Who Will Be the Last College Basketball Team to Lose?

It’s a weird week in college basketball. It’s finals week in colleges all over the country. Students are packing up and leaving campus for the winter, leaving only the basketball teams behind. It’s a time of year where we don’t see many elite match ups. Instead it’s a lot of “buy games” where high major programs host smaller schools on their home court to fill their schedule. Sometimes we get the rare Wofford over UNC upset, but more often than not, the results are predictable.

With Miami losing last night to New Mexico State, we are left with just three undefeated teams at the Division 1 level. Villanova, Arizona State and TCU have all been perfect thus far. Some of this is not a surprise, and some of it (looking at you, Arizona State) has been unexpected. With that let’s see which of these three teams has a chance to be undefeated the longest this season.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Bobby Hurley and Arizona State have been the surprise of the college basketball season. The Sun Devils have one of the best offenses in college basketball, with four players averaging 13 points or more a game. They have scored 90 points or more in seven of their ten games this season. It’s not against lesser programs either. Hurley and Co. dropped 102 on Xavier and 95 on Kansas in Phog Allen, something that is basically unheard of. ASU has a stud in Tra Holder, and freshman Romello White has made a larger impact than expected this early in the year.

The reason I don’t think Arizona State will be the last undefeated team is because they have a date with Arizona on the first day of Pac 12 play. I know Arizona has had its struggles, but they are beginning to come to form and are looking like the team we expected them to be in the Fall. Arizona will cause ASU problems because of their height. DeAndre Ayton is a man in the paint, and pairing another 7-footer in Dusan Ristic next to him is a problem for the Sun Devils. Add in the perimeter defense that Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Rawle Alkins bring, and Arizona could have the tool to neutralize the Sun Devils high powered offense.

TCU Horned Frogs

TCU’s success this season isn’t a huge surprise, but the fact they havent’ had a blemish on their record yet this year is a testament to Jamie Dixon. The Horned Frogs have won 16 in a row dating back to last year’s NIT Championship and should enter Big 12 play 12-0, assuming they can handle William & Mary on Friday. There are not many teams that are more balanced on offense than TCU. Their top seven players all average between 14 and seven points a game. Preseason First Team All Big-12 player Valdimir Brodziansky leads them in scoring most nights, but TCU is the type of team that can have a different leading scorer any night they take the floor.

TCU will also not be the last undefeated team standing because their start to Big 12 play is brutal. They host Trae Young and Oklahoma, travel to Baylor and host defending conference champs Kansas in their first three games. To their advantage, two of the three are at home, but that is a tall task for any team in the Big 12. I think TCU has a chance to be a Sweet 16 team, but they won’t be the last undefeated team in the NCAA.

Villanova Wildcats

It’s not a shock that Villanova is undefeated and sitting atop the AP Poll. Jay Wright and his club are a well oiled machine, or as Jon Rothstein says, a “Fortune 500 company.” The Wildcats often don’t get enough credit from basketball outsiders because they play in the “new” Big East. To Villanova’s credit, they put together a good non-conference schedule. They had a home-and-home against Virginia the last two years, and have one scheduled with Kansas for the next two. They played and won the Battle 4 Atlantis, which consisted of Purdue, Arizona and Tennessee. They only played Tennessee, but that was no fault of their own. This year they also played in the Jimmy V Classic, where they manhandled Gonzaga. They have proven they will, and can play with anyone.

One weakness that Villanova has is their short bench, and that only got shorter when freshman Collin Gillespie fractured his hand. Foul trouble will cause a ton of problems for Nova on a given night. The week that stands out is the first week of January, when they host Marquette and Xavier. Marquette is a team that loves to shoot threes. The three-point shot can keep any team in a game. Then there’s number 9 ranked Xavier. The Muskateers have a pretty great duo of their own in Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura. This will be a tough early test after facing a pesky Marquette team a few nights prior, but I think the leadership of Jalen Brunson, skill of Mikael Bridges and emergence of Omari Spellman will let Nova pass this test unharmed. It’s not the “trophy” they are playing for, but I think Jay Wright and company will be college basketball’s last unbeaten.

