Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Emery Board

This weekly column is in honor of BYU's Jackson Emery, who, for two straight seasons, claimed his squad would go undefeated and win the National Championship.

College basketball has not seen a team go undefeated since Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers went 32-0 in 1975-1976. The closest we have seen since then was a Jameer Nelson-led St. Joseph's team that went 27-0 in the 2003-2004 season before losing to Xavier in the Atlantic-10 tournament. Every season a team flirts with the notion of an undefeated season, but every season that notion slowly fades as January turns to February and February turns to March.

The Emery Board: 2nd Edition
11 of the Top-25 teams remain unbeaten, and by the end of the week, that number should be a bit smaller. But as Finals Week approach, the cupcakes get bigger and softer. After the jump we break down the remaining undefeated teams and analyze their chances of staying unbeaten.

No.1 Kentucky (8-0)
Next game: 12/10 at Indiana (8-0)
First realistic loss: 2/10 at Indiana (8-0)

Indiana is undefeated, but there is a reason they aren't ranked. Assembly Hall is likely to be the loudest it's been in years when the Wildcats roll in to town. But all signals point to a pretty big Kentucky win. The Wildcats undefeated record shouldn't be threatened until their Battle for the Bluegrass rivalry game against Louisville on 12/31.

No.2 Ohio State (8-0)
Next game: 12/10 at No.13 Kansas (5-2)
First realistic loss: 12/10 at No.13 Kansas (5-2)

If Ohio State can get past Kansas, which they should be able to do if Jared Sullinger is healthy and effective, then it could be a long time before the Buckeyes suffer their first defeat. They will be tested by Northwestern and Indiana at the end of January but realistically, it could be mid-January before Ohio State loses a game.

No.3 Syracuse (8-0)
Next game: 12/6 vs. Marshall (5-1)
First realistic loss: 12/17 at North Carolina State (5-3)

Thanks to Jim Boehim's cupcake-friendly non-conference schedule, the Orange always have a good shot at being one of the last teams in the country to remain undefeated. Marshall should serve as a stern test, but North Carolina State has a better chance to knock them off. Why? because it will be Syracuse's first true road game of the season. But it's likely that Syracuse will ring in the new year with an unbeaten record.

No.5 Louisville (7-0)
Next game: 12/8 vs. IUPUI (2-7)
First realistic loss: 12/17 vs. No.20 Memphis (4-2)

Louisville should enter it's final non-conference game without any blemishes on their record. But even if they get past Memphis, it's not likely that they stay unbeaten for long. The Cardinals finish up 2011 with games against No.19 Georgetown and No.1 Kentucky.

No.6 Baylor (7-0)
Next game: 12/14 vs. Bethune-Cookman (3-4)
First realistic loss: 12/28 vs. No.18 Mississippi State (8-1)

The question with Baylor continues to be their back-court. Pierre Jackson and A.J Walton haven't been outstanding, but they haven't been terrible either. Starting on 12/22, the Bears have four four straight games against sizable competition (Saint Mary's, West Virginia, No.18 Mississippi State and Texas A&M). As good as Baylor is, I have to imagine they will drop one of those four games.

No.8 Xavier (6-0)
Next game: 12/7 at Butler (4-4)
First realistic loss: 12/10 vs. Cincinnati (5-2)

Xavier shouldn't be undefeated. They should have lost to Purdue. But thanks to Tu Holloway's ridiculous late-game heroics, the Muskies continue on with an unblemished record. If they can get past their cross-town rivals Cincinnati, which is always a pick'em game, it could be a very long time before Xavier records a loss.

No.10 Missouri (7-0)
Next game: 12/6 vs. Villanova (5-2)
First realistic loss: 12/6 vs. Villanova (4-2)

Not many teams have gotten off to as hot a start is Missouri has. Sure, their schedule to date hasn't been grueling, but no team has gotten with-in 15-points of them, including a ranked California team. The Tigers have two more real non-conference threats, and both Villanova and Illinois have the size up front to pose a threat to the Tigers. However, I'm not sure either of their opponents have the speed and talent in the back court to keep up with Mizzou. It's possible this team is still undefeated as we approach mid-January.

No.11 Marquette (7-0)
Next game: 12/6 vs. Washington (4-2)
First realistic loss: 12/6 vs. Washington (4-2)

If Marquette can get past Washington, which they probably should be able to do with relative ease, the Golden Eagles will be able to cruise through four cupcake games until their final non-conference showdown against Vanderbilt, which, if nothing else, should be very entertaining.

