There are 14 unbeaten men's teams remaining in D-I. How many will remain at the end of the month?
Better yet, what about at the end of January? It's been three years since a team made it through the first three months of the season without a loss. (That remarkable Illinois team was 29-0 and didn't lose until March 3.) The year before, St. Joe's had a perfect regular season before losing in the A-10 tourney.
Different story the last two seasons, though. Last year, Clemson was 17-0 before losing on Jan. 13 to Maryland. J.J. Redick's 2005-06 Duke squad had the same mark before losing at Georgetown on Jan. 21.
So who would be the most likely candidates to get to February without a loss? Let's start with who's most unlikely to do so.
Two teams are guaranteed to drop next week. Duke (9-0) plays Pitt (9-0) in NYC next Thursday, while Georgetown (7-0) travels to Memphis (8-0) next Saturday. The Blue Devils' depth should outlast a solid Pitt squad, which isn't a dig on the Panthers. They're 10-0 for the fifth straight season. But this Duke squad play that swarming defense Coach's K's teams are known for and are vastly improved from last year's putrid offense.
The Hoyas and Tigers are a little trickier, though. Georgetown hasn't played anyone very good, while Memphis has beaten USC and gotten neutral court wins over UConn and Oklahoma. Memphis will be favored – and should be, playing at home – but John Calipari's team is too haphazard right now for my taste. I like the Hoyas.
(For the record, if Memphis does win, it may not lose again until the NCAA Tournament.)
Two down. I'd also expect Mississippi (8-0) to lose against Clemson next Saturday and Texas-Arlington (6-0) to do the same at Oklahoma State.
Though I'll be rooting for the Mavericks. They, along with Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin have forced us to pay attention to the Southland Conference this season. Those three have a combined record of 16-1 and have an average RPI of 42. Sam Houston State (9-0) probably loses to San Diego State on Dec. 28. If both should somehow make it through unscathed for their Feb. 2 showdown, yikes. That'll be one for the mid-major ages.
That's nine remaining.
Clemson loses at Alabama on Jan. 1(nice 12-0 start, though), while the second week of January should see loses by Washington State (L.A. road swing too tough), Vanderbilt at Kentucky (no good reason other than the 'Cats will be due for some good wins by then) and Texas.
Few teams have been as impressive as Texas this season, but a two-game swing against the Big Ten (Michigan State on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29 vs. Wisconsin) is a lot to ask. Both play solid defense and the Spartans have enough athletic big men to give the Longhorns fits. Instead, I doubt Texas loses until a Jan. 12 trip to Columbus, Mo.
More mid-January losses? Miami, Fla. won't get past Jan. 15 without a loss. Georgetown will lose to Pitt on Jan. 14.
Another tight game to watch is North Carolina at Clemson on Jan. 6. Try as I might, can't see the Heels losing that one if they're healthy. But getting through the rest of January without a loss to N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami and Boston College is a tall order.
We're down to two.
If Kansas – and this is unlikely – gets through a spate of good games (at Georgia Tech, at Boston College, vs. Miami (Ohio), at Nebraska) they'll probably lose Jan. 19 at Missouri. The Tigers are an improved team this season (see the Texas graf) and should hold court.
Which leaves us … Duke. I have no love for the Devils, but realize they're deep, balanced and motivated after a sub-par season.
They also should benefit by playing Clemson and Virginia at home. Games at Virginia Tech and Maryland in late January will be tough, but I'd expect some wins.
However, they travel to Chapel Hill on Feb. 6. And that's where the last unbeaten team loses this season.
Disagree? Post a comment below. And make sure you cast your vote here.