College basketball’s 15 men’s D-1 teams still undefeated in conference play, as of Feb. 1
Wagner: Led by star swingman Alex Morales, Bashir Mason’s Seahawks are looking the part of a dangerous lower seed come March. Wagner already owns a road win at VCU and has a better than 1-in-4 shot at finishing NEC play without a loss, per KenPom. This squad defends at a high level.
Vermont: John Becker’s UVM team is rolling through the America East once again. Since taking over the helm in 2011, the Catamounts are 139-27 (.837) in conference contests under Becker. This year’s group might be his best offensive one yet, shooting at an elite clip while taking care of the ball with Ben Shungu and Ryan Davis leading the way.
South Dakota State: Another mid-major mainstay, Eric Henderson’s electric offensive group could be a terror come March. The nation’s top 3-point shooting team has six rotational players shooting better than 38 percent from deep. The defense, naturally, has to see some improvement, but the Jackrabbits will be tough to beat in a shootout.
Seattle: Interim head coach Chris Victor has done a masterful job with the Redhawks program since taking over shortly before the season. Led by a strong defense and dynamic backcourt duo in Darrion Trammell and Cameron Tyson, Seattle U is looking like a legitimate WAC contender.
UNC Wilmington: Picked ninth out of 10 teams in the CAA preseason poll, UNCW has ripped off a school-record 12 consecutive wins after Monday’s 18-point comeback vs. Drexel. Takayo Siddle has more than doubled his win total from last year as his UNCW team has made a habit out of dramatic, double-digit comebacks of late.
New Orleans: Mark Slessinger’s Privateers still have some obstacles ahead in Southland play, but the early returns indicate this group could be back in the Big Dance for the second time in six years. Six-foot guard Derek St. Hilaire is one of the country’s underrated bucket-getters, tallying over 20 points a night.
Murray State: While the Racers might not wind up as a 6-seed (2012) or have a lottery pick like Ja Morant (2019), Matt McMahon might have the best mid-major squad in all of college basketball. Murray State is trending towards a single-digit seed thanks to a 20-2 start and quality wins over Belmont, Memphis and Chattanooga. Tevin Brown is the name to watch.
Longwood: Griff Aldrich might have a statue built in Farmville, Va., if he can guide the Lancers to their first-ever March Madness appearance next month. Longwood has already logged wins over preseason Big South favorites Campbell and Winthrop and owns a three-game lead in the North division. Aldrich’s team is easily the most likely first-time tournament team in college basketball right now.
Jacksonville State: In its first season as an ASUN competitor, Jacksonville State has already gotten plenty comfortable. Ray Harper is looking to return to March for the first time since 2017, and he has a stellar group of snipers to make that possible. The Gamecocks rank 5th nationally in 3-point percentage and nearly picked up wins at Alabama and Wichita State in nonconference play.
Iona: Rick Pitino, you wizard. The Gaels could very well enter the NCAA Tournament with a 31-3 record — including an Alabama victory — with the only defeats coming against Quad-1 opponents in Kansas, Belmont and Saint Louis. It would make for a ridiculous seeding proposition if this scenario comes to fruition, which doesn’t seem terribly unlikely at this point.
Houston: A true testament of elite coaching, Kelvin Sampson has navigated two massive, season-ending injuries — Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark — to remain a Final Four contender once again. The Cougars, somehow, haven’t missed a beat and continue to roll through an otherwise pedestrian AAC. Houston is 46-6 since the start of the ’20-21 season, third in winning percentage behind only Gonzaga and Baylor.
Hawaii: Eran Ganot’s Warriors have hung right around .500 in Big West play ever since his NCAA Tournament appearance in Year 1 back in 2016. This season’s group has already taken care of fellow league contenders in UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. In what figures to be a wide-open Big West Tournament next month, Hawaii has certainly established itself as a team to watch.
Gonzaga: New year, same Zags. Gonzaga leads the nation is almost every metric and continues to set new heights in college basketball dominance. The Bulldogs have exceeded 100 points five times already this season, a feat no other team has done more than three times. Can anyone stop this elite offense?
Boise State: Thanks to a school-record 14-game winning streak, Boise State is inching closer towards comfortable at-large positioning. This year’s Broncos team doesn’t necessarily have an elite star but instead a balanced rotation that defends and hits timely baskets. Guard Marcus Shaver already has three game-tying or go-ahead 3-pointers during this win streak.
Auburn: Possibly the nation’s most likely champion, Auburn has the perfect mix of physicality, top-end talent, shooting and balance to win six games in March. Walker Kessler has been a revelation down low since transferring from UNC, Jabari Smith might be the No. 1 overall pick later this year, and Wendell Green and KD Johnson know how to hit key shots. If it weren’t for a double-overtime loss to UConn in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving Eve, Auburn would still be undefeated.