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Tracking Undefeateds: When will each team lose?

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Thanks to Buffalo’s win at Syracuse on Tuesday night, there are still nine college basketball teams in America that are still undefeated as of today. 

By the end of the week, that number will likely be down to six. By the end of the year, I would be shocked if there were more than five unbeatens remaining. And if we get through January with more than one team with an unblemished record, it will be quite the feat. 

Here is a look at each of those nine teams and a prediction on when they will lose their first game, starting with something that will happen on Thursday night. 

No. 12 TEXAS TECH

RECORD: 10-0
NEXT GAME: 12/20 vs. No. 2 Duke (Madison Square Garden)
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 0.01%
FIRST LOSS?: 12/20 vs. No. 2 Duke (Madison Square Garden)

*Data via KenPom.com

I’m all in on the Red Raiders this season. They have been the nation’s best defensive team this season, Chris Beard is a star in the making and Jarrett Culver is going to be a lottery pick when it is all said and done. The addition of Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney has been underrated nationally. They are, for my money, the second-best team in the Big 12 and the only team with a real chance at unseating Kansas from the top run of the conference.

And they play Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium’s New York wing — Madison Square Garden — on Thursday night.

Heading into league play with one loss is still impressive …

Jarrett Culver (Elsa/Getty Images)

No. 14 BUFFALO

RECORD: 11-0
NEXT GAME: 12/21 at No. 20 Marquette
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 1.4%
FIRST LOSS?: 12/21 at No. 20 Marquette

Buffalo has the second-best chance to go undefeated this season, according to KenPom, at 1.4% because they play in a league that only has one other team that is ranked higher than 99th, according to KenPom. The Bulls also get an added bonus of only playing Ball State once; at home, to boot. They’ll have a puncher’s chance of getting this thing done if they can get past Marquette on the road on Friday night, and I don’t think they will. As impressive as wins at West Virginia and Syracuse are, and as good as the win over San Francisco on a neutral court is going to look in March, the truth is that Marquette is the best team Buffalo will play this year.

West Virginia isn’t the West Virginia we’ve come to know and love. Syracuse is now 7-4 on the season. Marquette might be the best team in the Big East, and I think they’ll get the job done.

No. 24 FURMAN

RECORD: 12-0
NEXT GAME: 12/21 at LSU
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 0.02%
FIRST LOSS?: 12/21 at LSU

Furman has road wins over half of last year’s Final Four. They beat Loyola in the first week of the season and they won at Villanova a week later. Those are nice wins! Their other 10 games this season have come against seven teams ranked outside the top 180 on KenPom and three teams that aren’t Division I programs. It’s been a fun run for the Paladins. They’re not getting out of Baton Rouge unscathed.

ST. JOHN’S

RECORD: 10-0
NEXT GAME: 12/19 vs. St. Francis (NY)
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 0.00%
FIRST LOSS?: 12/29 at Seton Hall

The Johnnies are undefeated this season. Their best wins? A 5-4 Georgia Tech teams and a 7-4 VCU team. Or maybe it was the win at 5-5 Rutgers? Or a neutral court win over 4-5 Cal? Or maybe it’s a win over a Princeton team that was leading Duke midway through the first half before losing by 51 points?

The Johnnies haven’t beaten anyone worthwhile, and the wins they do have against those mediocre teams weren’t very impressive. I can’t seen them winning in the Prudential Center against a team that Kentucky couldn’t beat.

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

No. 1 KANSAS

RECORD: 10-0
NEXT GAME: 12/22 at No. 18 Arizona State
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 0.1%
FIRST LOSS?: 1/5 at Iowa State

The Jayhawks have had one of the weirdest starts to a season that I can remember. They have lost their starting center to an ankle injury and their backup center to an NCAA investigation. They are left with essentially a two-man offense and, until Tuesday’s win over South Dakota, had yet to put together a truly dominant performance for 40 minutes. And yet, six weeks into the season, they are undefeated and have the best resume of any team in college hoops. If they win the Big 12 regular season title — they’re going to, we all know this — the Jayhawks have probably locked themselves into a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.

So good from them.

