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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | January 13, 2022

The last undefeated men's basketball team from every season this century, ranked

Andy Katz recaps a wild Tuesday night in men's college basketball

The last two undefeated men's college basketball teams during the 2021-22 season, Baylor and Southern California, lost on the same day – Jan. 11, 2022 – leaving all 358 Division I teams with at least one loss this season. The Bears, the reigning national champions, were technically the sport's final undefeated team as the Trojans lost to the Stanford Cardinal earlier in the day, prior to Baylor's home loss to Texas Tech.

It was the third time in five seasons in which the multiple remaining undefeated men's basketball teams all lost on the same day.

The Bears' 15-0 start to the season was a smaller win total than average for the sport's final undefeated team. This century, including the 2021-22 version of Baylor, the sport's final undefeated team has won an average of 21.6 games to start the season.

Where does Baylor's undefeated start to the season rank among its peers this century?

I wondered which of the last 23 final undefeated teams — the final unbeaten team from every season starting from the 1999-2000 campaign through the 2021-22 season — in college basketball had the best unbeaten start to the season. So I decided to rank them in the context of being the sport's last undefeated team — how long did each team's undefeated streak last? Did they advance to the NCAA tournament with a perfect record? How many road wins or top-25 victories did each team have?

I created a formula to rank each team's undefeated start to the season – only examining the games during the winning streak. Once a team lost for the first time, none of the games the rest of the season, starting with the loss, counted for the formula.

Here's the point system I used. The system is cumulative, such that road wins or wins over top-25 opponents are worth additional points.

  • Each win during the undefeated start to the season: 5 points
  • Each road win: 2 points
  • Each neutral-court win (prior to the NCAA tournament): 1 point
  • Each win over a ranked opponent: the inverse of the opponent's AP poll ranking (beating the No. 1 team is worth 25 points, beating the No. 25 team is worth 1 point)
  • Each win in the NCAA tournament: the inverse of the opponent's NCAA tournament seed, multiplied by two (beating a No. 1 seed is worth 32 points, beating a No. 16 seed is worth two points)

The complete results of the formula are at the bottom of the story.

The last undefeated men's basketball team from each season from the 2000 season through the 2022 season is listed below. In years in which the multiple remaining undefeated teams lost on the same day, I went with the last team to lose that day.

  • 2021-22: Baylor
  • 2020-21: Gonzaga
  • 2019-20: San Diego State
  • 2018-19: Virginia
  • 2017-18: Arizona State
  • 2016-17: Gonzaga
  • 2015-16: SMU
  • 2014-15: Kentucky
  • 2013-14: Wichita State
  • 2012-13: Michigan
  • 2011-12: Murray State
  • 2010-11: Ohio State
  • 2009-10: Kentucky
  • 2008-09: Wake Forest
  • 2007-08: Memphis
  • 2006-07: Clemson
  • 2005-06: Florida
  • 2004-05: Illinois
  • 2003-04: Saint Joseph's
  • 2002-03: Duke
  • 2001-02: Duke
  • 2000-01: Stanford
  • 1999-00: Syracuse

23. 2003 Duke

Undefeated start: 12-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 6 seed Maryland 87-72 on the road
Final record: 26-7
Net efficiency margin: +23.75
NCAA tournament seed: No. 3 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 2 seed Kansas 69-65 in the Sweet 16

For the second season in a row, Duke was the country's last undefeated team at 12-0, but the 2003 Blue Devils weren't nearly as impressive as their 2002 predecessors — although both teams lost in the Sweet 16. This Duke team was ranked 13th on offense and 15th defensively one year after the Blue Devils were the top squad on both ends of the floor.

MORE: 11 of the most surprising storylines in men's college basketball in 2022

22. 2013 Michigan

Undefeated start: 16-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 2 seed Ohio State 56-53 on the road
Final record: 31-8
Net efficiency margin: +27.86
NCAA tournament seed: No. 4 seed
NCAA tournament finish: National runner-up

Michigan had the most efficient offense in the country in 2013, when Trey Burke & Co. averaged 121.9 points per 100 offensive possessions. The Wolverines' undefeated start ended at the hands of rival Ohio State in Columbus. However, they went just 9-6 in their final 15 regular season games, leading to a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Thanks to an overtime win over Kansas in the Sweet 16, Michigan made a run to the national championship game.

21. 2007 Clemson

Undefeated start: 17-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 4 seed Maryland 92-87 on the road
Final record: 25-11
Net efficiency margin: +18.46
NCAA tournament seed: Missed the NCAA tournament
NCAA tournament finish: Missed the NCAA tournament

It's almost hard to fathom a major school starting 17-0 and missing the NCAA tournament. Clemson lost nine of its next 11 games after its undefeated start and ultimately earned a No. 1 seed in the NIT, which means the Tigers were potentially just one win away from reaching the NCAA tournament.

