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
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 …
No. 14 BUFFALO
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
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.
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.
No. 1 KANSAS
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
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
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.
No. 4 MICHIGAN
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
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.