But I’m not sure it is going to be quite so easy once league play kicks off, and I cannot see them escaping some early Hilton Magic. Iowa State has been better than we expected through the start of the season, and that is despite the fact that they have been missing Lindell Wigginton and Cameron Lard. Assuming those two play, I think the Jayhawks get picked off in their second game of the Big 12 season.

No. 21 HOUSTON

RECORD: 10-0
NEXT GAME: 12/20 vs. Utah State
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 0.06%
FIRST LOSS?: 1/9 at Temple

I’m not totally sold on the Cougars yet, but I think that it has become abundantly clear that they are better than anyone thought they would be. Their 10-0 record does include wins at BYU and Oklahoma State and home wins over Oregon, LSU and Saint Louis. That’s pretty good.

Houston plays their next five games at home, but their first road game in the league is at Temple. If they can get past that game, then Houston could make it all the way into early February — when they play at UCF, Cincinnati at home and at UConn in the span of a week — before they lose.

No. 6 NEVADA

RECORD: 11-0
NEXT GAME: 12/22 vs. Akron
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 10.3%
FIRST LOSS?: 1/12 at Fresno State

Nevada is far and away the favorite to head into the post season with an undefeated record. There was a chance that games at Loyola, at USC or against Arizona State on a neutral floor would trip them up, but Eric Musselman’s team is through the most difficult part of their schedule. On paper, they should win every game they play until the NCAA tournament with relative ease. They are projected to be at least a five-point favorite in every game left on their regular season schedule, including road trips to Utah State, Fresno State and San Diego State. KenPom is giving them a 10.3% chance to finish the season undefeated and at least a 69% chance to win every game the rest of the way.

To be totally frank, the key to Nevada having a shot at entering the NCAA tournament without a loss is going to be on them. Will they show up for every game? The last four, they’ve struggled for the first 20 minutes. They trailed USC by six at the half. They trailed Arizona State by 12 points in the first half. They only led Grand Canyon by a bucket at halftime and they trailed South Dakota State for much of the first half.

If they keep playing with fire, eventually they are going to get burned.

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No. 4 MICHIGAN

RECORD: 11-0
NEXT GAME: 12/22 vs. Air Force
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 0.1%
FIRST LOSS?: 1/19 at No. 16 Wisconsin

The Wolverines are really, really good. What they’ve done this season is not a fluke. They have come back to earth a little bit over the course of the last two weeks, but this defensive mindset is not going anywhere and so long as Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis remain weapons from the perimeter, this team has the good to win the Big Ten and a national title.

For my money, Wisconsin is the second-best team in the league right now, and the Wolverines will pay a visit to the Kohl Center on January 19th. If they can get past that game … they still aren’t going undefeated. The Big Ten has just two teams ranked outside of the top 60 on KenPom, and Michigan plays each of them (Illinois and Rutgers) once. We saw how tough life can be on the road in this league when Michigan struggled to beat Northwestern in Evanston. With four games against Wisconsin and Michigan State, an undefeated year is a pipe dream.

No. 5 VIRGINIA

RECORD: 9-0
NEXT GAME: 12/19 at South Carolina
CHANCE TO GO UNBEATEN*: 0.03%
FIRST LOSS?: 1/19 at No. 2 Duke

This prediction is complicated by the fact that Kihei Clark is out with an injured wrist. There is no official timetable for his return. The diminutive freshman is the player that gets this defense going and allows the Cavaliers to play both Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter in the position that best suits them. So that’s an important piece that’s missing, and with three of their next six games on the road, Tony Bennett will have his work cut out for him.

But I think they can win those road games — it’s South Carolina, Boston College and Clemson — and I think they can still take care of Florida State and Virginia Tech at home. And while I think that Virginia, when they are healthy, matches up better with Duke than anyone else in the country, I’m not going to be the one predicting that Duke is going to lose at home.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot to be ‘out a while’

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North Carolina’s freshman center Armando Bacot suffered a left ankle injury in the first half of Wednesday night’s game against Ohio State and did not return.

Bacot, who came down on a defender’s foot and had to be helped off of the floor, immediately when back to the locker.

