Which team has the best chance of going undefeated in league play?

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Akron and coach Keith Dambrot (big head) are one of 13 teams without a loss in league play so far. (AP)

We're more than a month into the taxing intra-conference slate in college hoops. With that in mind, I wanted to see which teams have made it through the first week of February with not a scratch to their name despite all the conference in-fighting.

(Related: See which schools are in new leagues for 2013.)

It's tough going within each guild of college hoops, you know? Those trite sayings about the difficulty of winning on the road against familiar foes: exceedingly true. So who's gotten only the best of their rivals so far? The answer is 13 teams from 10 leagues are still unbeaten. They're listed below, with KenPom.com percentages of going undefeated the rest of the way. I omitted the Ivy League's two un-toppled teams -- Harvard and Princeton -- because that 14-game league schedule isn't even a third of the way finished, whereas every other conference is one game from being halfway done -- or well beyond that. Bigger sample size, more accurate forecasts, etc.

Before we tick off this year's lossless teams in league play, know that this list is sure to dwindle down to three at most, but more likely just one. In the past five years, here are the teams who've gone unbeaten in league competition.

  • 2008: Cornell (Ivy)
    2009: Memphis (Conference USA), Gonzaga (West Coast)
    2010: Butler (Horizon)
    2011: --
    2012: Kentucky (SEC)

Remaining programs chasing undefeated records.

TeamConf. recordOverallKenPom %Outlook
8-018-258.1It's simply incredible that a major-conference team is given the highest probability of going without a loss. Speaks to the power of the Gators and sickliness of the SEC.
10-019-448.3The Bruins' run is even more impressive because this is their first year in the Ohio Valley.
8-015-729.7The MEAC is again a weak league, yet it has two teams still unscathed. NC Central finished 10-6 in-league last year.
8-021-226.3Zags are halfway there in the WCC with five home/three road games left. Biggest challenge is Feb. 14 at Saint Mary's.
8-017-425.1The Zips beat Ohio in a battle of MAC unbeatens on Saturday. Own nation's longest win streak (13) and this is best start for them in MAC history.
9-014-108.5Norfolk State was 8-0 in the MEAC last season on its way to beating Mizzou in Round of 64.
7-018-48.2How surprising that Southern Miss has a better chance of not losing in C-USA than Memphis.
8-017-35.9Miami is off to its best ACC start in history, but the road game at Duke on March 2 is probably too tough a task.
12-016-45.8Montana has eight games to go, including a brutal five-game road stretch from Valentine's Day to March 4. One of those is BracketBusters (vs. Davidson) outside Big Sky play.
10-019-23.4The Bulldogs are 10-0 in the WAC but have their two toughest games -- at NMSU, at Denver -- at the end of the season.
7-018-32.7Tigers have done this before, but never under Josh Pastern, whose best C-USA start before this year was 3-0.

Putting aside the best without a loss for a moment, if you're wondering what's the most balanced league at the top is, the answer's probably the Atlantic Sun. That conference has at least three losses to every team, and six of its 10 teams are separated by two games at the top. Belmont has dominated that league in recent years, but the Bruins left for the OVC, so a new rep will play in the NCAAs this year. Elsewhere, the Summit League, with South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Western Illinois, all nudged at 9-2, will provide one of the better chases at the top as February plays out.

Now, onto the flip side. Who can't get a win so far in their league? Grambling State is the obvious one. Nearly three weeks ago, I wrote on their chances of going all season without a win period, and that probably has only increased from 57 percent to 69.4.

Right now, we do have a chance at the rare unbeaten/winless dual conference endgame. The last time this happened was Memphis and Rice splitting the difference in C-USA in 2008.

And whereas getting undefeated teams is something that isn't very common, seeing teams come out of the other end without a victory is unfortunately a reliable inevitability.

  • 2008: Colorado State (Mountain West), Oregon State (Pac-10), Rice (Conference USA)
    2009: Air Force (Mountain West), DePaul (Big East), Southeast Missouri State (Ohio Valley)
    2010: Fordham (Atlantic 10)
    2011: Towson (Colonial)
    2012: Kennesaw State (Atlantic Sun), Navy (Patriot) Tennessee Martin (Ohio Valley), Santa Clara (West Coast), South Carolina State (MEAC)

The winless ones still on the board this season.

TeamConf. recordOverallKenPom %Analysis
0-110-2069.4Grambling State of the SWAC seems destined for infamy, arguably going down as the worst team of the modern era.
0-84-1740.6South Carolina State (MEAC) hasn't won since November, when it was a 4-3 team.
0-89-1235.5TCU's first year in the Big 12 is going about as well as most expected, when we all made jokes about TCU basketball amid realignment for football's sake.
0-98-1325.2Penn State, the forgotten team in what might be the best year of Big Ten basketball ever.
0-93-2024.2Longwood is still relatively new to D-I and the Big South. Home against 7-16 Liberty on Feb. 19 is the best chance to get a W.
0-102-2015.9Pat Knight's Lamar team represented the Southland in the NCAAs last year, remember. It should get a win amid a five-game home stretch later this month.
0-77-148.1Duquesne is in the A-10's basement with new coach Jim Ferry. Won't win on the road, but five home games left; it'll get one or two wins.
0-102-204.7Old Dominion has fallen off a cliff, and now comes news that Blaine Taylor will be fired, mid-season. Perhaps that ignites the Monarchs amid a miserable year overall for the Colonial.

For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

 
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