Greatest 4-year stretch of beating ranked teams in MU history - John Pudner
The Three Amigos will go to South Bend this Monday to try to set an unofficial MU record with their 13th regular season win against a ranked opponent during a 4-year tenure – and it will only be January 26! With three wins over ranked teams in the books (Wisconsin, Villanova and West Virginia), and eight currently ranked teams remaining on the schedule, MU could easily become the first team in school history to beat six teams during one regular season.
The three Amigos sophomore season was the first time an MU team had beaten five ranked teams in one season, going 5-2.
Put it all together, and the three Amigos will have by far the most big regular season wins in four regular seasons of any stretch in MU history:
Vs. ranked teams defeated during 4-year stretch
2006-2009 – 12-9 and counting
1994-1997 – 12-6
1975-1978 – 10-8
1971-1974 – 9-3
2002-2005 – 8-10
1955-1958 – 6-6
*MU has never beaten more than 4 ranked teams in a four-year stretch outside of these six spans, except for mixing and matching among these years.
On this front, the Three Amigos are without peers in MU history. Stepping into the Big East and going 85-33 to date is impressive enough, but the fact that they could end their careers having played 29 ranked teams during the regular season, 11 more than even Jerome Whitehead and Butch Lee from 1975-78, is astounding. This is where even the Win Credits system I slaved over to develop in the book short-changes the Three Amigos. Based purely on wins and losses, they could all end up ranked among the top 20 players in MU history, but if I had a way to give more credit for tougher regular season wins, they would certainly rank higher.
Each of these stretches are important. To state the obvious, three of them included a Final Four run. As for the other two; the 1955-1958 started with the first Elite 8 run and really put MU on the map. The 1994-1997 was the biggest turnaround, as MU had gone 1-18 against ranked teams the eight years leading up to 1994, so to go Sweet 16 and then continue on a 12-6 run may have saved the program.
Still, it’s hard to top the significance of the three Amigos stepping into the Big East after two post-Wade years of not topping .500 in Conference USA. Logically, the Big East should have blown MU out of the water by confronting the Three Amigos with a level of day-in-and-day-out competition MU had never faced, even in the glory days of the 1970s.
As ecompt aptly posted on MU Scoop recently, there are not going to be a lot of dry eyes on senior day against Syracuse this year with all these memorable wins.
John Pudner, Journalism ’88, was Editorial Editor and then News Editor for the Marquette Tribune. He was named top sports news writer in Virginia in 1991 while working for the Charlottesville Observer and wrote a weekly column on his rankings of baseball pitchers for the New York Post before leaving journalism for a career in politics and government affairs.
John's book Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University can be ordered here: (www.collegeprowler.com/basketball)