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Friday, November 12, 2010
Who can go unbeaten? Surprise, surprise

By Eamonn Brennan

Anytime college basketball starts its season with a potentially dominant No. 1 overall team, the talk of an undefeated season inevitably follows. The talk this season has been scattered at best*; no one really thinks Duke will go wire to wire without losing a game. Yes, the Blue Devils are very, very good, but going undefeated in college basketball is also very, very difficult. There's a reason, with all the great teams we've seen in the past 25 years, that it's been 25 years since anyone went unbeaten.

In fact, the Blue Devils aren't the tema with the highest statistical possibility of going undefeated. (Highest being a relative term here, of course; Duke's chances of not losing a game hover around 1 percent.) According to Ken Pomeroy's projection system, the Blue Devils are No. 2. The No. 1 squad? As Drew Cannon informs us, it's not who you might think:
Trivia question: What team has the highest probability of an undefeated season according to the current kenpom.com projections? Duke? Second place. Ohio State? Kansas State? Gonzaga? Memphis? All wrong. At 1.14 percent, the most likely team to win every game they play before tournament season is Utah State.

The Aggies are listed with above an 80 percent chance to win every game on their schedule except two. On Wednesday they visit Jimmer Fredette and BYU, and on December 4 they're playing at Georgetown. [...] Win one of those games and keep the status quo in-conference, and maybe Utah State will snag a seed in the top half of the bracket. Lose them, and Stew Morrill and Co. don't have any other chances to prove their mettle.

Of course, that probability is thanks largely to the Aggies' weak schedule, as Cannon notes above. This is a bit of a bummer. Utah State could be a very efficient team all season, but if they don't perform well in two tough non-conference road games against two likely NCAA tournament teams, they could lose their chance at national respect -- and an at-large bid -- before the season really kicks into high gear.

Will they go undefeated? Um, no. No one will. But that's not really the point. The point is, jump on the Utah State bandwagon now. With their all-or-nothing schedule, the Aggies could use your love.

*In fact, with all the love Duke is getting this preseason, it's a little surprising someone hasn't gone out on this rhetorically tempting limb already. If there's one thing writers like, it's bold, attention-grabbing predictions. And so we wait.