Thursday, April 9, 2009
Updated: April 14, 1:00 PM ET
Connecticut women join list of perfect teams
By David Schoenfield
The Connecticut women just finished a remarkable season, winning all 39 games, winning every game by at least 10 points and winning every game in the NCAA tournament by at least 19 points. Tina Charles dominated in the championship against Louisville, scoring 25 points and grabbing 19 rebounds.
The Huskies became the fifth women's team to go undefeated, the first since UConn's 2002 squad. While basketball aficionados argue about the greatest women's teams ever, we had a bigger list in mind: the greatest perfect seasons across all sports.
Have at it. And, yes, if we left off your favorite team or disrespected your favorite squad, "criticize" us in the comments section below.
39. 1870 Princeton football (1-0)
A year after Princeton and Rutgers played America's first football game, we had our first undefeated team. Little did they know that the invention of football would one day lead to this.
38. 1967 Harlem Globetrotters (277-0)
In their heyday, the Globetrotters were simply unbeatable. In fact, legend has it they won 2,495 consecutive games from 1962 to 1971. No wonder they had their own cartoon!
37. 2002 Ohio State football (14-0)
The only Division I team to go 14-0, the Buckeyes upset Miami 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl to cap the perfect season. The Buckeyes survived several close games, including a 13-9 win over Cincinnati that included a last-minute interception in the end zone, a 19-14 win over Wisconsin, a thrilling 10-6 win over Purdue in the final two minutes, an OT win over Illinois and a 14-9 win over Michigan. The Buckeyes didn't play Iowa, which also went undefeated in Big Ten play. So yes, they might have been lucky, and frankly aren't one of the greatest college football teams ever, but we had to link to the highlight of Brent Musberger shouting "Holy Buckeye!"
36. 1954 Kentucky men's basketball (25-0)
Led by Cliff Hagan's 24 points per game, the Wildcats outscored opponents by an average of 27.2 points, with only two contests decided by fewer than 10 points. However, the Wildcats turned down an invite to the NCAA tournament. Seems Kentucky had canceled the previous season after a point-shaving scandal, and Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Lou Tsioropoulos (the team's three leading scorers) were fifth-year seniors and were attending graduate school, but the NCAA declared them ineligible for the tournament.
35. 2004 Arsenal soccer (26-0-12)
What is the definition of perfect? Arsenal didn't lose a single Premiership match all season, earning the nickname "The Invincibles." They did, however, tie 12 of their 38 matches, and a tie isn't a win, so apparently they weren't completely invincible. They also lost their FA Cup semifinal game to Manchester United, so while the nickname is cute, we won't argue if you think it's a big lie.
34. 1986 Texas women's basketball (34-0)
Of the five undefeated women's Division I hoops teams, the Longhorns have the lowest average margin of victory, lowest margin of victory against ranked teams, and most victories by fewer than 10 points (four). The title-game victory over Cheryl Miller's USC squad was impressive, but we rank them a clear No. 5 among the women's teams.
33. 1974 Oklahoma football (11-0)
An ode to the days of classic wishbone football: The Sooners threw the ball just 83 times all season. Also an ode to classic Barry Switzer football: The Sooners were ineligible to play in a bowl game. Overall, they won by an average score of 43 to 8, with a 16-13 win over Texas the tightest affair.
32. 1964 UCLA men's basketball (30-0)
John Wooden's first national title team was an undersized squad led by guards Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazzard. Its run to the title wasn't easy, with a five-point win over Seattle, a four-point win over San Francisco and a six-point win over Kansas State before beating Duke 98-83 in the final.
31. 1929 Green Bay Packers (12-0-1)
Ha, and you thought the 1972 Dolphins were the NFL's only undefeated team! Don't let Mercury Morris confuse you! Johnny Blood bought the block way back in 1929! (Of course, he immediately lost it in the stock market crash.) OK, they did tie the Frankfurt Yellow Jackets 0-0 in an epic scoreless battle late in the season, but the game of the year was a 20-6 victory over the New York Giants in late November when Green Bay entered 9-0 and New York 8-0-1. The Packers allowed just 22 points all season.
30. 1956 San Francisco men's basketball (29-0)
The Dons had won the title in '55 with one defeat but went one game better in '56, even though star guard K.C. Jones missed the championship game (Bill Russell led the way with 26 points and 27 rebounds in the 83-71 win over Iowa). Keep in mind, however, that not all the best teams then played in the NCAA tournament: No. 3 Dayton and No. 6 Louisville, for example, played in the NIT.
29. 1996 Iowa wrestling (17-0)
Crushed rivals Oklahoma State 28-13 and 26-9 and Iowa State 22-12 and 33-4 in dual meets and went on to win Big Ten and NCAA titles. Defeating the five other schools that still have wrestling programs.
