This season, mid-major college basketball hasn’t had quite the impact on the college basketball landscape when compared to previous years. Sure, you have programs like Gonzaga, Creighton, and Wichita State, but overall there isn’t an impressive stable to mid-major schools that are primed to mess up people’s NCAA brackets come March.
With this in mind, I wanted to devote some time highlighting the most disappointing and worst mid-major programs of the country. For all of the publicity given to the standout mid-major schools like Bucknell, Bryant, Middle Tennessee, and Stony Brook, just to name a few, I felt not enough attention has been given to the god-awful programs across the country.
That’s why I’m here, to shine some light on the most dreadful teams in all of the land. Just sit back and enjoy the ride … that is unless you root for one of these schools. For in which case, I apologize in advance. I never wanted it to end this way.
Siena (4-13, 2-4 MAAC) – I realize I’m a week late with this post, after Siena shocked an upstart Canisius squad at the buzzer and then dispatched MAAC doormat St. Peter’s this past weekend. Regardless of those results, Siena fans have been clamoring to throw third year head coach Mitch Buonaguro out to the wolves for some time. Until recently, Siena has been in free-fall mode in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, thanks to what many blame on incompetent coaching and poor in-game scheming. The talent is supposedly there with O.D. Anosike and Rob Poole, but when the Saints have an 0-3 record versus the America East, it many be time for Buonaguro to exit stage right. 12 conference games remain for the Saints to save their season, although I’m skeptical given that KenPom lists Siena as a favorite in only two of those contests (thanks so much, Marist!). For what it’s worth, Siena is easily the best team I will mention in this post, but as you’ll soon find out, that certainly isn’t saying much.
New Hampshire (3-13, 0-3 AE) – I had the pleasure (or horror, whichever way you’d like to call it) to see Bill Herrion’s team live when they squared off against a one win (sorry we don’t count victories over D-III schools) UMBC team. What followed caught me a bit off guard, as Herrion’s roster of upperclassmen were soundly defeated by the struggling Retrievers in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. Even more surprising was when a disgusted, whiny Herrion cleared his bench down 14 points with just under two minutes remaining. Sure, the Ken Pomeroy probability factor of winning a game under those circumstances is slim at best, but don’t you have to at least give it the old college try? It sure feels like Herrion is beginning to throw in the towel in his eighth season (the seven seasons before have ended with a losing record) at the helm in Durham. He might want to put his home up for sale in the near future, especially if the January 26th showdown with the equally putrid Binghamton doesn’t go as planned.
St. Francis, PA (1-14, 1-3 NEC) – With nearly 72% of the playing time delegated to underclassmen (thank you Umar Shannon for making sure this percentage doesn’t get any higher), one would expect this Red Flash roster to struggle mightily. The disappointment, however, extends into the prior offseason when St. Francis suddenly fired Don Friday in favor of the athletic director’s son Rob Krimmel, a long time assistant of the program. The untimely firing and hiring – which led to questions of nepotism – more than likely pushed budding star Scott Eatherton to Northeastern shortly thereafter. Since that chaotic time, the fanbase must be dazed and confused as their beloved Red Flash (what else is there to do in Loretto, PA?) have all but locked up their eighth straight losing season. For optimistic fans in early 2012, it’s hard to believe that Chris Johnson and Eatherton are long gone, relegating the program into complete rebuild mode once again. There should be wins in Krimmel’s near future, maybe even three or four NEC victories I reckon, but this wasn’t supposed to be the dismal benchmark for the 2012-13 season.
Milwaukee (2-13, 0-3 Horizon) – I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a “shout out” to the Horizon League, mainly because Big Apple Buckets creator John has a soft spot for Midwestern mid-major basketball. It has been a precipitous drop for the Panthers, as they free-falled in KenPom’s ratings from #200 at the beginning of the season to #313 currently. It wasn’t supposed to be this bad, especially after an early season victory over Davidson, but Rob Jeter’s streak of four straight winning seasons in Milwaukee is all but over. Since their improbable triumph over Davidson, the Panthers have lost ten games by double digits and find themselves in the Horizon League cellar, even though JUCO standout Jordan Aaron has done a respectable job replacing point guard Kaylon Williams. The offense has been difficult to watch, as the Panthers continue to jack up a high quantity of threes, despite shooting an abysmal 27.0% from behind the arc.
