Seven teams are left unscathed in a season that has already had four different teams at No. 1.
The season of the return of the fans, the super seniors and loads of transfers will certainly produce high-level parity. But the odds aren't in the favor of any team pulling off what Gonzaga did last season and reach the national final, let alone the Final Four, undefeated.
Still, there are seven left and this is how I would break them down:
Final Four contenders
Baylor (9-0): The Bears are a title contender yet again and are No. 1 in the country after crushing Villanova 57-36 last Sunday. The Bears swept through the Battle 4 Atlantis with wins over Arizona State, VCU and Michigan State after beating Stanford at home. LJ Cryer is coming off the bench and leading the team in scoring. James Akinjo has fit in quite nicely as a two-time transfer. And the length and athleticism of the bigs has made this defense swallow up teams as much as last season. Baylor goes to unraveling Oregon Saturday and if the Bears win as expected then they should be 12-0 going to Iowa State. The schedule does open up well for them in the Big 12 after the Cyclones, meaning Baylor could get to West Virginia on Jan. 18 at 17-0. The stop gap game may be in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge against Alabama on Jan. 29. It’s not crazy to think Baylor could be 20-0 going into Tuscaloosa.
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Arizona (10-0): The Wildcats have been absolutely wonderful so far this season. Bennedict Mathurin is averaging almost 18 a game, but dropped 30 in the win at Illinois after posting 24 in a win against Wyoming. Everyone seems to be playing well for Arizona, especially Christian Koloko and Kerr Kriisa. The Wildcats have taken to Tommy Lloyd’s offense and are a top 20 efficient squad, while even better in the top 10 efficiently defensively. They get after you and the results are proven with wins over Wichita State in overtime and then crushing Michigan in back-to-back days in Las Vegas. They then won three in a row by winning at Oregon State to open the Pac-12, beat undefeated Wyoming at home before going to Illinois. Arizona should get past Cal Baptist before going to Tennessee on Dec. 22. I will say a W there before an L at either UCLA or USC on Dec. 30/Jan. 2.
USC (11-0): The Trojans are just cruising along without much fanfare, even though they are ranked No. 10. USC has been efficient at both ends of the court as Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Mobley have provided a 1-2 punch. The Trojans have won on the road (at Temple and Florida Gulf Coast), on a neutral court against San Diego State and home and road to open the Pac-12 against Utah and Washington State, respectively. The Trojans are better than their upcoming opponents Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State and Arizona State. That means the first chance for a loss could be at home against Arizona on Jan. 2. If the Trojans are unscathed by that point and get past the Wildcats then it could be a while until a Bay Area trip Jan. 6-8 or even the Mountain swing to Colorado and Utah in late January.
Iowa State (10-0): The Cyclones were picked last in the Big 12 under first-year coach TJ Otzelberger. They have locked down teams on 3s, keeping them at 25 percent. Big Ten transfers Gabe Kalscheur (Minnesota) and Izaiah Brockington (Penn State) have been stars for them so far. Iowa State won the NIT Tip-Off by beating Xavier by 12 and crushing Memphis by 19 in Brooklyn. Beating Creighton by 6 on the road and Iowa by 20 proved they are no fluke. The first loss could/should come on New Year’s Day against Baylor. If it doesn’t happen then (or even Texas Tech four days later), the Cyclones could be 14-0 heading to Oklahoma or 15-0 to Kansas where the streak would likely stop on Jan. 11.
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San Francisco (10-0): The Dons returned the core of their team, including scorer Jamaree Bouyea, who has been sensational, averaging 20 points a game. The Dons did beat Davidson, Nevada, UAB, UNLV and Fresno State. They didn’t load up the schedule too much. The Dons should beat Grand Canyon in Phoenix and have the goods to win at Arizona State, but the Sun Devils are playing better after a rocky start. They can beat Southern Illinois at home as well before starting the WCC with Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga on the road. Let’s say they likely fall at ASU, but if they don’t the first loss will definitely come that initial weekend in the WCC.
LSU (10-0): The Tigers have snuck up on everyone and are undefeated with wins in overtime against Penn State, a rising team in Wake Forest and then a comeback win against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Beating Liberty and Ohio are quality wins against teams from one-bid leagues, too. The schedule lays out nicely for the Tigers where they could be 12-0 going to Auburn on Dec. 29. But that’s where the unblemished streak should end. Tari Eason, Darius Days, Missouri transfer Xavier Pinson and highly-touted freshman Efton Reid are all living up to their potential so far. This is definitely a tournament team.
Colorado State (10-0): The Rams returned everyone back from an NIT Final Four team. David Roddy is a star and a prolific scorer. They were the team to beat in the Mountain West. It wasn’t crazy to think they would be on a roll to start the season. Beating Oral Roberts by 29 was a bit of a shock to start the season and then cruising to the Paradise Jam title wasn’t a surprise with wins over Bradley, Creighton and Northeastern in St. Thomas. The back-to-back wins over Saint Mary’s in Fort Collins and over Mississippi State in Fort Worth proved this team has staying power. The Rams should beat Tulsa Saturday but the likely 11-0 Rams should end their unbeaten streak against Alabama on Dec. 21 in Birmingham.