Misery loves company.
In the winter of Memphis Tiger basketball fans’ discontent, perhaps it will be useful to pause and summon some perspective.
It could be a lot worse.
The Tigers are 17-10 and on the verge of likely missing their first NCAA tournament since 2010.
In the proud history of Memphis basketball, the program has made 26 NCAA appearances, advancing to the Sweet 16, 11 times – with 3 Final Four appearances.
Perhaps it will be useful to realize their are other programs with similar tradition struggling in worse ways.
And I’m not talking about programs having a down year.
While Florida (13-14) and Michigan (14-13) are having down years, nobody is doubting that Billy Donovan and John Beilein will bring those programs back. Their track record indicates as much. Same with UConn and Kevin Ollie. Given the NCAA championship ring that Ollie received just a few months ago, he’s not on this list.
This list is about programs with approximately as much (or way more) traditional success as Memphis, but equal or less current reason to be hopeful:
Marquette (11-15). The Golden Eagles (formerly Warriors) have an NCAA title (1977), 3 Final Four appearances, and 31 overall NCAA tournament entries. This year, however, they’re in last place in the reconfigured BIG EAST under first year head coach Steve Wojciechowski. This appears to be a total rebuild, with a rookie head coach.
Depaul (12-16). Imagine being a Depaul fan in the 1980’s as this program – with 22 overall NCAA appearances, 10 Sweet 16’s and 2 Final Fours – reached the apex of its success. Then imagine the next 25 years – and only 4 NCAA appearances over that period of time, despite its location in the hottest of hot beds of talent. Head coach Oliver Purnell had previously resurrected Dayton and Clemson, but appears on his last leg at Depaul.
UNLV (15-12). Under legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian, the Runnin’ Rebels went to 4 Final Fours between 1977 and 1991, winning it all in 1990. They’ve been to 20 NCAA tournaments and have 10 Sweet 16 appearances, but appear to be on track to miss their 2nd tournament in a row next month. Head coach Dave Rice is in his 4th year at the school and yet to advance past the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
UCLA (16-12). Think Bruins head coach Steve Alford is feeling some pressure? Perhaps the most historically successful program ever – with 11 NCAA titles, 18 Final Fours, and 46 overall appearances appears to be on track for the NIT. What’s worse is that Alford’s track record – 20 years as a D1 head coach with only 2 Sweet 16 appearances – does little to assure fans that the Bruins will re-emerge under his guidance.
Missouri (7-20). Oh, how the Tigers have fallen. Though Missouri has never been to a Final Four, they’ve been to 26 NCAA tournaments, regularly winning the Big 8 / Big 12 during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Its move to the football-centric SEC has paralleled a reversal in fortune for its men’s basketball program. They’ve hired graduate Kim Anderson from Central Missouri to turn things around. It clearly isn’t happening in year one.
Illinois (17-10). Illinois has an identical record as Memphis currently- and is trying to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013 under 3rd year head coach John Groce. Illinois was the runner up in the 2005 NCAA tournament, but hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since. Historically, the Illini have been to 5 Final Fours and made 30 overall appearances in the dance.
Georgia Tech (12-15). The Yellow Jackets are a once proud ACC program with 2 Final Four appearances since 1990, including finishing as the NCAA runner up in 2004. Yet, GT has missed the NCAA tournament every year since 2010. At 12-15, it looks like they’ll miss it again. They have 16 overall NCAA appearances in their history.
Wake Forest (12-15). The Deamon Deacons have 1 Final Four and 8 overall Sweet 16 appearances in their history – including 4 since 1990. Tim Duncan and Chris Paul’s alma mater has 22 all-time NCAA appearances but none since 2010. Barring a miracle, they won’t be going this year under first year head coach Danny Manning – who parlayed a surprise run through the CUSA tournament last year into this job.