“It was swollen by the time he got to the locker room,” coach Roy Williams said. “My guess is he’ll be out a while.”

The 6-foot-10 Bacot was averaging 11.7 points and 9.6 boards and was coming off of his best game of the season, when he posted 23 points, 12 boards and six blocks while playing a season-high 30 minutes against Oregon.

Michigan, Kentucky schedule basketball game in London

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan and Kentucky have agreed to play a basketball game in London next season as part of a three-year deal that also includes a home-and-home series between the two programs.

Michigan announced the deal Thursday. The teams will play at O2 Arena in London in December 2020. The teams will meet at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor in 2021 and at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena in 2022.

“When the idea of playing Kentucky came up, we knew it would be an exciting opportunity, not only for ourselves, but for our fans as well,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “What a unique three-game series. First, we get to showcase collegiate basketball overseas in London before playing that traditional home-and-home series in front of two of the nation’s best basketball environments.”

The teams have met seven times previously, with Kentucky holding a 5-2 edge. The Wildcats beat Michigan in a 2014 Elite Eight game in their most recent contest. When Howard was a player at Michigan, his Wolverines beat Kentucky in a 1993 national semifinal.

Film Room: How Ohio State handed North Carolina their worst loss in nearly two decades

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At this point, no one should be surprised when Chris Holtmann does something smart as a head coach, and I certainly was not surprised to see him find a way to smother North Carolina on the defensive side of the ball on Wednesday night.

In a 74-49 win in the Dean Dome, the worst home loss the Tar Heels have taken since 2002, when Matt Doherty was in charge, the Buckeyes held North Carolina to just 27.8 percent shooting from the floor. They shot 25.6 percent on two-point field goal attempts, the lowest number of the Roy Williams era. And I think so much of it had to do with what Holtmann did defensively on Cole Anthony.

The game-plan was, frankly, pretty simple. When Anthony had the ball, Ohio State climbed up in him, they hedged hard on all ball-screens and they sent bodies at him whenever he put the ball on the floor to drive. They made a conscious decision to force Anthony into either playing 1-on-2 and 1-on-3 or giving the ball up to a teammate. As soon as he gave the ball up, they face-guarded him. Full denial, even if it meant playing 4-on-4 for the rest of that possession.

And it worked.

Starting point guard C.J. Walker did the heavy lifting on Anthony, but he was hardly the only one. Luther Muhammad started out on Anthony before getting into four trouble and playing just nine minutes. D.J. Carton, Andre Wesson and Duane Washington all took a shot at UNC’s freshman stud as well. That’s a lot of bodies, all of whom have some size, some length and some athleticism and happen to be good individual defenders. Anthony got tired before they did.

This method was effective mainly due to the fact that because is one of the nation’s elite defenses. Combining all those athletic wings with a center in Kaleb Wesson that dropped the baby fat this summer is a luxury for Holtmann.

But it wasn’t all Ohio State.

Because what became painfully obvious for those that had not yet recognized it is that North Carolina has a startling lack of offensive weaponry. It’s almost like losing five NBA players to the draft is tough to deal with.

No matter who is on the floor with him, defenses are going to dedicate the majority of their attention to Anthony. He’s a game-changing talent. We saw him blow the game wide open against Notre Dame in the opener. He’s going to be the most dangerous player on the floor in just about every game he plays this season. But with a limited supporting cast to rely on, this is the decision Ohio State forced Roy Williams into:

1. Allow Anthony to go full iso-ball and try to win this game on his own taking deep, contested threes off the dribble or driving into two or three defenders; or

2. Run offense for the other guys on the roster even if the shots they are getting are tough shots for them. To put this into context, watch the clip below:

North Carolina ran that first play for Cam Johnson, the No. 11 pick in the draft, last season. This year it’s Brandon Robinson. In past seasons, the guy getting the post touch in the second clip was Kennedy Meeks, or Luke Maye, or Brice Johnson. Last night, it was Brandon Huffman. When they’re running pick-and-pop action like the third clip, it’s Garrison Brooks, not Maye, that is taking those jumpers.

