Is The Current Era As Good As The Late 60s Or PSJ?

The most interesting days to write about, well, anything I guess, are when you sit down with a theme or a story idea in mind, and by the time you’re done, you’ve written a totally different story in a whole new direction. This is one of those days.

I intended to write about UH’s 2021-22 season at the 20-game marker but instead, ended up down a wormhole, looking at the numbers from UH’s best basketball eras. I started tinkering with some numbers and an hour later, found myself with information I really did not expect. The current era – basically, the post-Hofheinz era – stacks up quite nicely against the late 1960s and early 1980s. Before getting to my reasoning, here’s some background:

The late 1960s teams, led Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney, were limited by the NCAA to just three years of eligibility and they never played in a conference. It’s hard to necessarily compare them like-for-like with later eras. Polling was different, too.

Phi Slama Jama is the brand but the massive success was limited to about 2.5 years. In fact, 40 years ago today, UH lost their fifth out of six games in the middle of the 1981-82 season. Two days later, in a game against Texas Tech, things started clicking and the Coogs won 13 of 14 to get to the Final Four. More on that Thursday.

The current era lost an AAC and NCAA Tournament due to COVID but has still won games in three-straight NCAA Tournaments and will likely achieve 20 wins for the seventh-straight year. It appears that this era will be longer than the others and more reloading than rebuilding.

And probably more than anyone, I hate comparing eras. It is impossible to address the differences in sets of realities. With that said, here we go.

The best four-year stretches in UH history (100+ wins):
111 – 2017-21
109 – 1980-84
102 – 2018-22*
100 – 1964-68

And here are the fewest losses in a four-season span:
18 – 2018-22*
21 – 1966-70
22 – 1964-68
22 – 1965-69
23 – 1969-73
24 – 2017-21
24 – 1967-71
25 – 1980-84

And the best winning percentage over four years:
.8500 – 2018-22*
.8222 – 2017-21
.8181 – 1966-70
.8151 – 1965-69
.8134 – 1980-84

*incomplete

The current four-year stretch could end up with the most wins, possibly the fewest losses, and the best winning percentage. The four-year stretch that ended in the 2021 Final Four was pretty salty, too.

How about five years?

Five-year stretch with 120+ wins:
132 – 2016-21
129 – 2017-22*
125 – 1980-85
123 – 1979-84
122 – 1965-70
121 – 1966-71

Fewest losses in a five-year stretch:
26 – 2017-22*
27 – 1965-70
28 – 1966-71
31 – 1967-72
32 – 1969-74
33 – 1968-73
35 – 2016-21

Best winning percentage over five years:
.8322 – 2017-22*
.8188 – 1965-70
.8121 – 1966-71
.7904 – 2016-21
.7862 – 1967-72
.7698 – 1969-74
.7626 – 1968-73
.7622 – 1980-85

*incomplete

Obviously, the current stretch won’t end up with the fewest losses in five years but they’ll also play 15+ more games.

In The Rankings

This one is harder to untangle and compare. The AP only ranked 10 teams until 1968-1969, when they moved to 20 teams (and 25 teams in the 89-90 season). But ranking only 10 teams before ’68 was irrelevant to this discussion because UH was in the top-10 every single week in the 66-67 and 67-68 seasons.

Most weeks in the top-10 in a four-year stretch:
37 – 1966-1970
27 – 1980-1984
23 – 2019-2022*

Most weeks in the top-20 in a four-year stretch:
49 – 1966-70
48 – 2018-2022*
39 – 1980-1984

Most weeks ranked in a four-year stretch:
54 – 2018-2022*
49 – 1966-1970
39 – 1980-1984

*incomplete

Currently, UH has been ranked in 39-straight AP Polls, the longest streak in school history.

NCAA Tournament Wins

Tournament Wins in a four-year stretch
13 wins – 1980-84
10 wins – 1965-68**
7 wins – 2018-2021***

** two wins came after a Tournament loss. It was custom at the time to play two games at each site regardless of the outcome.
*** incomplete due to the 2020 NCAA Tournament being canceled due to COVID.

What the current era cannot match are the Final Fours – two in the 60s and three in the early 1980s. Plus, the 1983 and 1984 teams both played for the national title.

Also, the early 80s/PSJ era had five SWC titles (three tournament titles, two regular-season) while this current era has three (two regular-season, one tournament). This era lost the chance for a tournament title in 2020 after the COVID cancellation and lost last year’s COVID-goofy regular season despite having three more AAC wins than the champion.

Unless this season implodes, 2022 will be the fifth straight with fewer than 10 losses (tying 1969-70 through 73-74 for the school record). That’s remarkable since this is the same program that, just two decades ago, won 48 total games in five seasons.

Kelvin Sampson has won 48 of his last 55 games.

 

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