There are four undefeated teams still left in college basketball, but only one is a real threat to finish the regular season without a blemish.
Murray State sits at 14-0, with two wins in the Ohio Valley over Tennesee-Martin and Eastern Illinois. The Racers have already defeated Memphis on the road, as well as Dayton and Southern Miss – this team is for real. Many people still think going undefeated is a pipe dream, but a closer look at the schedule reveals a decent shot. KenPom.com has Murray State projected to win every remaining game by double-digits, but gives them a 30.9 percent chance of going unbeaten.
If anyone were to be a believer in Murray State this season, it would be the Racers’ competition in the Ohio Valley.
“It’s not even close,” Eastern Kentucky head coach Jeff Neubauer said. “It’s more than head and shoulders above the OVC. We played Arkansas of the SEC, and Murray is head and shoulders above them. The only team we played that compares to Murray is Mississippi State, and I think Murray is better than they are as well.
“The fact they’re not ranked in the top 10 is insulting to them. They’re certainly a top 10 team, if not better.”
Neubauer, not surprisingly, fell short of projecting Murray State to go undefeated. His Colonels face the Racers on Wednesday – projecting a loss by his troops would likely be counterproductive.
With that said, Neubauer isn’t the only one who thinks Murray State is at a different level than everyone else in the coneference this year.
“They’re the best team in the league, without a question,” Tennesee-Martin head coach Jason James said. “They’ll run into some tough games, but I do think they’re the best team in our league.”
It remains to be seen where these tough games will come from. The Ohio Valley was expected to be wide-open at the top heading into the season, but the projected favorites have all faltered. Tennessee Tech has been inconsistent; Austin Peay is 2-12 against Division-I competition; and Tennessee State struggled early in the season.
They’re little question Murray State will win the OVC title.
“They’re very favorable to probably win the regular season title this year, just on how hard they’re playing,” SIU-Edwardsville head coach Lennox Forrester said. “You’re not 18th in the country by accident. Those players are buying in; they’re playing with a swagger.”
Looking for potential pitfalls is difficult. Murray State gets seven of its next 11 games at home, where the Racers have been very tough to beat in recent years. However, the Racers do finish with three road games at Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech – when the pressure will be at its peak.
It’s only January 3, but the discussion is beginning to pick up momentum. For his part, Murray State head coach Steve Prohm is downplaying the idea.
“We have a long way to go,” he said. “After Wednesday night, we’ll be halfway through our season. We’re very fortunate to be where we’re at.”