If you’re coaching against North Carolina, I think you’re just five with Brooks shooting 17-footers. That’s the shot you live with.

Now, to be clear, Robinson is not a bad player. In fact, he’s significantly better than I realized coming into the season. And the x-factor here is that Armando Bacot played just seven minutes before spraining his ankle. He may “be our for a while,” as Roy Williams put it after the game, and even then, he’s been much better was a guy that cleans up misses than as a go-to scorer in the post. According to Synergy, he’s scored just .769 points-per-possession on post-ups, which is in the 42nd percentile nationally. You just saw all four of the post-up buckets he’s scored against high-major foes this season.

Bacot is a monster on the offensive glass, and his return will help keep defenses honest because of that. Sell out on a Cole Anthony drive like this, and Bacot is putting that miss back with a tip-dunk.

But that only mitigates the issue North Carolina has this season.

They don’t have enough talent around Cole Anthony.

Three Things to Know: Big Ten dominates, DePaul stays perfect, Georgetown wins

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It turned out to be a pretty wild night of basketball Wednesday. Purdue absolutely stomped Virginia. Villanova had trouble with Penn. Ohio State thumped North Carolina.

There is more where that came from, though, so here’s what else you need to know from a busy night of hoops around the country.

1. The Big Ten dominated the ACC in the challenge’s final night

As noted above, the Big Ten not only took care of business in the two highest-profile games of the third and final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but absolutely walloped their opponents. Truly, Purdue and Ohio State embarrassed Virginia and North Carolina.

That wasn’t the limits of the Big Ten’s success, however.

Third-ranked Maryland decimated Notre Dame (72-51) and Penn State smacked Wake Forest (76-54). Georgia Tech did beat Nebraska (73-56), and NC State outlasted Wisconsin (69-54), in the lower-tier games.

What we learned Wednesday was that the Big Ten’s strength at the top of the conference is legit, which may have been somewhat in question – at least in the immediate, attention-span deficient times we live in – after Michigan and Michigan State took losses to Louisville and Duke, respectively, last night.

The headliners, though, are what count Wednesday. What Purdue and Ohio State did sends the message that the Big Ten looks to have a real claim on being the country’s toughest conference.

2. DePaul trending up, Texas Tech not so much

Given just how bad DePaul has been in recent years – they avoided finishing out of the Big East cellar just twice in 10 years – it’s been fair to wonder how real this undefeated start to the season has been.

By beating Texas Tech, 65-60 in overtime, the Blue Demons made some progress in quieting doubts about the potential of this being a tournament team.

Dave Leitao’s team now has three wins against top-75 KenPom teams, with two (Minnesota and Iowa) coming on the road. They also knocked off Boston College on the road. Hey, the Eagles are still an ACC team.

Their statistical profile still isn’t great – they don’t shoot it all that well, they don’t take a lot of 3s and they aren’t strong on the boards – but they’re winning. All they’re doing is winning, actually.

It’s certainly a team with a lot of improved talent, and at some point, talent and track record have to take over from a history of losing.

That time appears to be quickly approaching.

As for Texas Tech, Chris Beard’s preseason top-10 team has now lost three straight to a trio of teams – Iowa, Creighton and DePaul – that aren’t expected to compete for conference titles, even if they ultimately prove themselves solid, tournament-level teams.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Raiders struggle given the amount of turnover from last year’s national runners-up, but unless they figure out a way to beat top-ranked Louisville on a neutral floor Tuesday, they’re going to enter conference play with the best win on their resume being Eastern Illinois (KenPom: 245). That’s not a great place to be.

3. Georgetown wins at Oklahoma State

This is a hard one to get a handle on.

On one hand, the Hoyas got a nice road win against a solid Oklahoma State team after losing two major contributors earlier this week.

On the other hand, Georgetown had two players on the floor against the Cowboys who are facing serious accusations of wrongdoing. Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing released a statement saying no player gets “special treatment,” but it still seems strange to see the Hoyas allow players under an unsettled cloud of accusations to take the floor.

