On Monday, I documented the 18 teams with a realistic chance to go undefeated in conference play. Already, four of them have suffered a loss. North Carolina Central lost at home to Delaware State in a huge upset on Monday. On Wednesday, Dayton lost on the road to UMass and Bucknell dropped a home game to Lehigh. Then on Thursday, East Tennessee State dropped a home game to UNC Greensboro.
Giving equal time to the other end of perfection, there are just
six seven teams remaining that currently have at least a 1% chance to go winless in conference play. We lost two yesterday when Chicago State ended a 19-game losing streak to WAC teams by winning at Utah Valley and VMI knocked off Western Carolina by one. Let’s look at the remaining holdouts.
Saint Louis (A-10) 11.4%. I discussed the Billikens’ situation in the December review so there’s no need to belabor the situation. Travis Ford is in his first season at SLU, and allegedly has some help on the way in terms of players. But that help is a year or more away. In the short term, the only thing to do is to celebrate the conference victories this season, because there won’t be that many of them.
Oregon State (Pac-12) 11.0%. The Beavers were surprisingly bad before Tres Tinkle got hurt, but without him they’ve made a strong case as the worst power-conference team in the land. OSU is coming off a 26-point loss at Washington which dropped its conference record to 0-4. The Beavers best chances for a win reside in home games against Stanford next Thursday and Arizona State on February 4, but they’ll be underdogs in every game the rest of the way. However, they did play a spirited 30 minutes in a home game against UCLA so you can see why there’s a still a great chance for them to find a conference win somewhere.
Presbyterian (Big South) 4.4%. The Blue Hose have never had a winning record in their eight seasons of Big South membership and that streak will extend to nine this season. Presbyterian is 0-5 and ranked 349th. The good news is that the Big South conveniently offers opportunities for the 349th-ranked team to get W’s. For example, the January 28th home game with Longwood is rated as a toss-up right now.
South Florida (American) 3.9%. The Bulls let go of Orlando Antigua after an 0-2 start in the American, but they haven’t let go of their losing ways under interim head coach Murry Bartow, dropping to 0-4 after a 15-point home loss to Tulane in what figured to be the most-likely win on the schedule. The general mediocrity in the conference means that six of the Bulls’ seven remaining home games are winnable. Only the game against Cincinnati is off limits.
Missouri (SEC) 3.6%. One thing I will say about Missouri is that their fan base is underrated. Among subscribers expressing a team preference, Mizzou fans rank 37th, surrounded by teams with postseason futures like West Virginia, Wake Forest, VCU and Northwestern. The basketball team ranks 184th and is headed for its third-consecutive season outside the top 150. When considering some sort of fan-interest-to-team-quality metric, Missouri surely is the best in the land. So it’s in my own self-interest to hope the team turns it around someday. But coming off a home loss to Auburn, matching the 3-15 SEC record they’ve posted the last two seasons is the most likely scenario this season.
Rutgers (Big Ten) 1.5%. Ah Rutgers, I almost forgot you. Let’s face it, when we think about bad basketball teams, we don’t think about Rutgers. OK, that’s a lie. But I think it’s safe to say there’s more optimism about Rutgers than there’s been since Mike Rice was throwing basketballs at players’ heads. The Scarlet Knights are even rated as the slightest of favorites when Nebraska comes to town next Saturday. A Nebraska team that’s listed in five brackets at bracketmatrix.com! #KnightandDay
Dartmouth (Ivy) 1.2%. The Big Green is in the midst of one of the more unusual conference scheduling quirks of the season. They opened Ivy play last Saturday with a 74-58 home loss to Harvard. They don’t play again until next Saturday, when the travel to…Harvard in what might be the best-scouted game in history. Dartmouth’s chances of a winless record are slim because they should find a way to win at least one of their six games against Cornell, Columbia, and Brown.
And that’s it. Pretty painless, really. With only a modest amount of luck, every team in the land will win a conference game this season. The last time that happened was 2007.