USC improved to 18-3 last night after it beat Arizona State and as the athletic dept. noted after the game, the last time the Trojans were 18-3 was the 1973-74 season.
I hate the comparison because this year’s team will make its own legacy, especially at the NCAA Tournament and probably win the Pac-12 title.
I also hate the comparison because that 1973-74 USC team wasn’t regularly playing teams that were missing 3-4 players/starters.
Let’s roll the tape: USC played non-conference games vs. Arizona, Utah, Illinois, Santa Clara, Ohio, Arizona State, Houston, Rutgers, Oral Roberts, Seton Hall and Fordham.
- Arizona had Bob Elliott (18.6 ppg career average) and Eric Money (18.1 ppg in 73-74).
- Utah featured Luther “Ticky” Burden, who averaged 20.1 ppg for the USA at the 1974 World Championships. That scoring average stood until Kevin Durant broke it in 2010.
- Ohio had Walter Luckett. Who? He was the MAC Player of the Year, on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a freshman and averaged 22.8 points in 1973-74. The Bobcats won the MAC and were not a pushover.
- Arizona State had Lionel Hollins, who was the sixth pick of the 1975 NBA Draft and won a title with the Portland Trail Blazers.
- Houston had Otis Birdsong, the No. 2 pick of the 1977 NBA Draft, who averaged more than 20 points four different seasons in the NBA.
- Rutgers had Phil Sellers (the school’s all-time leading scorer, All-American) and “Fast Eddie” Jordan.
- Seton Hall was coached by CBS legend Bill Raftery.
- I haven’t even gotten to the Pac-8 schedule. UCLA was ranked No. 1 and led by Bill Walton when it handed USC one of its three losses in that first 21 games. Oregon was in the heart of its Kamikaze Kids era with Ron Lee and Greg Ballard.
- Arizona, Utah, Rutgers and Arizona State all won 18-19 games that season. Oral Roberts went 23-6 and lost to Kansas, 93-90, in the Elite Eight.
What’s my point? These were real teams with star players. USC starting out 18-3 was pretty good. And — at the risk of angering some homer fans — not the same as beating an Arizona State team so short-handed this week that Coach Bobby Hurley is practicing on the scout team. Or Stanford without three starters.
That’s not a criticism of USC’s current record. It’s a criticism of why stats can be misleading and why I can’t stand comparisons.