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The Mighty Shall Fall, Part 1
by ASA - 12/13/2007
There are currently 12 teams in college basketball who remain undefeated through the first month of the season. Some of the schools are familiar to this position (Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis) while others are in unknown territory (Miami, Mississippi, Vanderbilt). Hereâ€™s a look at which teams will remain undefeated into the foreseeable future and which will soon experience their first blemish. Part 1 covers six of the unblemished teams. Part 2 will cover the other six.
The Tigersâ€™ 8-0 (4-1 ATS) start hasnâ€™t come against the best competition but theyâ€™re undefeated nonetheless. Their eight wins have come against teams with a combined record of 20-31 with Purdueâ€™s 5-2 mark the best of the bunch. The Purdue game is still the only ATS loss on the season for Clemson as the Tigers downed the young and inexperienced Boilermakers by just three points at home. The last three wins â€“ over Purdue, South Carolina and East Carolina â€“ have come without second-leading scorer James Mays, who is out until late December with a hip injury.
First loss could comeâ€¦ New Yearâ€™s Day at Alabama. The Tigers will have played just two true road games when they role into Tuscaloosa, with those games coming at Mississippi State and East Carolina. This will be Clemsonâ€™s first true road test and it will come against an Alabama team that has given both Georgetown and Texas A&M, who are a combined 15-1, fits this year.
Lots of unproven youth along with Coach Kâ€™s USA Basketball tour this summer left expectations at Duke lower than theyâ€™ve been in a long time. But the Blue Devils have stormed out of the gate with a 9-0 (5-3 ATS) start to the season. Four of their five leading scorers are of sophomore or freshman status but those four underclassmen have combined to make 45 percent of their three-point attempts. Duke has yet to play a true road game this year but has picked up impressive neutral-court wins over Marquette, Illinois and Davidson, as well as a 24-point home thrashing of Wisconsin.
First loss could comeâ€¦ Dec. 20 against Pittsburgh at Aeropostale Classic. In what will likely be a battle of unbeatens, the Dukies will have their hands full against Pittsburgh in Madison Square Garden. While Dukeâ€™s primary scoring options are underclassmen, four of Pittâ€™s five leading scorers are of junior or senior status. The Panthers are better equipped to handle a nationally-televised contest on a big state.
The Hoyas have had an easy road to their 7-0 (3-3 ATS) start, with their seven opponents combining to go just 20-39 thus far this season. Georgetownâ€™s most impressive win came at Alabama but it needed a late 14-1 run to put away the feisty Tide. The Hoyas defense, anchored by 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert, has been the catalyst behind the hot start, holding opponents to 52.1 points per game on 34.7 percent shooting.
First loss could comeâ€¦ Dec. 22 at Memphis. In another game that will likely feature two teams with unblemished records, the Hoyas could be in for a shock against Memphis. This will be a battle of contrasting style as Georgetown prefers a slow-paced, half-court game while Memphis likes a fast-paced open-court game. Memphisâ€™ RPI is sixth in the nation while Georgetownâ€™s is 84th, meaning the Hoyasâ€™ weak strength of schedule will leave them ill-prepared for a team of Memphisâ€™ caliber.
The Jayhawks have had two scares, narrowly winning at USC and needing overtime to down Arizona, but have remain undefeated through nine games (5-2 ATS). The wins over USC and Arizona are by far Kansasâ€™ most impressive and competitive as the other seven wins have come by a robust 31 points per game. The Jayhawks have utilized an extremely deep roster â€“ seven players average 20 or more minutes and five average double-digit points â€“ to score at a high rate while limiting the opposition.
First loss could comeâ€¦ Jan. 19 at Missouri. The Jayhawks will get good non-conference battles from Ohio, Miami (OH) and Boston College but their first loss wonâ€™t come until Big 12 season. Kansas nearly lost at home to the Tigers last year, winning by three points despite Missouri shooting less than 40 percent from the field. The Tigers could get their revenge in this game. They play a full-court brand of basketball that forces lots of turnovers that result in lots of Missouri points. This contest could be a difficult matchup for Kansas.
Neutral-court wins over USC, Connecticut and Oklahoma have highlighted Memphisâ€™ 7-0 (2-4-1 ATS) start to the season. The Tigersâ€™ ATS record is a little bit deceiving as they have won those four ATS losses by 18.3 points per game, failing to cover three 26.5-point or greater spreads. As expected, their offense is among the nationâ€™s best with 82.3 points per game. But the Memphis defense has also played well, holding opponents to 38.7 percent shooting.
First loss could comeâ€¦ Dec. 29 against Arizona. The Tigers have the best chance of anybody of running the table all the way to the NCAA Tournament as they should go through the Conference USA season with out a slip-up. Non-conference games against Georgetown, Arizona, Gonzaga and Tennessee will provide solid challenges, though. Expect Arizona to get to Memphis before Gonzaga and Tennessee even have a chance. The Wildcats have played well despite head coach Lute Olsonâ€™s absence. They have given Texas A&M its only loss while narrowly losing in overtime at Kansas. Arizona downed Memphis 79-71 last year and could do the same this year.
Itâ€™s almost expected for fellow ACC members North Carolina and Duke to be undefeated at this point. But nobody expected the Canes to be 8-0 (5-0 ATS) at this time of year. Miami hasnâ€™t beaten any big-name programs but it has beaten the Big Eastâ€™s St. Johnâ€™s and Providence as well as Virginia Commonwealth and Marist, two mid-majors expected to compete for their respective conference titles. The Canes have won with a suffocating defense that is allowing just 58.5 points per game on 36.2 percent shooting.
First loss could comeâ€¦ Dec. 13 at Mississippi State. The undefeated ride wonâ€™t last much longer for Miami as a tough game at Mississippi State awaits it this week. The Canes were smoked at home by the Bulldogs last year, falling 70-52. Mississippi State returns largely the same cast from last yearâ€™s edition. That doesnâ€™t bode well for Miami.