Any of these three teams have the ability to remain undefeated for a couple more weeks. TCU no doubt has the toughest start, but all of them will play a ranked opponent in the first week of conference play. I know it’s tough to bet against a boiling hot Arizona State team, or a balanced TCU club, but you can’t go against Villanova right now. Does it win you a trophy? No, but it’s not a bad bragging right to have for a little while.

Recapping Tuesday Night in College Basketball

Photo via @VisionsByJeff

A lot happened last night for a Tuesday night in December. We had the Jimmy V Classic, which always features great basketball and a greater cause. We had two Top 10 teams fall, and two more teams in the Top 15 suffer losses. Let’s quickly recap what you may have missed last night.

Villanova Pounded Gonzaga

Villanova punished Gonzaga on a night where Jalen Brunson struggled and Donte DiVincenzo was in foul trouble. Granted, Jonathan Williams only played 18 minutes for the Zags, but this game was all Wildcats. Mikael Bridges was sensational, going off for a career high 28 points. Bridges was 5-9 from three point land and came up with big buckets every time Villanova needed one. The win showed both how short Jay Wright’s bench is, but also Nova’s ability to stay in games without a true point guard for stretches.

Tyus Battle Leads Cuse in Rivalry Game

The second game of the Jimmy V Classic featured an old Big East rivalry, as UConn and Syracuse met once again. In front of a terrific MSG crowd, it was the New Jersey product, Tyus Battle, who led ‘Cuse to a win. Battle had 22 and fellow Hoop Group alum Matt Moyer had a career high 18. The unexpected outburst from Moyer was huge, as Frank Howard struggled again for Syracuse. On the other end, the Huskies continue to struggle to pick up a resume building win. Jalen Adams led the way with 22 of his own, but it was not enough.

Arizona Picked up a MUCH Needed Victory

Sean Miller’s seat has been on fire since the Battle 4 Atlantis. Not literally, his job is safe, but Arizona’s struggles have been put under a big microscope this year. The Cats quieted some of that talk last night with a win over #7 Texas A&M. Positively speaking, Arizona had four players score 13 points, and none of them were Allonzo Trier. DeAndre Ayton recorded another double-double, and a bonehead play that almost gave A&M a chance to tie it in the final seconds. With Rawle Alkins cleared for full contact, this could be the win that turns Arizona around.

Notre Dame Upset

In what was by far the upset of the night, the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell to Ball State in South Bend. Tayler Persons led Ball State with 24 points, none bigger than the 3 he hit with 1.7 seconds remaining. The Cardinals led by as much as 9 in the second half, surrendered that lead, and held on thanks to Persons’s heroics. The Irish will look to rebound this weekend against Delaware before an in-state battle with Indiana.

West Virginia is Streaking

It was defense vs defense as West Virginia picked up a big non-conference win against the #15 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. After giving up 88 points in a blowout loss on the first night of the season, Bob Huggins’s team has held teams to just 63 points per game and 37% shooting. None of these teams have as potent of an offense as Texas A&M , but it’s clear defense is still the key in West Virginia. In addition, Jevon Carter has been extraordinary. Last night was no different, as he recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

Shaka Smart Returns to VCU Victorious

In what was an emotional game in front of a raucous crowd, Shaka Smart returned to Richmond and was victorious against his former team. The Longhorns look like they have a serious three headed attack with Andrew Jones, Dylan Osetkowski and Mo Bamba. This looked like Bamba’s most complete game, recording a double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds) and tallying 4 blocks. His defense has been a constant all season, averaging over 3 blocks a game, but his offense appears to be coming around now as well. Oh, and then he also did this…

Big Ten Takes Another Hit

The Big Ten’s struggle as a conference has been mentioned on multiple occasions so far. The early take on the conference has been that it has three definite tournament teams in Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue, and question marks everywhere else. Well one of those teams suffered a bad loss last night, as Minnesota lost on the road to Nebraska. Jordan Murphy was held in check for the Gophers, finishing with 10 points on just 4-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Glynn Watson Jr. went off for the Cornhuskers, recording a game high 29 in the win. The Big Ten looks clearly to be Michigan State, and then everyone else.