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Quantum Hoops (2007) - Movie Review
By Jennifer Merin
June 18, 2008

The Bottom Line

California Institute of Technology is ranked among the world's five top academic institutions, and its faculty and alumni hold an astonishing number of Nobel Prizes. So, it should come as no surprise that the school's emphasis is on academic--not athletic--achievements. Caltech offers no athletic scholarships and its basketball team ranks lowest in its league. But the team's story is the quirky subject of Rick Greenwald's captivating Quantum Hoops, a film that's as smart as its subjects--the team of players who continue to push their game although they consistently lose.


  • A smart and entertaining sports documentary about a most unique college basketball team.
  • Caltech's basketball team loses consistently, but the players put new bounce into the game.
  • A rare look at college athletes who play purely for sport.
  • Shows that sometimes when you lose, you really win. Go Caltech!
  • A fascinating chronicle of Caltech's history couched within the story of it's basketball team.


  • none worth mentioning.


  • Dedicated Head Coach Roy Dow can't be angry with his losing team because the players all try so hard and accomplish so much.
  • Chemical Engineering student David Liu takes us from the court into his lab to show us the effects of liquid nitrogen.
  • 1987 Caltech player Huckleberry Seed dropped out of school to become a top professional poker player--how's that for odds?
  • Genius reigns! Many of the Caltech basketball players are virtuoso musicians and talented graphic artists, too.
  • Although the team loses, 1959 alum Fred Newman holds the world record for free-throw shooting.
  • Beavers co-captain Day Ivey's mom says even when they seem to lose, they win. And, she's right!
  • It's great to see these brilliant young men competing for love of the sport rather than for commercial considerations.

Guide Review - Quantum Hoops (2007) - Movie Review

Just about anyone who shows up for the first day of practice becomes a member of Caltech’s basketball team--whether or not they’ve had any previous basketball experience. Most years, most first year players are as fresh to the game as they are to the school. Caltech, ranked among the world’s five top academic institutions, doesn't credit applicants for their athletic prowess. Brain power is what counts, and no athletic scholarships are given.

Nevertheless, as we discover in Rick Greenwald’s excellent Quantum Hoops, those who turn out for the team consider their basketball experiences among their most important and memorable Caltech accomplishments.

That’s surprising--because the Caltech team holds its leagues records for the most games lost and longest losing streak.

In his voice over narration, David Duchovny explains that the odds against one team losing all its games are phenomenal. But Caltech is an institution that thrives pushing the odds--not only in its losing basketball streak, but in its alumni winning a record number of Nobel Prizes.

The Beavers (the team is named for "nature's engineers") may lose consistently, but they never give up. Players go without sleep so they can practice and still keep up academically--most carrying dual majors in heady subjects (like applied physics and economics, yet they're unassuming and down to earth. They're as charming as they are smart, and the film’s writer-director-producer-cameraman, Rick Greenwald, smartly lets their charm shine through as he follows them from locker room to laboratory, interviewing them about their athletic and academic goals.

Odds are you'll really root for these guys, especially as they approach the 2006 season's final game--and actually have a chance to win.

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