You can hand out all the midseason grades you want in college basketball, but at either end of the bell curve are the outliers — classes of teams either getting all A’s or F’s.
As conference schedules begin this week, six undefeated and six winless teams remain. Dime examines which teams will drop out of this distinguished (or infamous) company, and when.
Indiana: First loss is Dec. 28 against Michigan State on the road. Will the Hoosiers look ahead to a Dec. 31 meeting with Ohio State a few days too early? Indiana scores better than all but 11 Division I teams (82.2 ppg) and takes care of its opponents, outscoring them by 20. But never doubt Sparty’s solid defense, one of the best nationally again, and State’s resolve at the Breslin Center under Tom Izzo.
Louisville: First loss is Dec. 31 at Kentucky. Peyton Siva is a first-team all-Big East caliber player but does his best work driving, which gets teammates involved. Anthony Davis is the biggest problem for that to work though in this game, leading the nation’s best block attack that averages 10 per game.
Missouri: First loss is Jan. 30 vs. Texas. Watch out for the Longhorns, who can run with the Tigers (80.5 ppg) and hold opponents to 36.5 percent shooting, too. They’ll have to contend with Missouri’s own undefeated defense, though, which averages 10 steals per game and has smothered opponents.
Syracuse: First loss is Jan. 7 to Marquette at home. The bottom line is the Orange are better because they take the ball away the best in the nation, getting 8.6 more turnovers than they give. Syracuse won’t have to play at Pitt or Marquette this season, but the Golden Eagles could bring a surprise into the Carrier Dome a month before many expect Syracuse to lose first in a Georgetown-UConn-Louisville stretch.
Baylor: First loss is Jan. 21 vs. Missouri at home. Five days after a huge game in Lawrence against Kansas (where the Bears’ fifth-best 34.8 field-goal percentage defense guides them out of the Phog), the Bears could get tripped up against the Tigers, who lead the nation in scoring margin.
Murray State: First loss is in its conference tournament. Murray isn’t the best team in college, of course, but playing in the easiest of any league of remaining undefeated teams doesn’t offer much to show why the Racers will lose in the next two months. If that’s the case, a shot at perfection and the pressure of a conference tournament title could result in a first loss. It won’t keep them out of the NCAA Tournament, however.