December isn’t even a week old, but there’s at least a nine percent chance that one of the 11 remaining undefeated college basketball teams goes undefeated this regular season, according to the predictive metrics of kenpom.com.
Kansas, Virginia, Gonzaga, Michigan and Nevada headline the group of unbeaten teams. Each team is ranked in the top six of the AP Top 25 Poll and on kenpom.com.
Ten conferences are represented by the 11 undefeated teams: ACC (Virginia), AAC (Houston), Big 12 (Kansas, Texas Tech), Big East (St. John’s), Big Ten (Michigan), MAC (Buffalo), Pac-12 (Arizona State), Southern Conference (Furman), Mountain West (Nevada) and West Coast Conference (Gonzaga).
Only the Big 12, with Kansas and Texas Tech, has multiple undefeated teams remaining, which means the group generally won’t cannibalize each other.
Here’s a look at the remaining undefeated teams — with the data in the right two columns coming from the win percentage statistics on kenpom.com.
|School||Record||Chance of Going Undefeated||Toughest Remaining Game|
|Nevada||8-0||9.7%||at San Diego State (Feb. 20)/at Utah State (March 2)|
|Gonzaga||8-0||5.3%||at North Carolina (Dec. 15)|
|Michigan||9-0||0.2%||at Michigan State (March 9)|
|Kansas||7-0||0.2%||at Texas Tech (Feb. 23)|
|Buffalo||7-0||0.08%||at Syracuse (Dec. 18)|
|Virginia||8-0||0.05%||at Duke (Jan. 19)|
|Houston||7-0||0.01%||at Cincinnati (March 10)|
|Arizona State||7-0||0.00%||vs. Nevada (neutral) (Dec. 7)|
|Furman||9-0||0.00%||at LSU (Dec. 21)|
|St. John’s||7-0||0.00%||at Duke (Feb. 2)|
|Texas Tech||7-0||0.00%||at Kansas (Feb. 2)|
While it’s unlikely in any given season that a team will enter Selection Sunday undefeated, it’s arguably more of a realistic possibility than the casual college basketball fan realizes.
In back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015, Wichita State and Kentucky entered the NCAA Tournament with a 34-0 record. In five other seasons in the last 15 years, at least one team has reached the tournament with just one loss.
Gonzaga was the most recent, going 32-1 to earn a No. 1 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Murray State (2012), Memphis (2008, later vacated), Illinois (2005), St. Joseph’s (2004) and Stanford (2004) also only had one loss entering the tournament in their respective seasons.
Gonzaga, Illinois and Stanford each lost for the first time in their regular season finales.
St. Joseph’s didn’t lose until the A-10 Tournament.
Murray State suffered its only regular-season loss on February 9 and Memphis lost on February 23.
Gonzaga’s one-loss run through the regular season and WCC Tournament was two seasons ago, which means we’re due for a similar run from a team this season, according to recent history. The Zags currently have the second-best chances of going undefeated in the regular season, according to kenpom.com, because of their No. 2 offense, No. 30 defense and conference affiliation. The site gives the Bulldogs a 5.3 percent chance of going undefeated in the regular season, entering their home game against Washington on Wednesday.
However, a neutral-site game against Tennessee, followed by a road game at North Carolina could prevent Gonzaga from even reaching conference play undefeated.
That’s why Nevada has the best chance of going undefeated in the regular season, according to Ken Pomeroy. The Wolf Pack handled road games at Loyola Chicago and USC, leaving a neutral-site game against Arizona State, another one of the remaining undefeated teams, as its toughest non-conference test left.
Pomeroy gives Nevada at least a 75 percent chance of victory in each of its Mountain West games.
It’s more likely that a team like Gonzaga or Nevada could enter Selection Sunday undefeated than a school in the ACC or Big 12, given the tougher competition in those conferences.
Undefeated Virginia and St. John’s both have to play at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Blue Devils went 15-1 last season. Texas Tech has to play at Kansas. Kansas has to play at Kentucky. Michigan finishes the regular season at rival Michigan State.
The losses will come, like they (almost) always do for teams that are undefeated through the first month of the season.
But if Nevada gives Arizona State its first loss and Gonzaga survives its three-game stretch of Washington-Tennessee-North Carolina, there could be two schools — both national title contenders — that make a serious run at an undefeated regular season.