John Zant: Taking it to the Courts

John Zant's column appears each week in the Santa Barbara Independent.


John Zant’s column appears
each week in the
Santa Barbara Independent


It was a cause for celebration when UCSB took an 18-17 lead over Long Beach State 12 minutes into last Saturday’s women’s basketball game at the Thunderdome. Long Beach’s 49ers were leading the Big West Conference with a shiny 16-1 overall record, while the Gauchos were seeking their first regular-season win. Alas, the euphoria lasted only as long as a time-out. The 49ers crushed UCSB’s hopes with a 17-2 run en route to an 81-44 triumph.

An unthinkable prospect is emerging – this team is 0-16 and may not win a game. The only other Big West team with a sub-0.500 record is UC Irvine at 3-15. Irvine’s visit on January 29 may be UCSB’s best chance to avoid the ignominy of a winless season. Out of 349 NCAA Division I teams, only three others currently have a bagel in the win column.

There is a Division III school in Pasadena that would consider UCSB’s slide a mere hiccup. At least Gaucho women’s fans have memories of an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2004. The men’s basketball team at the California Institute of Technology has not enjoyed a winning season since 1954.

Santa Barbara resident Fred Anson was senior captain of that 1953-54 Caltech team, which went 14-7 and won the school’s only Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championship.

In the 60 years since, the Beavers have not gotten the faintest whiff of another title. Their futility reached historic depths. It was the subject of Quantum Hoops, an entertaining 2007 documentary produced by Rick Greenwald, a UCSB film studies graduate. At the time, Caltech was buried in a streak of 250 consecutive SCIAC losses dating back to 1985. The despair continued four more years, culminating in 310 conference defeats, until the Beavers beat Occidental in the 2011 season finale, 46-45. Victory was never sweeter.