A road win against a Big 12 opponent, even if the Cowboys were down a starter, is going to help the Hoyas build a resume that’s going to be much harder to compile without James Akinjo – whose departure is separate from any legal issues his former teammates are having – and Josh LeBlanc, but the way this is being handled makes that seem beside the point.

No. 6 Ohio State hands No. 7 UNC worst home loss in 17 years

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Duane Washington scored 14 points, E.J. Liddell added 12 points off the bench and Ohio State held Cole Anthony to 4-for-15 shooting as the No. 6 Buckeyes went into the Dean Dome and treated No. 7 North Carolina like they were the Michigan football team.

The final score was 74-49. It’s North Carolina’s worst loss since losing by 26 points at Miami in 2013. It’s their worst home loss since the Matt Doherty era, when then-No. 1 Duke won by 29 points in the Dean Dome in 2002.

That isn’t pretty.

Here are the three things to take away from this performance:

1. NORTH CAROLINA DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH HELP FOR COLE ANTHONY

Cole Anthony is a stud. He’s one of the most entertaining scorers in all of college basketball, and he is going to spend the majority of this season putting up absolutely monstrous numbers.

The problem is that he is going to have to put up those numbers if the Tar Heels are going to have a chance to win at anywhere near the level they expect, because there is a real dearth of scoring firepower on the roster around him.

You want proof?

The Tar Heels have yet to break 80 points in a single game this season. That’s not the norm for Roy Williams’ teams.

Now, to be clear, North Carolina played the majority of this game without Armando Bacot – we’ll get to that – and he is the second-best scoring option on this roster. So that certainly played a role in UNC’s struggles, as did the fact that Ohio State is the second-best defensive team in the country, according to KenPom.

But there are going to be plenty of games this season where the Tar Heels have to square off with teams that are really good defensively. And this game was played in the Dean Dome. UNC cannot blame a 27.4 percent shooting performance entirely on their opponent.

The truth is this simple: The Tar Heels have a bunch of pieces on their roster that should thrive in a role. Brandon Robinson is a good defender, a good passer and a guy that can make open jumpers. Garrison Brooks can get to the offensive glass and bang in the paint defensively. Leaky Black has the kind of length and versatility everyone is looking for.

But none of them have played well enough to be the third-option offensively for a team with ACC title and Final Four aspirations. The grad transfers, Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce, are nothing more than bench options, and rightfully so.

That means the Tar Heels are in a tough spot.

2. ARMANDO BACOT’S ANKLE INJURY SOUNDS BAD

I just spent 400 words explaining to you why North Carolina needs secondary scoring options alongside Cole Anthony.

Their best secondary scorer is Armando Bacot. He sprained his left ankle in the first five minutes of Wednesday night’s game. Roy Williams told reporters after the game that “he may be out awhile.”

North Carolina plays at Virginia on Sunday. They play at Gonzaga Dec. 18th. Uh oh.

3. THIS WAS AN OHIO STATE-MENT

First and foremost, yes.

I said that.

It wasn’t an editor.

It was me.

And it was good.

Second of all, this isn’t exactly breaking news, but this Ohio State team is awesome. As of this very moment, they rank second overall on KenPom, behind only Louisville. They are the nation’s second-best defense, and they are allowing just 0.781 points-per-possession on the season. (That’s really good.)

We all thought we knew this already. The Buckeyes beat Cincinnati at home. They blew out Villanova at home. But Cincinnati has been terrible since then, Villanova was playing their first road game of the season with a really young team and we had yet to see the Buckeyes play away from home. Like Louisville on Tuesday night, this was a chance for Ohio State to make themselves known on a national stage with everyone watching.

They did.

But here’s why this win was so impressive to me: It’s the second-worst loss that North Carolina has experienced at home in the last 56 years, and it came on a night where Luther Muhammad played just nine minutes and Kaleb Wesson finished with just 10 points, nine boards and six turnovers.

The Buckeyes can win when their best players don’t play well, because A) They’re deep and balanced, B) They are a team built on their defense and C) They are as well-coached as anyone in the country.

The Big Ten is absolutely loaded at the top this year.

And Ohio State may be the best of the bunch.

Which means they may be the best team in the country.

Who saw that coming?