No.19 Creighton (7-0)
Next game: 12/10 at St. Joseph's (5-3)
First realistic loss: 12/22 vs. Northwestern (7-1)

The Missouri Valley Conference is just too deep for any team to cruise through it undefeated. But with most of their difficult non-conference games out of the way, the Blue Jays could end up entering conference play with a zero in the loss column. But the end of 2012 will prove a stern test for the Fightin' McDermotts, with games against Northwestern, Missouri State and at Wichita State.

No.24 Illinois (8-0)
Next game: 12/7 vs. St. Bonaventure's (3-3)
First realistic loss: 12/17 vs. UNLV (8-1)

Well, I certainly didn't think we'd be seeing Illinois here this season. But Sam Maniscalco and Myers Leonard have carried the Illini early on, and have been blessed with a soft non-conference schedule so far. But with games against UNLV and at Missouri still looming, Illinois won't be undefeated for very long.

No.25 Harvard (8-0)
Next game: 12/8 at No.9 UConn (7-1)
First realistic loss: 12/8 at No.9 UConn (7-1)

Let's just say for a minute that Harvard beats UConn, which, if Harvard plays A+ ball and UConn brings their C- game, is entirely possible. If they do that, the Crimson's schedule sets up perfectly for them to go 30-0. Now, you have to imagine that they will have an off night, but on paper, it looks like a real possibility. They just have to beat the reigning National Champions before we can start talking about that.

Indiana (8-0)
Next game: 12/10 vs. No.1 Kentucky (8-0)
First realistic loss: 12/10 vs. No.1 Kentucky (8-0)

Sure they're undefeated, but there is a reason they aren't ranked. Their toughest game so far was on the road against North Carolina State, and while Tom Crean does have this program on the up-and-up, the Hoosiers are in for a rude awakening when Big Blue nation rolls into town.

Kansas State (5-0)
Next Game: 12/8 vs. West Virginia (4-2)
First realistic loss: 12/8 vs. West Virginia (4-2)

Talk to me about the Wildcats after their 12/17 game at Alabama. If they are still undefeated at that point, I'll have something to say.

Murray State (9-0)
Next game: 12/11 at No.20 Memphis (4-2)
First realistic loss: 12/11 at No.20 Memphis (4-2)

First off, three of the Racers wins have come against non-D-1 opponents. But still, being 9-0 is somewhat impressive considering they have a new head coach. True, Steve Prohm was an assistant as Murray State before his promotion, but still, I'm kinda impressed. I'll be more impressed if they can knock-off a struggling Memphis team on the road.

Tulane (9-0)
Next game: 12/6 at Wofford (4-4)
First realistic loss: 12/22 at No.3 Syracuse (8-0)

I cannot remember the last time Tulane was even relevant in basketball, let alone undefeated. It's good to see this program succeed, even if it's only for a few more weeks. Once they travel to the Carrier Dome, reality will set in.

Bottom of the Barrel

Binghamton (0-6)
Next game: 12/6 vs. Bucknell (5-4)
First real chance to in: 1/5 vs. Stony Brook (2-4)

Chicago State (0-8)
Next game: 12/10 vs. DePaul (4-3)
First real chance to win: 12/17 at Loyola (IL) (1-6)

Grambling State (0-6)
Next game: 12/18 at Texas Tech (4-3)
First real chance to win: 1/3 vs. Alabama State (1-5)

Hartford (0-8)
Next game: 12/6 vs. Quinnipiac (3-4)
First real chance to win: 1/5 vs. New Hampshire (2-3)

Monmouth (0-8)
Next game: 12/6 at Navy (3-5)
First real chance to win: 12/22 at Rider (1-8)

Morgan State (0-7)
Next game: 12/14 at UMBC (0-7)
First real chance to win: 12/14 at UMBC (0-7)

Northern Illinois (0-7)
Next game: 12/7 at Illinois-Chicago (2-5)
First real chance to win: 12/7 at Illinois-Chicago (2-5)

Towson (0-7)
Next game: 12/7 vs. LaSalle (5-3)
First real chance to win: 12/10 vs. UMBC (0-7)

UMBC (0-7)
Next game: 12/10 at Towson (0-7)
First real chance to win: 12/10 at Towson (0-7)

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