Is Undefeated Possible

    That’s the last time a men’s D1 team went undefeated and claimed the title.

    That’s the last time a men’s D1 team went undefeated and advanced to the Final Four.

    That’s the last time an undefeated D1 team made it to the title game.

    WSU has completed a run through the regular season, but can they win a title?

    Can anyone go undefeated at the D1 level any more?

    I think it would take a perfect storm of things to make a once in a lifetime run possible.

    First, I think it would take a non power conference school. The likelihood of going undefeated in a major conference is basically zero. KU has dominated the Big XII over the last decade, but their best conference mark was 15-1 (2009-10). It’s just incredibly hard to go undefeated in conference, even at a non-major conference. Typically there’s only a couple of teams with fewer than 2 conference losses for the season in all of D1. And that’s not even taking into consideration the non-con schedule.

    The next element would be a very good, experienced coach. Winning in the NCAA tournament you need someone with experience to handle the media crush that’s basically a given as the team navigates the tournament. WSU benefits from having gone to the Final Four last year, giving not only their players, but their coach a chance to have gone through this before. They know the lay of the land. They know the pace and feel of the tournament. Marshall understands the preparation.

    The third element would be previous conference domination. Being the hunted is different than being the hunter. However, if you’re always the hunted in conference, you have that experience to handle when the pressure is multiplied chasing history.

    Fourth, they need the perfect returning roster. Experienced guys that know their roles and can do things like knock down threes when nothing is going right, get rebounds when they absolutely have to have a stop and take care of the basketball on the road when the opposing crowd is ready to storm the court.

    Finally, they need the perfect recruiting class. This is where I think WSU falls a little short. They have a lot of things going for them, but when it comes down to it, do they have enough overall talent to win it all once they get past the round of 32. Can they win consecutive games against, for example, Michigan State, Villanova, Florida and Arizona? That’s a heck of a stretch. Do they have the talent to beat those four teams in a row, knowing they will have to win at least once with their B+ game, and they will have to win at least once when the other team plays their A+ game? That’s the question I can’t answer for them right now.

    To win it all, a team has to have that perfect moment come together. If I had to pick teams that would have a chance at that, I’d point to the following schools.

    1. SMU - With Larry Brown there, they have a tremendous coach with experience. Being in Dallas helps with recruiting and being in the American with Louisville leaving, they could find a year with the perfect storm. The downside is that time is not on their side with Larry Brown, and they still have Memphis, UConn and Cincinnati in their conference.

    2. UNLV/ San Diego State - They are about even. Steve Fisher is in the same boat as Larry Brown. Plenty of experience, but starting to get on the wrong side of the aging curve. UNLV has made a run before, but it’s tough to get players to come to Vegas consistently. Also, they play in the same conference, so that’s a bit of a hurdle.

    3. Villanova - They have a young coach who has already had some tourney success, and they are no longer in the Big East. If Creighton falls back to the pack next year and Georgetown does not emerge, I could see 'Nova becoming a real beast. They have some history to recruit from and they have gotten top players in the past. They’re in Philly, so they have somewhere to recruit as well.

    I’m not predicting anyone going undefeated. I just can’t see anyone winning 40 games without a loss. There’s too much talent, and it’s too spread out.

  • I don’t see it happening. As you say, the talent is too even. Recruiting has even out in that the “mid majors” get very good players also. Plus, the one and done has changed the whole dynamic. The pressure becomes so great, also, with the increased TV / media in general coverage.

  • @justanotherfan

    No. 🙂

    Seriously, it is possible, but not probable for the same reason it is not probable for defeated teams to win a ring.

    But here is why it could happen.

    Experience and depth are very hard to beat, if you matchup fairly well with an opponent.

    Think about the Tyshawn-TRob team. They matched up well with UK. They almost came back and upset them. And that team had no depth. Neither team did for that matter. But if KU had had another 2-3 credible subs, KU’s experience and depth would very likely have beaten UK’s great young talent.

    Looking at Butler’s two straight Final Fours without 5 star talent, it becomes clear that WSU could easily go to two straight Final Fours, especially since WSU looks more talented to me than did Butler.

    It was a great edge to have been to the Final Four the year before for Butler. It will be again for WSU.

    But what tripped Butler up both years?

    It finally ran into a team with a little more depth and with one super player it just had no answer for.

    If WSU has a defensive answer for every great player it comes up against, given tournament seeding and who it has to play, then I would pick WSU as the favorite to win the tournament, because of its experience and depth.

    But it is very tough to have an answer for every great player that one runs up against.

    And for that reason, I suspect WSU will go down again.

    But I never forget Wooden’s first NCAA champion. Not one guy over 6-5. Few gave that team a serious chance of winning it all. It went undefeated. It won it all.

    It can happen.

    Nothing is written.