20. 2018 Arizona State*

Undefeated start: 12-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 4 seed Arizona 84-78 on the road
Final record: 20-12
Net efficiency margin: +14.13
NCAA tournament seed: No. 11 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost in the First Four

*Previously undefeated Villanova and TCU lost earlier on the same day

The 2017-18 season was a bit of a unique one compared to the rest of the seasons and undefeated teams on this list. Not a single team in the country made it to the New Year undefeated, as the final three undefeated teams all lost on Dec. 30.

Two of those three were Arizona State and TCU — two schools you wouldn't typically expect to be in the running for the nation's last perfect team in men's basketball. After the Sun Devils won their first 12 games, they lost 12 of their final 20, finishing with 20 wins.

They barely made the NCAA tournament, earning a No. 11 seed and playing in the First Four, ultimately losing six of their final seven games that season. Arizona State being the final DI team to lose in the 2017-18 men's basketball season will go down as a great piece of random sports trivia.

19. 2016 SMU

Undefeated start: 18-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 10 seed Temple 89-80 on the road
Final record: 25-5
Net efficiency margin: +21.98
NCAA tournament seed: Ineligible for postseason
NCAA tournament finish: Ineligible for postseason

SMU finished second in the AAC standings in 2016, one game behind Temple, and it was the Owls that gave the Mustangs their first defeat of the season. SMU lost four of its final six road games and finished the year 25-5.

The Mustangs' offense ranked 12th nationally thanks to their ability to make 42 percent of their 3s (third nationally) and rebound 41.2 percent of their missed shots (second nationally). But their defense ranked just 45th nationally.

18. 2002 Duke

Undefeated start: 12-0
Suffered first loss to: 77-76 at Florida State on the road
Final record: 31-4
Net efficiency margin: +34.19
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 5 seed Indiana 74-73 in the Sweet 16

Duke's 12-0 start in 2002 is one of the lower win totals for the country's last undefeated team in recent years but if the Blue Devils prevailed on the road at Florida State, they could've potentially won their first 24 games.

They didn't suffer their second loss until their 25th game. In fact, of Duke's four losses, three were on the road and three of the four were by a combined five points. The Blue Devils were ranked No. 1 in offensive and defensive efficiency thanks to a core of Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Dahntay Jones and Chris Duhon.

17. 2006 Florida

Undefeated start: 17-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 2 seed Tennessee 80-76 on the road
Final record: 33-6
Net efficiency margin: +28.28
NCAA tournament seed: No. 3 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Won national championship

After a 17-0 start, Florida actually dropped to 22-6, but the Gators ended their season with 11 straight wins as they won the first of back-to-back national championships. All six of their losses were by four, five or six points, four of the six were on the road and five of them were against teams that finished in the top 20 on kenpom.com.

Florida was the last undefeated team in the sport, it won a national title, it had an excellent net efficiency margin and the Gators' losses were almost exclusively two-possession losses against really good teams, mostly on the road.

16. 2022 Baylor*

Undefeated start: 15-0
Suffered first loss to: Then-No. 19 Texas Tech
Final record: TBD
Net efficiency margin: +30.02 (as of Jan. 13, 2022)
NCAA tournament seed: TBD
NCAA tournament finish: TBD

*Previously undefeated Southern California lost earlier on the same day

Baylor, coming off of its first-ever national championship, was the final undefeated men's basketball team during the 2022 season, despite losing four starters and its top three scorers from its national championship team. The team's leading scorer this season is Arizona transfer James Akinjo and the second-leading scorer is sophomore LJ Cryer, who averaged just 3.4 points in 10 minutes per game, so while the Bears returned several key role players from their 2021 team, such as Adam Flagler and Matthew Mayer, the 2022 version of Baylor also has a different composition.

While Baylor's 15-0 start to the season isn't as many wins as other teams on this list, the Bears' undefeated start included a tournament title in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a 21-point win over then-No. 6 Villanova in which the Bears held the Wildcats to 36 points, and a road win over then-undefeated Iowa State.

RELATED: No chance for an unbeaten 2022 champion after Baylor, Southern California fall

15. 2000 Syracuse

Undefeated start: 19-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 10 seed Seton Hall 69-67
Final record: 26-6
Net efficiency margin: N/A
NCAA tournament seed: No. 4 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 1 seed Michigan State 75-58 in the Sweet 16

Syracuse actually lost back-to-back games and three out of five after its 19-0 start. It also lost its regular season finale and its opening game in the Big East tournament. The team bowed out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16 with a loss to eventual national champion Michigan State.

14. 2019 Virginia*

Undefeated start: 16-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 1 seed Duke 72-70 on the road
Final record: 35-3
Net efficiency margin: +34.22
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Won national championship

*Previously undefeated Michigan lost earlier on the same day

Virginia lost just three times all season and two of those losses came to No. 1 overall seed Duke, which had two of five consensus First Team All-Americans on its roster in National Player of the Year Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.

So it took arguably the best team in the country (at least in the regular season) to beat Virginia. The Cavaliers finished the season with the best adjusted efficiency margin in the country, according to kenpom.com. They had the second-most efficient offense in the country with a rating of 123.4 and the fifth-best defense at 89.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.

13. 2009 Wake Forest

Undefeated start: 16-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 2 seed in the NIT Virginia Tech 78-71 at home
Final record: 24-7
Net efficiency margin: +18.88
NCAA tournament seed: No. 4 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 13 seed Cleveland State 84-69 in the first round

Wake Forest presents an interesting case with a team that was clearly talented — the Demon Deacons had four future NBA players in Jeff Teague, James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ish Smith — but it lost five games in a nine-game stretch after its 16-0 start and then lost to a No. 13 seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Demon Deacons were good, but not elite, on both ends of the floor — 24th on offense and 46th on defense.

12. 2010 Kentucky

Undefeated start: 19-0
Suffered first loss to: 68-62 on the road against South Carolina
Final record: 35-3
Net efficiency margin: +26.54
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 2 seed West Virginia 73-66 in the Elite Eight

It shouldn't be a surprise that a college basketball team featuring AP first-team All-Americans John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, plus Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson, was able to win a lot of games.

Surprisingly, it was a South Carolina team that went 15-16 that ended Kentucky's perfect start to the season.

The Wildcats had the sixth-most efficient defense in the country and the 22nd-best offense.

11. 2012 Murray State

Undefeated start: 23-0
Suffered first loss to: Tennessee State
Final record: 31-2
Net efficiency margin: +15.34
NCAA tournament seed: No. 6 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 3 seed Marquette 62-53 in the second round

Murray State's undefeated start barely reached December as the Racers needed double overtime to beat Southern Miss in late November. But they ended up rattling off 23 wins in a row to start the season, then they won the OVC tournament and entered Selection Sunday with a 30-1 record.

The Racers were led by Isaiah Canaan, a 6-foot point guard who made 45 percent of his 3-pointers that season.

Murray State finished that season ranked 35th on kenpom.com with a net efficiency margin of +15.34, which is less than half that of some other teams on this list.

10. 2020 San Diego State

Undefeated start: 26-0
Suffered first loss to: UNLV 66-63 at home
Final record: 30-2
Net efficiency margin: +24.48
NCAA tournament seed: N/A
NCAA tournament finish: N/A

It took until February of the 2020 season, but San Diego State finally lost. The Aztecs finished the season ranked No. 6 on kenpom.com and No. 6 in the final AP Top 25 poll.

9. 2001 Stanford

Undefeated start: 20-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 4 seed UCLA 79-73
Final record: 31-3
Net efficiency margin: N/A
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 3 seed Maryland 87-73 in the Elite Eight

Stanford reached the 20-win mark during its undefeated start before falling to UCLA. The Cardinal later got revenge with a six-point road win at UCLA when the Bruins were ranked No. 12 in the country.

A neutral-court win over then-No. 1 Duke was the highlight of Stanford's start.

8. 2011 Ohio State

Undefeated start: 24-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 4 seed Wisconsin 71-67 on the road
Final record: 34-3
Net efficiency margin: +33.47
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 4 seed Kentucky 62-60 in the Sweet 16

Despite losing in the Sweet 16, Ohio State finished the 2011 season as the top-ranked team on kenpom.com. That's how good the Buckeyes were when freshmen Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas teamed up with seniors David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale. They had the No. 1 offense in the country and the No. 12 defense.

There are only a few teams on this list with a higher net efficiency margin than the Buckeyes in 2011.

7. 2008 Memphis

Undefeated start: 26-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 2 seed Tennessee 66-62 at home
Final record: 38-2
Net efficiency margin: +31.51
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: National runner-up

Memphis was an overtime period in the national championship game away from being a 39-1 national champion. The final kenpom.com rankings saw the hierarchy atop the sport the same way as the NCAA tournament results with Kansas finishing No. 1 and Memphis at No. 2.

The Tigers were sixth in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency.

Memphis' participation in the 2008 NCAA Tournament was later vacated.

6. 2004 Saint Joseph's

Undefeated start: 27-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 7 seed Xavier 87-67 in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament
Final record: 30-2
Net efficiency margin: +27.66
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost to No. 2 seed Oklahoma State 64-62 in the Elite Eight

Several teams on this list came a win shy of an undefeated regular season. Well, St. Joe's actually did it.