28. 1901 Michigan football (11-0)
Under the legendary Fielding Yost, Michigan outscored its opponents 555-0, including a 49-0 thrashing of Stanford in the first Rose Bowl, to win the mythical national championship. (Back then, sportswriters referred to it as the "voluminous altercation over the determination of the unequaled college football champion in all the country." Harvard went 12-0 that year and argued it was the national champion. See, college football hasn't changed in 107 years; in fact, if Michigan and Harvard played today, we wouldn't know who would win. Be prepared for defeat, Michigan, be prepared.
27. 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings (57-0)
They beat the Great Westerns 45-9 in their season opener and then traversed the country, taking on all comers and never losing. Of course, it helped that they were baseball's first professional team and had paid to acquire many of the nation's top players. Shortstop George Wright was the team's highest-paid player, at $1,400, and hit .519 with 59 home runs. Statisticians, however, are still trying to figure out his VORP for the year.
26. 1995 Connecticut women's basketball (35-0)
The second undefeated women's team, the Huskies featured Rebecca Lobo, Kara Walters and Nykesha Sales, but their tournament run wasn't quite as dominating as the later UConn squads: a 67-63 regional final win over Virginia and a 70-64 victory over Tennessee in the championship (although Tennessee finished 34-3, with two losses to Connecticut).
25.-24. 1991 Washington football and 1991 Miami football (both 12-0)
Washington outscored its opponents 495-115, including a 34-14 win over 10-1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl in which it held Heisman winner Desmond Howard to one catch. Miami outscored its opponents 386-100, including a 22-0 win over 9-1-1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. (Washington had defeated Nebraska earlier in the season, 36-21 in Lincoln, rolling up over 600 yards of offense.) The two schools split the national championship, although Miami had one wide piece of luck in its season.
23.-21. 1991-93 North Carolina women's soccer (72-0)
From 1986 to 1998, the Tar Heels had an amazing 13-year-run in which they never lost more than one game in a season and won 11 national titles. The middle of that stretch featured three perfect seasons in a row, with players like Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm and Tisha Venturini. (Carolina would have another perfect season in 2003.)
20. 1957 North Carolina men's basketball (32-0)
After beating Michigan State in triple overtime in the semifinals, the Heels only had to beat some guy named Chamberlain in the championship game. In three overtimes.
19. 1970 Cornell hockey (29-0)
The only undefeated Division I men's hockey team, Cornell beat Clarkson 6-4 in the championship game. The undefeated season actually came the year after legendary goalie and future NHL Hall of Famer Ken Dryden graduated, leaving the netminding to Brian Cropper. The team's closest call was a 5-4 OT win over Brown, but only four other games were decided by one goal.
18. 1967 UCLA men's basketball (30-0)
Kareem's sophomore year was his only undefeated season, as the Bruins would lose one game in both 1968 and 1969 (although winning the championship both years). The 1967 squad, however, is generally considered not quite as dominant as the '68 team (which famously lost to Elvin Hayes and Houston during the regular season when Kareem played with a scratched eye, then destroyed the Cougars 101-69 in the national semifinals).
17. 1948 Cleveland Browns (15-0)
It wasn't the NFL, but the All-America Football Conference might have been just as good. When it folded in 1950 and the Browns joined the NFL, they won the NFL title their first season. Led by Otto Graham and Marion Motley, the Browns outscored their opponents 389-190 and then beat the Buffalo Bills 49-7 in the AAFC championship. Sorry, Bills fans.
16. 1961 Alabama football (11-0)
Bear Bryant's teams won or shared six national titles, but were perfect just two of those seasons: 1961 and 1979. The '61 team allowed only 25 points, scoring 297, and defeated Arkansas 10-3 in the Sugar Bowl.
15. 1998 Tennessee Lady Vols (39-0)
Not only did the Chamique Holdsclaw/Tamika Catchings-led Lady Vols win 'em all, but they captured their third consecutive title. Tennessee actually had a scare in the regional final, falling behind by 12 points to North Carolina before rallying in the final 10 minutes for a 76-70 win. They beat Louisiana Tech 93-75 in the title game.
14. 2001 Miami Hurricanes (12-0)
This Larry Coker-coached squad was Miami's most dominant: outscored opponents 512-117, an average of 33.2 points per game; featured five first-round NFL picks in the 2002 draft (Bryant McKinnie, Jeremy Shockey, Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed and Mike Rumph); quarterback Ken Dorsey and future NFL stars Clinton Portis and Andre Johnson anchored the offense; whipped ranked opponents Syracuse and Washington by a combined 124-7 in consecutive weeks; led Nebraska 34-0 at halftime of the Rose Bowl. The only strike was a 26-24 victory over Virginia Tech and a close call against Boston College
and yes, Reed was making big plays in college as well.
