good team playing close to home can be written off as an early season mulligan.

  • Eric

    While it seems that Monty always has one very bad out of conference road loss a year (Mizzo twice, Cuse, SDSU, ND), I’m not overly worried. Mizzo is a good team and posed match-up problems for us, and we should hope they do well so that it helps the APR. These tough road games are extremely helpful for conference play, and under Monty Cal has done reasonably well on the road in the Pac-10. If we end up with only 1 or 2 losses going into Pac-12 play, we’re looking good for making the tournament. And, if we finish 1 or 2 in the Pac-12, we probably end up with at least a 7 or better seed (as long as we avoid the dreaded 8/9 seed).

  • Esquire Joe

    You can’t use historical comparisons for this kind of thing, because not every team schedules a robust non-con schedule every year. In fact, many Pac 10 champs of the past have purposely scheduled nothing but cupcakes, which removes the possibility of this kind of loss entirely.

    If this was a 39 point loss at home to a team that wasn’t as good as Mizzou is, then you might have an issue. The worst thing that happened in this game is that Cal’s short bench got exposed. Back-to-back games on the road against good teams require more quality minutes from supporting players. That’s where the Bears are really lacking. But that shouldn’t hurt as badly in the conference schedule or the NCAA Tourney, as you at least get a day between games/rounds.

    Monty will right this ship and use this loss for good in the future.