Dancing In March: It's What Elite Programs Do

Earlier this year, in another season, we discussed expectations for the program as a whole. After a humbling loss to Arizona in Pauley that brought last season's Bruins to 6-8, we came to one conclusion as we stared into the void: For a program with the stature of UCLA, a losing season is an unmitigated disaster. Unfortunately for all of us, the rest of the season played out and that disaster is exactly what we got. For elite coaches at elite programs, even in down years, losing seasons are unheard of and are unacceptable.

Of note is the following:

However, what I am arguing is that if this season ends up being a losing one, there will be no excuse for it and should end up putting Howland under pressure to not only produce a 20+ win season and a tourney run next season, but he also needs to instill confidence that a losing season in 2009-10 was nothing short of an aberration.

So you see, the expectations of a tourney appearance this year aren't new, and no one should be surprised that this is what we are calling for in order to restore some faith in CBH's ability to get this ship back on course.

Now that we've endured the unacceptable losing season and have missed the tournament once, our sights have turned to what it means for this season and the expectations. Obviously another losing season is out of the question. That cannot happen. Not here. But what has become clear is that just as elite programs do not accept losing seasons, they also routinely make the NCAA tournament. Missing the dance in consecutive seasons spells disaster for coaches at elite schools, and makes it all the more important that CBH find a way to guide this team to a tournament berth.

Program comparison after the jump.

Obviously here at BN, we know that the tradition of our program is unrivaled, and our attitude and expectations must reflect that. We expect more because it is a privilege to play for and coach for the four letters. Here's a look at other storied programs and their postseason history regarding tournament appearances:

Duke

The last time Duke missed consecutive tournaments was 1980-83; Coach K's first three years as head coach. Since then, the Blue Devils have made the tournament every year but one (95). We don't know how they would handle a situation like the one we could have on our hands if this season goes south, because they haven't been in that position.

Indiana

In nearly three decades, Bob Knight never missed the tournament in consecutive seasons. His successor, Mike Davis, made it for his first three seasons and then missed the tournament twice. One season after that, he was gone. Since then, they've missed the tournament for the past two years, however those are Tom Crean's first two.

UConn

After his initial three seasons, Jim Calhoun never missed the tournament in consecutive seasons. They were in the NIT last season, but currently sitting at 8-0 with a win over Kentucky on a neutral court, they're looking to be in better shape than the Bruins as far as making the field this year. 

Kentucky

Outside of their Trogan-esque period in the late 80s where they were under sanctions and a postseason ban, you have to go all the way back to when the NIT rivaled the NCAA tournament in importance to find an instance of Kentucky missing consecutive tournaments.

Michigan State

Tom Izzo missed the tournament his first two years at MSU in '96 and '97. Since then? Not once.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels missed the tournament in consecutive seasons in '72-74 under Dean Smith. That was the last time that happened until Matt Doherty did it in '01-03. Doherty was fired after that season. Roy Williams missed the tournament last year, and at 7-3 it's not a lock that they'll make it this year, but then again, Williams has a couple of championships and more importantly, is still recruiting very well. Also helps that they missed the tournament one year removed from a championship. 

UCLA

Last consecutive missed tournaments was '84-86 under Walt Hazzard in his first two years. Before that? Coach. In 1961, before banner #1. It's also important to remember, if for no other reason than to rub it in the faces of Trogans, that in the 60's and up to 1975, only conference champions went to the NCAA tournament, leading to amusing anecdotes like:

In the 1971 season, USC was ranked #2 in the country with its only 2 losses coming against conference rival and #1 ranked UCLA, so USC could not go to the tournament.

Obviously that's not the same situation that we're dealing with today.

The point is that elite programs, especially in the modern era (since 1985 when the tournament went to 64 teams)  are tournament regulars. When you combine the possibility of missing the tournament twice, with unfixed problems in recruiting, you begin to see the urgency of the situation. No one is trying to diminish what CBH has accomplished in his time here or all the Ben Ball Warriors who continue to make us proud at the next level. However, the storm clouds in the immediate future are gathering, and they are dark. At BN, we need assurances that there is a plan; a pathway to an endgame that gets us back to the euphoria we experienced only a few short years ago. Maintaining our status as an elite program by this simple metric would be a great start to get us to believe again.

It's not time to give up on this season. Not even close. This team has the talent and the coach to feast on a weak Pac 10. But the urgency is very real.

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