THE WORST OF THE WORST
Binghamton (1-15, 0-4 AE) – In one of the most bizarre career decisions you’ll ever see, Tommy Dempsey left a respectable MAAC program in Rider for an ugly situation at Binghamton. When Dempsey arrived Binghamton was in shambles, amid an academic scandal that left the team barren with talent. With their infamous 2-29 campaign last season behind them however, the Bearcats are on the upswing under Dempsey’s leadership. For now though, there will be copious amounts of losses – via blowout and in the tight variety – that will make it extremely difficult for the Bearcats to crawl their way out of the America East basement. The aforementioned UMBC and New Hampshire may have something to say about that, but for now, the 341st team in KenPom’s ratings will undergo another miserable season.
Maryland-Eastern Shore (0-13, 0-2 MEAC) - None of these teams, and I mean no one, has approached the depths of failure quite like the runt of Maryland University hoops, Maryland-Eastern Shore. Five head coaches have attempted to revive the program in the past 11 years, yet all have failed by compiling an absolutely atrocious record of 64 wins and 247 losses, for a winning percentage of 0.206. This season has been even worse for the Hawks, as they’ve lost 12 of their 13 games by double figures. Within the conference, Maryland-Eastern Shore has even managed to score the fewest points in the conference (0.84 points/possession) and give up the most (1.12 points allowed per possession). That’s really tough to do in the MEAC.
Lamar (2-15, 0-5 Southland) – Second year head coach Pat Knight (you might remember his volatile father, you know, the one who threw a chair across an Indiana court) brought national attention to his program last season, when he lambasted his senior rich team after a bitter home loss to Stephen F. Austin. Somehow, the team responded to Knight’s antics by earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament before succumbing to Vermont in the play-in game. With those “wretched” seniors now gone though, Knight roster of newbies has struggled to even stay competitive. They have yet to win a road game (0-11), which makes perfect sense when you realize Lamar has the seventh worst offense efficiency rating (84.6 points/100 possessions) and the third worst turnover rate (27.5%) in the country. In fact, a eye-popping eight players, yes eight, possess turnover rates greater than 21.4% (the national average is 20.2%). With the way things are going, the second year head coach is probably three home losses away from delivering an epic rant once again, which begs the question: if Pat Knight screams his head off at a press conference and nobody is there cover it, will he make a sound? I seriously doubt it.
Presbyterian (0-14, 0-3 Big South) – Presbyterian’s record on any major sports website lists the Blue Hose (what the hell kind of mascot is a Blue Hose anyway?!) with a record of 3-14, but we aren’t fooled one bit. If you trim away the non D-I fat, Presbyterian is still searching for their first real victory of the season. Things were kind of looking up for Gregg Nibert – the only coach in Presbyterian’s six years of D-I existence – at the end of last season after a respectable 14-15 campaign, but the departure of four of the top six most efficient players on the roster has brought Presbyterian right back to their miserable beginning. Currently, they are scoring only 0.85 points per possession, which when paired with their snail-like tempo of 63 possessions per game, doesn’t really add up to a lot of points. It’s no wonder the Blue Hose have the second worst KenPom pythagorean winning percentage in all of college basketball.
Grambling State (0-15, 0-6 SWAC) – I’ve saved the worst for last, because when Deadspin does a feature on the Tigers questioning if they’re the worst basketball team in the HISTORY OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL, then the Tigers must be really bad. As stated brilliantly in the Deadspin piece, Grambling is dead last in the nation in both offensive and defensive efficiency, by a wide margin. They’ve lost their 15 contests by an average of 33.6 points and continue to take a pounding in the SWAC, which is labeled as the worst conference in all of basketball with only two teams inside KenPom’s top 300 (there are 347 schools in D-I basketball). The Tigers only have eight players on scholarship, have been heavily sanctioned by the NCAA for violations, and have a brand new coach for the fourth time in six seasons. It’s no wonder Grambling’s pythagorean winning percentage is the lowest number (0.0046) since Maryland-Eastern Shore registered a 0.0073 after a horrid 2005-06 season. So does Grambling have a shot to become the worst team in the history of college basketball? Ken Pomeroy believes it’s possible. Maybe Tiger fans have something to root for after all.
Ryan Peters covers mid-major college basketball for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride