Jinx Alert! Who Can Run The Conference Table?Posted by jstevrtc on February 11th, 2010
Pardon the baseball reference, but we know that if a guy’s throwing a no-hitter you’re not supposed to talk to him about it. In fact, you’re supposed to just stay away from him, let him sit in the dugout alone, and act like nothing special is happening. We don’t go for such superstitions around here, so let’s check out the teams that are currently undefeated in their conferences, and who has the best chance to actually pull off a perfect conference campaign.
Last season, there were only two teams that streaked through their conference schedules without a blemish — Memphis went 16-0 in the CUSA, and Gonzaga tallied a perfect 14-0 in the WCC. Memphis kept it going three games into this conference season, but back on January 20th UTEP showed the Tigers that they were having none of that, and snapped Memphis’ conference winning streak at 64 games. The Zags stumbled ten days later at San Francisco after winning their first six WCC games this season.
Right now (before Thursday night’s games), there are no less than eight teams with perfect conference records. We list them here along with the next time they’ll put it on the line, and our prediction as to when they’ll drop their first conference game — if at all:
Kansas (9-0 in the Big 12)
Next test: This Saturday at home against Iowa State.
When they’ll lose: Monday 2/15 at Texas A&M.
It’s actually tempting to pick another game, here, because this is the game in which most people think the Jayhawks will stumble. The road games at Kansas State and at Texas were also popular picks for Kansas to fall, but those are the types of games in which Kansas shows the most focus and elevates their level of play. That makes the game at Oklahoma State on 2/27 a little more inviting, but we’re going to go ahead and stick with the Aggies. TA&M wants to tack on another seed-strengthening signature win, and Kansas gives them that chance. It wouldn’t surprise us if Kansas got through unscathed, but we have a feeling that the Aggies will get it done.
Butler (14-0 in the Horizon League)
Next test: Tonight at Youngstown State.
When they’ll lose: They won’t.
The Horizon League this season is Butler, then everyone else. The next best overall record in the conference after the Bulldogs’ 21-4 is Wisconsin-Green Bay’s 16-9. Come on, Butler has 14 wins in the conference, and after that it’s four teams — Green Bay, Valparaiso, Wright State, and Cleveland State — each with eight. True, two of the Bulldogs’ four remaining conference games are on the road against Cleveland State and Valpo, but it’s like Butler’s playing a different sport compared to those two teams. We’re totally calling this.
Cornell (6-0 in the Ivy League)
Next test: Tomorrow night at Pennsylvania, then Saturday night at Princeton.
When they’ll lose: They won’t.
After administering a 36-point clowning of Harvard back on January 30th, Cornell can’t expect to feel very welcome when they visit Lavietes Pavilion next Friday. True, it’ll be Cornell’s third straight road game. If the Crimson can find any way at all to calm down Cornell’s Jeff Foote (no small task), they’ll exact their revenge. Of course, there’s always Ryan Wittman to worry about. Nah, we don’t think it’ll happen. The Big Red know this is their only real hurdle on the way to the perfect conference season, and they’ll be ready.
Princeton (4-0 in the Ivy League)
Next test: Tomorrow night against Columbia, then Saturday night against Cornell.
When they’ll lose: Saturday, to Cornell.
The Tigers have only played two weekends of conference games, but we listed them here since they are indeed still undefeated in conference play. But it follows that since we think Cornell won’t lose, they’ll beat the Tigers this weekend. Sorry, Princeton. You should have let me in twenty years ago. Behold, my sad and hollow revenge.
Morgan State (11-0 in the MEAC)
Next test: Saturday against Winston Salem State.
When they’ll lose: Wednesday 2/17 against Delaware State.
In the first tilt with Delaware State back on January 23rd, the Bears were down by 15 early in the second half in their own building before putting together a second half run to pull it out, 72-62. If Delaware State gets a lead at home against the Bears on Wednesday, they won’t lose it. That game also takes place three days before Morgan State has to travel to Murray State (on whom more in a moment) for an ESPN-U game as part of the BracketBusters series. Congratulations to Todd Bozeman and his Bears for a great conference season, because it’s looking like they’ll take the regular season title. Delaware State, however, will deny you perfection.
Siena (14-0 in the Metro Atlantic)
Next test: Tomorrow night against Niagara, then Sunday afternoon against Canisius.
When they’ll lose: They won’t.
A risky call, there, since three of Siena’s four remaining conference games are on the road. But the opponents don’t conjure any fear; Niagara and Canisius are a combined 24-27 (12-16), then it’s BracketBusters at Butler on the 20th. They get six days to prepare for a road game against Rider (currently 14-12), then it’s senior night at home against Marist — who’s 1-23. That game at Canisius might get a little dicey if the Saints are looking ahead to that road trip to Butler, but we learned in last year’s NCAA Tournament how good Siena is under pressure. They’re just as talented this year and we think they’re focused enough to finish with a clean conference sheet.
Murray State (13-0 in the Ohio Valley)
Next test: Tonight at Tennessee Tech.
When they’ll lose: Thursday 2/25 at Morehead State.
The Ohio Valley has produced an exciting conference race this year, with Murray State (22-3), Eastern Kentucky (17-8), and Morehead State (17-7) all having fine seasons. The conference tournament should be great, but things haven’t been settled as far as the regular season, even at this late stage. Murray State has a two-game lead on Morehead State right now, but the Racers end their season on the road by playing EKU and Morehead State — the two squads right below them in the OVC standings — within 48 hours of each other. Between Morehead and Eastern Kentucky, Morehead is the better team, but Murray State absolutely annihilated them by 30 points (86-56) way back on December 5th. The Eagles would love nothing more than to avenge such a pride-liberating crotch kick of a loss by ruining Murray’s perfect conference record, and it would definitely send a message right before the conference tournament starts. We’re betting they’ll do it.
Sam Houston State (9-0 in the Southland)
Next test: Saturday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
When they’ll lose: Saturday 2/20 at Texas-San Antonio.
This is another bold one, since UTSA currently rests dead last in the Southland’s West division, a full six games behind SHSU. In their meeting eight days ago, though, SHSU had a little trouble at home with the Roadrunners, ahead by double-digits well into the second half but almost falling victim to a late UTSA run. Also, the Bearkats have looked a little wobbly in their last three, eking out close games against teams they should have steamrolled. SHSU’s game against Lamar three days before the UTSA tilt might look like a more likely candidate on paper, but the Bearkats had no problem with Lamar earlier in the year, though that one was in SHSU’s gym. We’re going with the Roadrunners. By the way, if you get a chance to see SHSU’s Corey Allmond play, do so. We got to see him in person when he lost his mind at Kentucky for 37. Kid can ball.