|Grambling State finished the season 0-27 without ever coming close to a victory. (cbssports.com)|
Every program has down years, but this wasn't a down year for Grambling State University. This was a failure that few teams have ever experienced.
With Saturday's loss, the Tigers finished the regular season with a 0-27 record. That's impressive in a way no one wishes to be. An entire season without the thrill of victory. Twenty-seven games watching the opponent celebrate. A winless season is bad, but for Grambling, it was worse than just that. It wasn't just that the Tigers lost; it was how they lost. Maybe with a season like this, a few breaks didn't go the team's way. Maybe the other team snatched the victory out of its grasp at the very end. Maybe luck just wasn't on this team's side.
This wasn't bad luck. This was just being worse than the opposition and the numbers that prove it are startling.
Grambling is dead last in NCAA Division I basketball (No. 347) in RPI, BPI, KenPom and Sagarin rankings, according to CBSSports. The Tigers only averaged 49.6 points per game (170th in DI) while giving up 77 (163rd), both ranked last in the SWAC. In fact, Grambling was only able to score 60 or more points in three games all year. The most staggering statistic is the Tigers lost all 27 games by double figures, managing to lose by just 10 to Prairie View on Feb. 9 for the closest margin of defeat. Grambling lost eight games between 10-20 points, 14 games between 20-40 and five games by more than 40 points with a 50-point loss to Auburn on Dec. 11.
It doesn't seem possible that the Tigers were in the SWAC Tournament championship game just two years ago. They have fallen hard and fallen fast. It's not like the SWAC is a super-conference. The conference only has one 20-win team and has six teams, including Grambling, that have 10 or fewer wins on the season. Yet the Tigers could never find a way to win.
It's difficult to fully understand how challenging this season was for the players and program. Terry Rose was by far the Tigers' best player, averaging 13.6 points per game, but did not have any help. The second-leading scorer only averaged 6.3. It's tough to win games when you can't score.
It also feels like this was more than just not having enough talent. Even bad teams occasionally have flashes of greatness and find a win, especially against some of the other poor teams on the schedule. As a fan of the game and as a competitor, it's painful to see a team go through months of work and preparation to never know the feeling of victory. This season had to take its toll on the players and take some of the fun and love out of the game.
There's still a chance. Grambling will still compete in the first round of the SWAC Tournament, with an opportunity to rid themselves of this horrible streak and end the season on a high note.
The question now is how the Tigers will respond. Two years ago, Grambling was on the verge of an NCAA Tournament berth. Recording any wins next year will be an improvement and for a fan base and team that had to go through 27 consecutive losses. That's the silver lining of hitting rock bottom. The harsh reality is it's a supreme challenge because of how far behind Grambling was this year.
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