Last of the Unbeatens
When will the final 12 undefeated teams have their run ended?
by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
Two more unbeatens fell last night when Tennessee and Louisville feel to Oakland and Drexel, respectively. Those two losses show just how hard it is to make it through even a few months undefeated when there are so many talented teams across the country.
There are now 12 remaining undefeated teams, and history suggests none of them will be the first one to run the table since Indiana in 1976.
Here’s a look at each of those 12 teams and when they will finally suffer that first defeat.
After last season’s breakthrough year, Baylor has maintained its run of success. The Bears haven’t faced elite competition yet (their best win is against La Salle), but have looked impressive, winning every game by at least ten points. With LaceDarius Dunn back, Baylor looks like one of the top-3 teams in the Big 12.
First loss: Jan. 17 vs. Kansas. The Bears weak schedule will leave them vulnerable to a home upset in their first real test.
Brigham Young (10-0)
The Cougars are exactly what we thought they were so far this season, cruising through their non-conference schedule behind electrifying performances from Jimmer Fredette. Wins over Arizona, St. Mary’s and Utah State have shown that this BYU team is possibly the best out West this season. With Fredette running the show, this team can go on a Davidson/Stephen Curry-like run come March.
First loss: Jan. 5 @ UNLV. The Mountain West Conference has four heavyweights this year (BYU, UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico) that aren’t separated by much. Home court might be the determining factor whenever any of these four face each other.
Central Florida (8-0)
One of the biggest unbeaten surprises, Central Florida got past its biggest test when it knocked off Florida on Dec. 1. Always pegged as a school on the rise, the Knights are finally meeting those expectations. With sophomores Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton leading the way, this could be the team on top of C-USA for the foreseeable future.
First loss: Dec. 18 vs. Miami (FL). The Hurricanes have a tough squad and should prevent Central Florida from completing the Sunshine State sweep.
Perhaps more a product of their schedule than any other unbeaten, the Bearcats have beaten just two teams with a winning record. Cincinnati was picked 12th in the Big East and should fall back to earth once conference play begins.
First loss: Dec. 18 vs. Oklahoma. In a pretty evenly matched game, Cincinnati will fall in Oklahoma City (neutral site) to a Sooner team that is starting to play better basketball.
Cleveland State (12-0)
With some mildly impressive wins against Iona, Kent State and Robert Morris, the Vikings are the only undefeated team remaining from a non-FBS conference. Senior guard Norris Cole has looked like the Horizon Conference’s best player, averaging close to 20-5-5 so far this season. His team looks ready to take advantage of what could be a down year for Butler.
First loss: Dec. 18 @ West Virginia. We’ll learn a lot about Gary Waters’ team in this game, but winning in Morgantown is a daunting task for a mid-major opponent.
Unranked to start the season, no team has made a bigger jump in the polls than UConn. Kemba Walker helped them survive some early season games, but the supporting cast is coming together after a tremendous showing in Maui. The Huskies are the Big East contender that nobody saw coming.
First loss: Dec. 27 @ Pittsburgh. In what is a doozy of a conference opener for both teams, Pittsburgh’s defense will give Walker looks he hasn’t seen all season.
Ranked No. 1 since day one, Duke has been without question the best team in the country this season. With Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils knocked off two top-10 opponents. Without him they have still played at a high level, albeit against lesser competition. If Irving gets back in the lineup, this might be end up being one of the best teams in Duke history.
First loss: Jan. 12 @ Florida State. With Duke’s talent plus the state of the ACC, it can go undefeated. If I had to pick a loss, though, I’ll go with this game as it seems too early for Irving to be back for, thus making Duke its most vulnerable.
Even without Josh Selby, Kansas is a consensus top-5 team in the country right now. The front line of Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson is as talented as any in the country. This Jayhawks team might even be better than last year’s once Selby enters the mix.
First loss: Feb. 14 @ Kansas State. A favorable start to the Big 12 season might make Kansas the last unbeaten, but a trip to Manhattan will prove to be too tough a test.
The only team from a BCS conference to never make the NCAA tournament is perhaps on its way to losing that distinction. The Wildcats have only played six games but thrashed Georgia Tech for a 20-point victory. The combination of Illinois natives John Shurma and Drew Crawford have those in Evanston dreaming of March.
Ohio State (8-0)
The Buckeyes, along with Duke, are the only two teams to be ranked in the top-5 all season. Much like the Blue Devils, Ohio State’s most impressive player has been a freshman – Jared Sullinger. Ever since their manhandling of Florida in mid-November, the Buckeyes have been considered a title contender.
First loss: Jan. 22 @ Illinois. Sullinger and crew will face just one ranked team (Minnesota) before its trip to Champaign.
San Diego State (11-0)
Much like New Mexico last year, San Diego State is a team from the MWC hovering around the top-10. The Aztecs, though, might be destined to go further in March, mainly because of Kawhi Leonard, who has seven double-doubles in ten games. In what is the beat year for the MWC in recent memory, San Diego State looks like the team to beat.
First loss: Jan. 15 @ New Mexico. The Pit is one of the toughest places to play in the country, and the Lobos look poised for a return to the tournament.
The Orange looked shaky early on but still was able to pull out victories. With a convincing win against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, most doubts about this team are gone. Barring an unforeseen upset, Syracuse will enter Big East play as the conference’s highest ranked team.
First loss: Jan. 17 @ Pittsburgh. Rick Jackson has been able to wreak havoc down low this season, but the Panthers will give him and his team their toughest challenge.