College Basketball: And the Last Undefeated Team Will Be...
We're down to nine undefeated teams entering winter break for universities. Will any of these programs threaten the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers and go undefeated?
Perhaps. There is always that chance. But the big names (Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Ohio State) have all fallen this season.
So, who will be the last undefeated team in the nation? Allow this slideshow to give you the statistical analysis you need to come up with the answer.
Statistics are based off of Ken Pomeroy's power rankings. Pomeroy projects the spreads of every game and his projections are usually within a point or two. With the spreads come the percent chance a team will win a given game. We can use those percentages to determine the likelihood a team will win a series of games.
Following that, we will be able to come up with the probability of a team running the table, and which team will be able to last the longest without a loss.
It may sound confusing now, but delve in and well get a clearer understanding. This slideshow presents the teams in the reverse order of likelihood they will stay undefeated (the first team will lost next). Percentages shown reflect the likelihood the team wins a given game.
Odds to go undefeated: 0.00001 %
Next Five Games: UNLV (48%), Cornell (90%), Missouri (26%), Minnesota (65%), @ Purdue (23%)
Illinois is one of only two undefeated teams to be underdogs in their next game. The Illini figure to be pick-em to slight underdogs at the United Center against UNLV.
They follow that tough game up with another neutral game in St. Louis against Missouri before entering Big Ten play.
The Illini have virtually no chance of going undefeated. They only have an 11 percent chance of winning their next three games and entering Big Ten conference play undefeated. Of course, there is a good chance the Illini don't get through this weekend unscathed.
Odds to go undefeated: .000001%
Next Five Games: @ BYU (37%), Paul Quinn (100%), St. Marys (62%), West Virginia (61%), Mississippi State (76%)
Baylor will be underdogs on the road this weekend in Provo. Following that, they will play a tough schedule even if all the games occur on a neutral or home floor.
Baylor remains to be the team that most likely loses first...but if they were to get by BYU, they would last longer than Illinois on average. Thus, they find themselves here.
They have only a 10.6 percent of surviving the next five games.
Odds to go undefeated: 0.000001 %
Next Five Games: Notre Dame (79%), Howard (99%), Maryland Baltimore County (99%), @ MSU (32%), Ohio State (35%)
I wish I was making up the fact that Maryland-BC was a Division-I school, but I am not. It should be insightful, however, that they are only the 20th to worst team in Ken Pomeroy's rankings.
Indiana scored a big upset over Kentucky, and now has a 78 percent chance to survive the next three games. After that things get much harder, as they travel to East Lansing and then host the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers will be underdogs in both games and have only an 11 percent chance to win both games.
If the Hoosiers somehow win the next five, then they will surely fall two weeks later when the visit Columbus.
Odds to go undefeated: .01 percent
Next five games: Memphis (77%), Charleston (92%), Western Kentucky (99%), Georgetown (72%), @ Kentucky (18%)
Louisville figures to be six-eight point favorites as they host Memphis this weekend at the KFC Yum Center (it hurt to write that sponsorship). Following that, they won't be challenged until they travel to Rupp Arena.
But they will be challenged then, more so than any team on this list. The Cardinals figure to be close to double digit underdogs and have only an 18 percent chance of escaping that game alone.
Overall, the Cardinals have just a nine percent chance of winning their next five games. Then they have the Big East to look forward to.
Odds to go undefeated: 0.1 percent
Next Five Games: Northern Colorado (96%), @ LSU (79%), UW-Milwaukee (92%), Vanderbilt (84%), Villanova (85%)
Marquette came up big with a dominating win against in-state rival Wisconsin (on the road, no less). Now, they are in a great position to enter Big East play undefeated.
They have a 59 percent chance to enter the Villanova game undefeated (and a 50 percent chance to win the next five games).
Following that, they travel to Georgetown and Syracuse, games in which they will be underdogs. They will have only a 13 percent chance to survive that road trip unscathed.
All-in-all, expect the undefeated fun in Milwaukee to end in early January.
Odds to go undefeated: 0.2 percent
Next Five Games: Oral Roberts (88%), Long Beach State (67%), Gonzaga (72%), @ LaSalle (67%), @ Fordham (94%).
Despite having an 88 percent chance of winning their next game against middling Oral Roberts, Xavier faces the toughest road over their next five games. They have a 26 percent chance of winning their next five games and thus starting the A-10 slate 2-0.
Home games against St. Joes and St. Bonaventure won't be the Musketeers' downfall, but road games against Dayton and Memphis, and a home game against St. Louis could be. Those occur in late January, should the Musketeers get there.
Still, unlike Indiana, Marquette or Louisville, Xavier will be favored in all of their games through the month of January. They have a tough slate, but could get to a February 4th showdown in Memphis undefeated.
Odds to go undefeated: 0.08 percent
Next Five Games: Kennesaw State (99%), William & Mary (99%), Illinois (74%), @ Old Dominion (81%), Oklahoma (87%).
Missouri doesn't figure to be underdogs until they travel to Baylor in late January (they should be favorites even in a road trip to Kansas State).
They play three home games, one neutral and one road game in their next five. They have a 51 percent chance of winning their next five.
Missouri is a very good team with a favorable schedule. They travel to Austin in late January, and then host Kansas. The three games against Baylor, Texas and Kansas is when it gets difficult.
Odds to go undefeated: 1.2 percent
Next Ten Games: @ N.C. State (79%), Bucknell (96%), Tulane (95%), Seton Hall (90%), @ DePaul (91%)
Syracuse is ranked No. 1 in the nation, but there is only a 59 percent chance that they survive the next five games.
Following that they play a pretty managable schedule of home games and road games against middling Big East teams (Providence, Villanova, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, St. John's).
In fact, the Orange are underdogs in exactly one game this season, a road game at Louisville on February 13.
Is it possible that the Orange enter that game undefeated? Possible, yes. Likely, no. Still, the Orange have a 10 percent chance of going into Valentine's Day weekend undefeated. Pretty impressive.
Odds to go undefeated: 12.1 percent
Next Five Games: Lipscomb (91%), Arkansas State (90%), Tennessee-Martin (97%), Eastern Illinois (84%), Eastern Kentucky (93%).
Murray State got through their tough road test against Memphis. As a result, they are overwhelming favorites to be the last team to lose this season.
How overwhelming? Consider that we said that Syracuse had an 11 percent chance to get to Valentine's Day undefeated...Murray State has an 12.1 percent chance to get through all of the regular season undefeated.
They will not be underdogs in a single game for the rest of the year. Given that Austin Peay is the second-best team in the Ohio Valley Conference, naturally, their road game against Austin Peay figures to be their stiffest challenge. Still, the Racers figure to be six point favorites in that game, meaning they win 73 percent of the time.
At 12.1 percent Murray State will go undefeated approximately 1-in-8 times (so if you get 7-1 in Vegas, take it). It's a longshot as always, but still, the Racers are the team most likely to run the table.