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Turning Losing Into a Science
Rick Reilly
January 09, 2006
At Caltech, the most eggheaded college in America, they love numbers the way moles love dirt, so here goes:
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January 09, 2006

Turning Losing Into A Science

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The team's best player, senior Jordan Carlson, who's a theoretical physics major, figures he does schoolwork 14 hours a day. What's so important at school? "Well," he says, "an interesting question we're studying now is how mass is generated in terms of quantum field theory."

Oh, sure, the Kentucky players were discussing that the other day.

In his four seasons Dow has seen it all. One kid closed his eyes when he shot. One didn't know if he was left-or righthanded. One current player puts topspin on his jumpers. "Must be some sort of physics I'm not aware of," Dow says.

So I went to Pasadena last week to see the Beavers put their epic losing streak on the line against Rivier College of Nashua, N.H. Three things you notice right away:

1) Caltech has the world's most optimistic statistician. The stat sheet has a column titled WINNING STREAK. That's like Paris Hilton keeping track of how many Oscars she's won.

2) Caltech players are so skinny they look like they could be knocked over by a butterfly's burp.

3) Caltech has no cheerleaders. But wouldn't it be great?

Molecules, slide rules
Watt, ampere!
Fill that cylinder
With that sphere!

But the Beavers do hustle, make smart passes and run their motion offense as smoothly as a gyroscope. That's how, with 90 seconds left, they actually led Rivier by four. And the only thing the crowd could think was, O.K., which of these brainiacs is messing with the scoreboard again?

Alas, Rivier started pouring in threes, and Caltech started spitting out turnovers, and when Carlson's last-second 30-footer just missed, Caltech had lost its 181st straight NCAA game 55-54. (The Beavers have since lost two more.)

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