Tough times get tougher at Towson

I have a little rule: If I see you at the National Chain Bagel shop just across the street from the delicious and local Chicago Bagel Authority in my neighborhood, you are a bad person. I don't care about the content of your character, or what you do for a living, or how many times you've donated to charity. My judgement is swift and final, and that's that.

I feel the same about Towson men's basketball. If you don't feel for the Tigers, you have no heart. It's a rule.

Sure, there are other winless teams in the world. The Chicago States of the world don't have it easy. The road-rambling ways of a team like Grambling State are worthy of our empathy. There are plenty of luckless squads in Division I hoops, teams that suffer some form of this difficult existence every season -- overmatched, overwhelmed, with the next day's suffering always just around the corner.

Still, Towson's dark days are of a different kind in 2011-12. In 2011 -- as in, you know, last week -- Towson completed one of the more ignominious records in modern college hoops history, achieving the rare winless calendar year. Yes, the Tigers went all of 2011 without a win. It's almost impressive, when you think about it, but let's not think about it too much.

Unfortunately, things only got worse Wednesday night. Towson scored just 27 points in its loss to Drexel, its fewest, according to ESPN Stats and Info guru Jeremy Lundblad, since joining Division I hoops in 1979. The Tigers went 8-of-37 from the field Wednesday, good for a 25.7 effective field goal percentage and -- get this -- a .51 points per possession mark. That's one of the worst offensive performances you will ever see, anywhere, in any sport.

Worse yet? Towson's loss was historically significant, too. With the loss Wednesday, Towson tied the all-time Division I record for consecutive losses, tying the 1997 through 1999 Sacramento State teams. On Saturday, the Tigers travel to Old Dominion. If -- OK, when -- they lose, they will become the NCAA's all-time leader in consecutive losses. That is not a distinction any coach, player or program wants to be a part of.

Perhaps the saddest part of all this -- the part that makes you think this team is star-crossed or something -- is that Towson had its one big opportunity to win on Dec. 30. That was Towson's last chance at a win in 2011, and the Tigers played like it, staying near-even with Virginia for nearly 40 minutes and cutting the Cavaliers' typically slim margin to just two points at the 5:40 mark in the second half. Towson trailed by just four with 1:30 left to play, but a Virginia timeout yielded a Malcolm Brogdon 3-pointer, and so the upset bid was squashed. It would have been a miracle, a bright, positive sign of progress, and above all a streak-buster -- no winless 2011 to hear about, no threat of breaking the all-time losing streak mark, none of it. The miracle outcome was just 90 seconds away.

Instead, of course, Towson lost. And so here we are, lamenting what on Saturday is likely to become the worst losing streak in the history of college basketball. You have to feel for the Tigers, for first-year coach Pat Skerry, for an athletics department doing its best to raise the school's profile and resources, for the players and fans and everyone involved. College hoops is a coldhearted business; some teams win and some teams lose, and that's just the way it goes. But you wouldn't wish this season on your worst enemy.

You know who would? The same people that go to the mediocre chain restaurant across the street from the delicious local business. Evil comes in many forms, my friends.