The truncated 2020-21 college basketball season figures to produce a variety of unique resumes and win-loss records come Selection Sunday.
With most teams playing just north of 20 games as opposed to the usual 30 or so, the likelihood of a team finishing the regular season undefeated has never been so high. However, as of Monday, only 26 teams that have played multiple games are still unblemished.
Even still, we might see a few teams enter Selection Sunday with goose eggs in the loss column. Here are eight squads that have the best chance of pulling off the rare feat that hasn’t happened since Kentucky’s 34-0 start in 2015:
KenPom undefeated probability: 24.5%
This should come as no surprise. Following a 99-88 showcase win over Iowa on Saturday, the path becomes even clearer for the Bulldogs to enter March Madness unbeaten. The nation’s No. 1 team already has victories over Kansas, Auburn, West Virginia and Iowa and hasn’t even played a game at home yet.
A neutral-site matchup with Virginia on Dec. 26 in Fort Worth, Texas, could be Gonzaga’s last major test for quite some time. As good as the WCC’s second tier has been so far in BYU, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco, Mark Few’s team figures to be a double-digit favorite in every game from here on out. Gonzaga controls its destiny for March’s No. 1 overall seed.
KenPom undefeated probability: 9.2%
It’s time to pay attention to Pat Kelsey’s Eagles. Winthrop has handled the three toughest games it will play all season with relative ease, meaning only a significant upset stands in the way of a perfect regular season. The Big South favorite already has wins over SoCon contenders Furman and UNCG and another over Sun Belt favorite Little Rock.
Ranked No. 99 in KenPom as of Sunday, Winthrop’s closest competitors are No. 207 UNC Asheville, No. 223 Gardner Webb and No. 248 High Point. With the Big South implementing a two-game series schedule this season, Winthrop’s only away series against a team in the KenPom top 275 will be High Point on Jan. 9-10. Undefeated or not, Winthrop’s up-tempo attack led by 6-7 guard Chandler Vaudrin (11.4 ppg, 9.4 apg) could be a tough out come March.
KenPom undefeated probability: 4.7%
Vermont opted out of nonconference play entirely, pausing all games until Monday’s conference opener against UMass Lowell. Under John Becker, the Catamounts have consistently been one of the nation’s dominant mid-majors, having finished with no more than two America East losses in each of the past four seasons.
The big question with UVM basketball this season is how it moves on from departed Anthony Lamb. Point guard Stef Smith is the new senior leader, coming fresh off a campaign where he averaged just over 14 points per game. At No. 92, Vermont is the only team currently ranked in the top 150 in KenPom, and it should pave the way for another strong season.
New Mexico State
KenPom undefeated probability: 4.0%
The Aggies have thoroughly dominated the WAC for several years now, currently riding a 34-1 stretch in league play dating back to the ’17-18 season. Heavy state COVID-19 protocols have limited NMSU’s practice availability and game schedule, leading to Chris Jans’ group playing a pair of non-D1 teams in Arizona during nonconference.
The rest of the team’s schedule will come against the WAC. Grand Canyon is NMSU’s only remaining top 200 KenPom opponent, with their two-game series taking place in Phoenix on Jan. 29-30. With a remarkably weak schedule overall, the Aggies will certainly need to win the WAC tournament to reach March Madness. But will Donnie Tillman and co. even lose a game until then?
KenPom undefeated probability: 1.6%
When the AAC formed back in 2013, there wasn’t an expectation that Houston would be a consistent league contender. The Cougars had recorded just one NCAA Tournament appearance since the early 1990s, and the program was transitioning from James Dickey to Kelvin Sampson.
Sampson’s Year 1 aside, Houston has finished in the top three in the American every season. Though the program remains balanced, the Cougars’ calling card is on the defensive side, where it contests and alters shots and is allowing just 55.6 points per game. SMU, Memphis, Cincinnati, Wichita State and Tulsa could all provide threats on any given night, but there is also a possibility that Houston could remain unbeaten for quite some time.
KenPom undefeated probability: 1.1%
Sweeping the likes of Kansas, Texas, West Virginia and even Texas Tech would be a major feat on its own, but Baylor has the makings of a national championship team. The Bears are 5-0 and have already picked up a resounding win over Big Ten contender Illinois, leading by as many as 16 in the Dec. 2 win.
An undefeated Big 12 season hasn’t happened since Kansas pulled it off back in 2002. That Jayhawks team had an efficiency margin of 28.99 on KenPom; Baylor’s current efficiency margin is 30.00. The Bears lead the nation in 3-point percentage at 46.8 percent, are ridiculously tough to score against, and are battle-tested after last year’s Big 12 race with the Jayhawks. It could be until at least mid-January before Baylor has a serious test.
KenPom undefeated probability: 0.5%
The second team on this list with a conference-only schedule, Colgate will contend for the Patriot League title and could remain unbeaten for quite some time. The Raiders open their season Jan. 2 against Army, and will play just 16 games before the conference tournament.
An imbalanced league schedule does not work in Colgate’s favor, though. The other primary league contender is Boston U, which Matt Langel’s team is set to square off against four times (two home, two away) during the regular season. As good as Colgate might be this season, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Raiders can knock off the same team of fairly equal caliber four times. Colgate won its two regular-season meetings against Boston U last year before falling to the Terriers in the Patriot League title game. Imagine two conference foes playing each other up to eight times in a span of 14 months!
KenPom undefeated probability: 0.07%
So you’re saying there’s a chance. Tennessee might run away with the SEC but going undefeated in league play would still be quite a feat, especially given it hasn’t happened since Kentucky’s historic 2015 season.
The Vol defense poses a serious threat to the rest of conference, allowing just 47.5 points per game through four outings. Rick Barnes’ squad mixes experience (senior starters John Fulkerson and Yves Pons) with freshmen talent (Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer) and a high-level transfer (Victory Bailey). With Kentucky out of the mix and the league’s middle tier still finding its way, don’t expect the Volunteers to drop many games during SEC play.