There are a number of similarities between the two Augustana College men's basketball teams that, at least for a few more hours, share the longest win streak in school history.|
Coach Jim Borcherding's 1972-73 team set the mark at 19 straight games in a season in which those Vikings finished 29-2 and finished in third place at the NAIA National Tournament.
This season's Vikings of Coach Grey Giovanine are 19-0, ranked No. 3 in the latest D3hoops.com national poll and are just one of four undefeated NCAA Division III teams left in the country. They can take the school's consecutive win streak mark tonight (or maybe Thursday if the game is postponed by weather) when they host North Park (9-10, 3-56 CCIW) at Carver Center at 8 p.m.
If the record changes hands, one person will be very happy for the team – Borcherding.
"Records were made to be broken,'' said the iconic coach, who finished with a remarkable 314-99 record in 15 seasons on the Viking bench. "I'm really happy for them. They have a lot of good things going for them.''
There are a couple of similarities and unique characteristics that have directly led to the success of each team that sharesthe win-streak mark. One is that both teams share a very business-like approach; you see a very even-keel attitude on the court, but also a wealth of confidence. The physical attributes of each also make them special.
For the group 38 years ago, it was the twin towers of John Laing and Bruce Hamming – who both stood 6-foot-11 – and a game built for a half-court attack.
"We had the size with the two big guys and we played so well together,'' said Borcherding of that group that also included point guard Drew Boster, shooting guard Mark Brooks and gunning forward Chuck Menzer.
This year's bunch features a group of six front-line players 6-6 or taller and a defense that has been nothing short of stifling.
One thing that separates the two – up to this point – is the level of national recognition they have received. Borcherding's bunch was featured in the "College Basketball'' section in Sports Illustrated. The two-page spread under the headline "The Swedes are meatballs no more'' was accompanied by a photo of Borcherding, flanked by Laing and Hamming.
"It gave us notoriety,'' said Borcherding. "The players loved it; it gave us some attention. It was kind of a fun thing and they enjoyed it. They got as many copies as they could to pass out to their friends.''
While this season's bunch has received recognition via the polls, there has been no SI spread yet.
In the polls, Borcherding's Vikings were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country and had won their first 10 games of the season. Then came a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup with Sam Houston State in the title game of the Quincy Holiday Tournament. The Vikings dropped a reportedly controversial 64-63 decision.
"The lead changed hands 20 or 25 times in that game,'' recalled Borcherding. "I'll keep saying it – we didn't lose that game, we just ran out of time to win it.''
Then the Vikings proceeded to rattle off their 19 straight victories that carried them into the NAIA National Championship semifinals in the week-long event at the since-demolished Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
Two easy victories in K.C. were followed by scares against Hanover (66-65) and Defiance (64-61) as another easy victory kept the Vikings on track for a potential rematch with Sam Houston State. But that didn't happen. Instead, Augie ended up playing Guilford in the semifinals.
It ended up being a battle of wills and styles. Guilford featured future NBA stars Lloyd "World B'' Free and M.L. Carr "and a 6-9, 26-year-old ex-Marine playing center for them,'' recalled Borcherding. "We got beat by eight points (77-69) and only shot 29 percent. We were just intimidated.''
Augie – even though it scored 80 or more points 14 times and cracked 100 three times that season -- was more than content to keep is slow and steady.
"That was why we had the success we did in Kansas City; we really drove the quicker teams crazy,'' said Borcherding. "The style of ball we played was very favorable for us in the national tournament.''
The Vikings bounced back for a 99-93 victory over Slippery Rock to wrap up the season in third place.
Borcherding said the two losses stood out as the most memorable games that season. "The Sam Houston State game was just such a great game, it was unbelievable,'' he said. "The Guilford game was great, too, and if we had shot better, we could have won that game.''
Another game in that win streak, though, still leaves Borcherding shaking his head – a 12-6 CCIW victory at Carroll (Wis.) College that followed a 37-34 victory over Carthage to start a "Winter Wonderland Tour'' of Wisconsin.
"That was unreal,'' said Borcherding. "I've tried to put that one in the past. They held the ball the whole game; we obviously didn't have the shot clock and you couldn't do that today. They didn't even try to win it, that's the problem. They just tried to keep the score down. It was very frustrating for our players.''
Borcherding contends that that core group could have been the Augie football team of the 1980s with multiple NCAA Div. III titles.
"In all fairness to the 1972-73 team, they would have won several Division III national championships if there had been a Division III for them,'' said Borcherding, noting that level of play didn't come into existence until the 1974-75 school year when that group of Vikings placed third in the Div. III tourney.
Augie has two DIII runner-up teams -- Borcherding's 1980-81 crew and Steve Yount's 1992-93 club.
Borcherding is going to be the biggest fan of this bunch as they hope to top that accomplishment.
"I'd really love to see them win the whole thing,'' said Borcherding.