The first team to accomplish the feat however was Saint Joseph’s in 2003-04. The Hawks finished the regular season 27–0, the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.
In 2009, Sports Illustrated named the 2003-04 Hawks the best single-season college basketball team of the 2000s: “St. Joe’s didn’t quite pull off a championship … but the Hawks, led by incandescent point guard Jameer Nelson, became the first team to complete a perfect regular season since UNLV in 1991.”
Nelson was named National Player of the Year while Phil Martelli was named National Coach of the Year.
The Hawks lost to Xavier in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but reached the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. The No. 1-seeded Hawks beat Liberty, Texas Tech and Wake Forest before losing 64-62 to No. 2 seed Oklahoma State in the East Regional final. (Oklahoma State lost to eventual national runner-up Georgia Tech 67-65 in the national semifinals).
St. Joseph’s website told the story of that perfect season on the 10th anniversary in 2014:
Ten years ago today, the Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball team made history. On March 2, 2004, second-ranked Saint Joseph’s defeated St. Bonaventure, 82-50, in Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, to finish the regular season with a perfect 27-0 record.
The atmosphere was electric that night on Hawk Hill. Fans lined up outside, two television broadcast crews, and overflow media from around the nation came to witness college basketball history.
It was also “Senior Night” and Jameer Nelson, Tyrone Barley, Brian Jesiolowski, Rob Hartshorn were honored prior to their last game on Hawk Hill. It had also been announced that Nelson’s number 14 would be retired, but the star guard announced after the game that he wanted to defer it, because he had “more games to play.”
The outcome of the game was never in question, with the Hawks running out to a 47-27 lead by halftime. Nelson and Delonte West led the way, as they did for much of the season, with 25 points and 15 points, respectively.
The Hawks held a post-game ceremony to celebrate and March 2nd will be remembered as just one of many special moments in that 2003-04 season, which will forever live on in college basketball and Saint Joseph’s history.
On the cover and above: Saint Joseph’s celebrates the end of its perfect regular season in 2003-04. (Courtesy SJU Athletic Communications via Sideline Photos, LLC)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Quinnipiac and Radford
• Tuesday: Rensselaer (RPI) and Rhode Island
• Wednesday: Rice and Richmond
• Thursday: St. Bonaventure and St. Cloud State
• Friday: Saint Joseph’s and St. Lawrence