Monday, February 07, 2005

Following up on my last hoops post | by Dylan

Responding to my post about ND’s position as number ten all-time in NCAA Division I basketball wins and my excitement that ND will likely overtake IU and move into ninth position this year, reader John brings me back to earth:

I have to disagree with your contention that this is some sort of a watershed moment for ND basketball. For the most part, ND has had the lead in total wins since early in the 20th century, and IU pulled ahead less than ten years ago. As the NCAA records indicate, IU entered the season with a seven-game lead, 1555 to 1548. Now, think about how bad ND was in the 1990s. From 1991-92 (the beginning of the MacLeod era) through 2004, IU won 283 games, and ND won 213. That would mean ND had a 63 game lead when MacLeod came to town. I had the exact figures and lost them, but I calculated it when I read your post on NDN, and it appears that IU only pulled ahead in 1997-9.

John makes a great point about the impending jump to ninth not being an historic changing of the guard. But in a way, this adds to my bewilderment (and points out how badly I need to read Mike Coffey's book). According to John’s information, ND was, until a miserable, decade-long slump, well ahead of IU in basketball victories. Granted, ND has no national titles, but I think this underscores the fact that the Irish, while never truly considered “elite,” have been among the most successful Division I programs for a long, long time. ND has won more games than any school in the Big Ten, save Indiana, and that will change (we hope) this year. Particularly galling is Illinois, whose basketball reputation inexplicably looms larger than that of the Irish, but has over 50 fewer wins and has never won a title. Notre Dame has won over one hundred more games than NC State, about 150 more than Connecticut, and almost 200 more than Georgetown. We have won 220+ more games than Michigan State. The elephant in the room is, of course, titles. They have ‘em, we don’t. Go figure.

If ND had won two more games in 1978, would it be considered to be an “elite” program today?