13. 1973 UCLA Bruins (30-0)
A short list of brilliant final game/championship performances:
(1) Bill Walton, 21-for-22 from the field, 44 points: 1973 NCAA championship;
(2) Sandy Koufax, 3 hits, 10 K's, no runs, two days' rest: Game 7, 1965 World Series;
(3) Walt Frazier, 36 points, 17 assists, 7 rebounds: Game 7, 1970 NBA Finals;
(4) Jack Morris, 10 shutout innings: Game 7, 1991 World Series;
(5) Jimmy Chitwood, Indiana state basketball championship
12. 1976 Cincinnati Reds (7-0 in the playoffs)
Does this count? The Reds are the only team in the divisional era to go perfect in the postseason, sweeping the Phillies in the NLCS and then the Yankees in the World Series. How perfect were the Reds? They led the NL in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, doubles, triples, home runs, walks and stolen bases.
11. 2009 Connecticut women's basketball (39-0)
Returning 10 players from a Final Four squad, the Huskies had arguably the most dominant season in women's hoops history. They won all 39 games by double digits and outscored their opponents by 30.5 points per game overall and 25.2 in the tournament, and trailed just in just one game after halftime all season.
10. 2005 Texas football (13-0)
We admit: It's difficult to put any team coached by Mack Brown this high, but the best sign of greatness is going toe-to-toe with the best, and Texas beat the undefeated Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush USC Trojans 41-38 in perhaps the greatest college football game ever played.
9. 1972 USC Trojans (12-0)
An offensive powerhouse that featured running backs Sam Cunningham and Anthony Davis and wide receiver Lynn Swann, the Trojans topped 40 points seven times and beat six ranked opponents, including No. 3 Ohio State 42-17 in the Rose Bowl. A 30-21 win over Stanford was the only relatively close game. As Washington State coach Jim Sweeney said, "USC's not the number one team in the country. The Miami Dolphins are better."
8. 1976 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0)
The Hoosiers had been 31-0 the previous season before losing 92-90 to Kentucky in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament and returned four senior starters, but coach Bob Knight tried to rein in talk of an undefeated season: "We're just not going to go out and beat 27 teams the way last year's team did and the way you people expect," he said at a preseason breakfast. The Hoosiers did have a close call in the NCAA tournament, trailing Alabama 69-68 with 3:58 remaining, but held the Tide scoreless the rest of the way and won 74-69. In the championship against Big Ten rival Michigan, guard Bobby Wilkerson left early with a head injury and Michigan led 35-29 at halftime, but the Hoosiers put the hammer down in the final 10 minutes to win 86-68. While none turned into big NBA stars, Scott May, Quinn Buckner and Wilkerson were drafted 2nd, 7th and 11th overall in the 1976 draft, while center Kent Benson went first overall in 1977.
7. 1972 Miami Dolphins (17-0)
Cue up Mr. Mercury Morris: "Like I said, don't call me when you're in my town, call me when you're on my block, and I see you next door moving your furniture in."
Cue up the prosecution: "One of the easiest schedules in NFL history. Won three playoff games by a combined 17 points. Threw only 11 passes in the Super Bowl, which kind of places this feat in the era of caveman football."
6. 2002 Connecticut women's basketball (39-0)
Perhaps featuring slightly more star power than the '09 squad -- seniors Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Asjha Jones plus sophomore sensation Diana Taurasi -- they won all but one game by 10 points or more, won by an average of 35 points, obliterated Tennessee by 23 in the semifinals and beat Oklahoma 82-70 in the national title game.
5. 1972 UCLA men's basketball (30-0)
The Bruins returned just one starter from the 1971 NCAA title squad, but added an imposing redheaded sophomore center named Bill Walton. The Bruins cruised through the regular season, winning by an average of 30.2 points and topping 100 points 12 times. Until the NCAA championship -- an 81-76 victory over Florida State -- they had only one game closer than 13 points (a 78-72 win at Oregon State).
4. 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-0)
Let's just run down their scores: 34-7, 35-7, 34-7, 42-6, 36-0, 55-0, 41-13, 31-7, 37-0, 44-17, 35-31 (over No. 2 Oklahoma in the Game of the Century), 45-3 and, finally, 38-6 over No. 2 and unbeaten Alabama in the Orange Bowl. The Game of the Century, played on Thanksgiving with an estimated 55 million watching on TV, featured this Johnny Rodgers punt return and one of the classic sportswriting lines of all time, courtesy of Dave Kindred of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "They can quit playing now. They've played the perfect game."
3. 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-0)
Let's just run down their scores: 64-21, 50-10, 77-28, 49-7, 35-21, 57-0, 49-25, 44-21, 73-14, 41-3, 37-0 and 62-24 over undefeated Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.
2. 2007 New England Patriots (18-0)
1. 1970 Brazil World Cup soccer (12-0)
The only World Cup team to win every match, including the qualifying games. Brazil went 6-0 in its qualifying group, outscoring opponents 23-2. After going 3-0 in its World Cup group, in the knockout stage Brazil beat Peru 4-2, Uruguay 3-1 and then Italy 4-1 in the final. Right winger Jairzinho scored in all six of Brazil's games (seven goals total). In the final, Pele headed in a cross for the game's first goal and later fed Carlos Alberto for the final score, a goal considered one of the greatest in World Cup history.