But they dropped the ball after that, losing by 20 points to Xavier in the quarterfinal round of the A-10 tournament. In terms of the opponent that beat St. Joe's and the margin of defeat, it's among the worst first losses of the season on this list.

Led by National Player of the Year Jameer Nelson, whose son Jameer Nelson Jr. is in the midst of his own college basketball career as a player — feel old yet? — the Hawks recovered from their first loss of the season to make the Elite Eight, where they lost by two points to No. 2 seed Oklahoma State.

5. 2017 Gonzaga

Undefeated start: 29-0
Suffered first loss to: Future No. 3 seed in the NIT BYU 79-71 at home
Final record: 37-2
Net efficiency margin: +32.05
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: National runner-up

The 2017 'Zags effectively silenced any of the remaining Gonzaga doubters as they finished one win shy of an undefeated regular season, earned (another) No. 1 seed and lost a competitive national championship game to North Carolina.

It was Gonzaga, not North Carolina, that finished the season ranked No. 1 on kenpom.com, thanks to the Bulldogs' top-ranked defense.

4. 2014 Wichita State

Undefeated start: 35-0
Suffered first loss to: No. 8 seed Kentucky in the second round
Final record: 35-1
Net efficiency margin: +25.36
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost in the second round

The Shockers were a real national title contender out of the Missouri Valley, taking a 34-0 record into Selection Sunday. They earned a No. 1 seed — the best in program history — but unfortunately for them, No. 8 seed Kentucky was waiting in the second round. The Wildcats won a thrilling second-round matchup 78-76.

Kentucky went on to make the national championship game, while Cleanthony Early, Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Wichita State were sent home wondering what could've been.

3. 2005 Illinois

Undefeated start: 29-0
Suffered first loss to: 65-64 on the road at Ohio State
Final record: 37-2
Net efficiency margin: +32.68
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: National runner-up

Illinois is one of several two-loss, national runner-up teams on this list. The Fighting Illini were one win away from completing their bid for an undefeated regular season but Matt Sylvester's late 3-pointer gave Ohio State a one-point win.

The Fighting Illini lost a competitive national championship game to North Carolina. Illinois' net efficiency margin of +32.68 is higher than that of 2017 Gonzaga (+32.05) and 2008 Memphis (+31.51).

USA TODAY Sports Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs celebrates after his buzzer-beater to knock off UCLA.

2. 2021 Gonzaga

Undefeated start: 31-0
Suffered first loss to: No. 1 seed Baylor 86-70 in the national championship
Final record: 31-1
Net efficiency margin: +36.48
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost in the national championship

In 2021, Gonzaga fell one game shy of becoming the first undefeated NCAA Division I men's basketball champion since Indiana in 1976. Baylor stormed out of the gates to go up 11-1 against the 'Zags to start the game and the Bears shot 43 percent from three and grabbed 48 percent of their missed shots to keep their foot on the gas en route to Baylor's first-ever national title, while leaving Gonzaga still searching for one of its own.

But that shouldn't erase the run that Gonzaga went on, prior to April 5, 2021. The Bulldogs' non-conference schedule included wins over Iowa, Virginia, West Virginia, Kansas and Auburn, and the Hawkeyes, Jayhawks and Cavaliers were ultimately seeded No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 in Gonzaga's region in the NCAA tournament, although the 'Zags didn't face any of those teams again in March.

During its 31-0 start, Gonzaga's smallest margin of victory was five points against West Virginia and it didn't have another win by single digits until it defeated UCLA by three points in overtime in the Final Four on Jalen Suggs' heroic buzzer-beater.

Gonzaga finished the 2021 season ranked No. 1 on kenpom.com with the country's most-efficient offense, which made a ridiculous 63.9 percent of its shots inside the arc.

1. 2015 Kentucky

Undefeated start: 38-0
Suffered first loss to: No. 1 seed Wisconsin 71-64 in the Final Four
Final record: 38-1
Net efficiency margin: +36.91
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 seed
NCAA tournament finish: Lost in the Final Four

Kentucky nearly became the first team since Indiana in 1976 to pull off an undefeated season capped off by a national championship. The Wildcats went undefeated through non-conference play, then the regular season, then the SEC tournament, then through the first four rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Ultimately, they lost to fellow No. 1 seed Wisconsin, whom the Wildcats had defeated in the Final Four the year prior. The 2015 Badgers, by the way, had the highest adjusted offensive efficiency rating, 129.0, in the history of kenpom.com, so it took a generationally great offense to end Kentucky's undefeated season.

Kentucky finished with the No. 1 defense in the country and the No. 6 offense. The 'Cats finished the season ranked No. 1 on kenpom.com with an adjusted efficiency margin of +36.91, meaning it outscored its opponents by an average of almost 37 points per 100 possessions. That's the highest rating of any team on this list.

Here's the formula I used

Below is the complete spreadsheet of every team examined.

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