Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Last of the unbeatens?

With exactly two months remaining until Selection Sunday, the contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the pretenders and the NCAA Tournament picture is getting somewhat smaller than it was just a few short weeks ago. However, one of the main questions left to be answered is the always fun, "Which team will be the last to lose?"

With Kansas’ loss on Sunday at Tennessee, there are only two candidates remaining: Texas (15-0) and Kentucky (17-0). Texas has played just one conference game thus far, an easy win over Colorado, while Kentucky has beaten Georgia and Florida thus far in SEC play. Let's take a look at each undefeated squad's resume up to this point, as well as their respective remaining schedules.

Texas: The Longhorns have several quality victories, and all but one of their wins have been by double-figures. They have defeated Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Michigan State, and also have true road wins at Rice and Arkansas. Surprisingly, the only team to stay within single-digits was Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Texas has been held to fewer than 70 points only once, but has allowed its last two opponents to score at least 85.

Texas’ quest to stay undefeated begins tonight at Iowa State, a team with some nice pieces but not enough overall talent to beat the Longhorns. If they get by Texas A&M at home on Saturday, two tough road games – at Kansas State and at Connecticut – loom. With the way Texas has been playing lately (and the fact that both KSU and UConn are undefeated at home), I can foresee the Longhorns losing one of those games.

Kentucky: The Wildcats have struggled with inconsistency at times, but they are still standing. After last night’s road win over Florida, Kentucky is now 2-0 on the road. The ‘Cats have wins over North Carolina, Connecticut and Louisville. However, they barely escaped against mediocre clubs like Miami (Ohio), Stanford and Georgia, and also were down late to Long Beach State. With that said, they have allowed only one team to score more than 73 points.

Since Kentucky got by Florida, the road to remaining undefeated looks promising for a couple of weeks. The Wildcats go to Auburn this weekend, but then face Arkansas, depleted South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, LSU, Alabama and Tennessee – with only South Carolina and LSU coming on the road. UK should be able to handle Ole Miss, Vandy and Tennessee at home. UK might not be tested on the road until mid-February against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

I think that Texas is deeper, more talented, and better suited for an NCAA title than Kentucky, but that’s not what the debate is. With the way the schedule breaks, I think Kentucky is going to be the final unbeaten remaining in two weeks. Texas has to go to Kansas State and Connecticut, while Kentucky doesn’t have to go on the road against an NCAA Tournament team until mid-February. As a result, expect to see Kentucky sitting by itself as the lone unbeaten come late January.

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