After Toledo’s loss this evening at #16 Kansas (the Jayhawk’s 68th-straight win at home against a non-conference opponent), there are only seven remaining undefeated teams. Toledo (12-1) had been the only unranked team, and one of two undefeated teams not from a power conference. Two schools from the Pac-12 and Big Ten remain, while the ACC, Big 12, and Missouri Valley Conference each have one undefeated representative. None of these schools have opened up conference play yet, but as conference play is about to unfold, which of these undefeated teams can run the table and finish the season with an unblemished record.
#1 Arizona (13-0) and #10 Oregon (12-0) represent the Pac-12 on this list. The Pac-12 will be highly competitive, but Arizona and Oregon appear to be the class of the conference. Their main competition will come from Utah, Arizona State, Colorado and UCLA. Oregon currently averages over 90 points per game (#1 in the country with 90.8 PPG) and shoots over 51% from the field (4th in the country). They will face a challenge January 5th, when they head to Boulder, Co. to face Colorado. #1 Arizona has good wins so far this season against Duke and Michigan, but will face their next big challenge on the road January 9th against UCLA. Oregon and Arizona will play two times this season: February 6th at Arizona and in the final game of the Pac-12 regular season at Oregon on March 8th, I expect neither team will be able to escape Pac-12 play without a loss.
The Big Ten has two undefeated teams remaining with thirteen wins a piece, #3 Ohio State and #4 Wisconsin. The team currently ranked #5 in the country is a one-loss Michigan State squad. Ohio State will have to travel to play the Spartans on January 7th, the next real threat for Ohio State will be February 1st, when they head to Madison, Wis. to play the Badgers. Ohio State closes out the season hosting the Spartan’s on March 9th. Wisconsin has the honor of hosting both Ohio State and Michigan State this season, and their only real challenges on the road should be an Indiana team that has not been able to get it done against ranked opponents this season on February 22nd, when they have to go on the road against #22 Iowa Hawkeyes, who are currently ranked in the top-5 nationally in points per game (3rd), rebounds per game (3rd), and assists per game (5th).
With four out of ten teams currently ranked, there is a lot of parity in the Big 12. The only remaining unbeaten team in the conference are the #13 Iowa State Cyclones (6th in the country in points per game and 4th in assists per game). Iowa State will face ranked opponents two out of three games twice this season, with the middle game of each three-game set coming against the Oklahoma Sooners. The first occurrence will be at home when they face their first two ranked conference foes on January 7th and January 13th, with Baylor and Kansas coming to Ames, IA. , with a quick trip to Norman, Ok. on January 11th. On January 29th and February 3rd, the Cyclones will travel to Kansas and Oklahoma State, hosting Oklahoma on February 1st. Iowa State will conclude their tough Big 12 slate with a game at Baylor and a home finale against Oklahoma State.
Syracuse (12-0) may have left the BIG EAST chasing promises of a big football payday, but they find themselves sitting in a familiar position. They are in the largest conference in the land (15 teams), and will probably end up sitting near the top, as they are currently ranked #2 in the nation. The Orange may be in a new conference, but they are still led by their long-time coach Jim Boeheim. They’ve played one “road” game with a trip down to Madison Square Garden to play the St. John’s Red Storm in front of 16,000+ at The World’s Most Famous Arena. They haven’t left the state of New York, save for a quick Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, during which they swept the three neutral court opponents. The biggest challenges for Syracuse in their first year in the Atlantic Coast Conference will be against the traditional ACC powers North Carolina (vs. January 11th) and Duke (vs. February 1st, at February 22nd). The Orange also have a home and home series against a familiar foe, the Pittsburgh Panthers, who made the jump from the BIG EAST to the ACC this year as well. The ACC always provides a tough gauntlet to run through, and this year will be no different with formidable opponents at every turn in the schedule. It will be difficult for the Orange to emerge from their first season in the ACC unscathed, although I do anticipate them challenging Duke for the regular season crown.
The seventh undefeated team of the 2013-14 NCAA Men’s Basketball Season is from the Missouri Valley Conference. They may face less challenging competition night in and night out from their counterparts on this list, but that does not mean that the Wichita State Shockers (13-0) will go unchallenged in conference play. In non-conference play this season, they didn’t defeat any ranked opponents but they did defeat teams from power conferences such as the BIG EAST and SEC (DePaul, Tennessee, and Alabama). The Shockers should be tested early when they have to travel to Springfield, MO, to take on the Missouri State Bears on January 11th. On January 25th, the Shockers will travel to Des Moines to take on the Drake Bulldogs, who have lost three games this season against formidable opponents in Saint Mary’s College, Iowa, and New Mexico State. Wichita State has been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four appearance last season. Wichita State has not won a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship since 1987, but with the league’s perennial leader (Creighton) moving on too greener pastures (BIG EAST), the conference appears to be wide-open for a new frontrunner.
The following is courtesy of Ken Pomeroy at ESPN:
Since 2003, there have been 23 such achievements in college hoops, roughly two per season. In the macro view, it’s not unusual, but in the micro view it is: There have been 350 conference seasons played over that time, so a perfect conference slate has happened in just 6.6 percent of conference seasons.
How do you like the odds of your favorite team now? If you asked me at the beginning of the college basketball season which team would run the table and finish the season undefeated, I would have you flat out “no one”. Approximately 35% of the way through the college basketball schedule, with only about 2% of Division 1 teams still undefeated, I’ll give you this answer “Maybe, Wichita State”. Will they return to the Final Four (a la the Butler Bulldogs in 2010 & 2011)? Highly unlikely, but the great thing about college basketball is that only time will tell.