  • I do think undefeated is possible. It would be the type of team that would have some strong veterans, guys that in the range of Greene, Frankamp, Ellis. Perhaps a lower ranked guy that surprises, like Mason; A guy that should be an OAD that stays (like Embiid). With an infusion of presumed OAD talent (like, say, Alexander) and near OAD talent (like Oubre). All that combined with a good schedule, not great, in non-con, that allows wins while building confidence. It would also require a down year in conference play. No key injuries. And luck.

    So I’ve pretty much talked myself out of it.

  • @HighEliteMajor @jaybate 1.0 @Hawk8086

    Lets say for instance that, rather than coming to Kansas, Andrew Wiggins had gone to Wichita State to play his one year of college ball with Nick instead. That would give WSU that answer they needed. We will never know, obviously, but we could have seen something like that happen for reasons that had nothing to do with basketball.

    I think that’s the variable we can’t account for. What if a major recruit makes a decision based on non basketball reasons - staying close to home, playing with or for a friend/ family member. WSU is undefeated right now. If they had Andrew Wiggins, that could be the variable that they needed. What if next time the Wichita State of that year gets that recruit?

    I think that’s how it will happen, if it ever does.

  • @justanotherfan OR - If they had Andrew Wiggins, they may be 22-7 right now. They might have spent all their time and energy trying to get him the ball and getting him to be " the man " and messed up the flow of their otherwise pretty good team.

    As you say, we’ll never know.

  • @nuleafjhawk

    Truer words were never spoken. It could have gone either way.

  • Going undefeated is possible, but improbable… more so these days because seasons are longer (more games / less odds) and there is an abundance of more quality teams out there.

    The Shockers have a shot, but it is still a long shot, even though they are playing well.

    First… they have to get through their valley tournament. The teams may not be that great, but it will be teams that have already played them twice. It isn’t easy beating anyone 3 times in a row. And, perhaps, the Shockers could be looking past their own valley tournament… doubtful, but possible.

    Then they have to go 6-0 in the big dance.

    What they do have going for them is first, a quality PG who plays consistent and has great basketball IQ. Second, they were there last year so they can ride that experience. Third, they will be jacked up for every game. Marshall knows how to get them jacked every night. Fourth, they play as a team and unselfish. Fifth, they know how to close out games. Sixth, they are carrying a bigger chip on their shoulders this year than last year. Hard to beat that chip!

    Their shortcomings are obviously individual talent level, and their weak SOS coming in didn’t allow them more preparation. Big hurdles, but not impossible to overcome. They do have so many other positives to help counter, but will it be enough?

    Last… what is always unknown and inconsistent… LUCK! It does seem to take some luck to win it all… or in the least, the lack of bad luck. That means, keeping everyone healthy, or if someone goes down it creates a big time chip for the rest of the guys to win from. Louisville had that benefit last year where they took what appeared to be bad luck and turned it into good. Danny and the Miracles did the same with Marshall going down.

    I’m just glad it is Wichita State in this position and not Syracuse or Arizona… two teams I dislike!

  • @nuleafjhawk

    It does feel that way… but in reality, we have one of the most-efficient offenses in the country. Granted… that relates more to having good bigs and often using Self’s hi/lo because it is our interior scoring percentage that is keeping our pants up!

    However… we don’t know how well our interior would be scoring if we didn’t have Andrew on the outside to bait defenses to come out. Personally, I think this is a huge factor, one that goes unnoticed. We only look at Andrew’s stat line to determine the contribution he makes to this team… but there is more to the game than that.

  • @drgnslayr I truly wasn’t trying to dog Andrew, I just wanted to point out that there are so many factors that contribute to a team’s chemistry and it’s hard to say what kind of effect having another “star” on the team would have.

    Honestly, Andrew’s been stellar for us this year. I believe his scoring avg per game is higher than ANY KU freshman in history. To me, our team just doesn’t have that “family” chemistry that some of our other great teams have had.

    And 13.3 turnovers per game don’t give me great optimism for the tournament.

  • @nuleafjhawk

    “I just wanted to point out that there are so many factors that contribute to a team’s chemistry and it’s hard to say what kind of effect having another “star” on the team would have.”

    True dat!

    Or how teams play without a star. On the other thread about missing Embiid I mentioned the potential this team has for growth while Embiid is out.

    Sometimes stars enable other players to not put out 100%. I feel sure we have some of that going on this year. I’ve definitely felt it with Perry. Perry should step up harder with Embiid out because then Perry is our #1 threat for interior scoring.

    I think a lot of our guys don’t quite push as hard because we have Andrew and JoJo.

    In the least, they feel like they don’t want to outshine our star players. And they think people (and coaches) want the star players shooting more and doing more.

    It shouldn’t be that way. That is where you want players to be competitors. A true competitor will not only compete against other teams, but will have a certain amount of competitive spirit with their own players. I think at some point players can be too competitive and prevent the team from coming together and playing as a team. We are no where near to having that problem. We need guys to step up and be more competitive. Perry comes to mind… Naa, too.

  • WSU has talent, but is that talent at the same level as say a Duke or KU or Syracuse?

    Do they have the muscle to play against bigger teams?

    They have an advantage, they haven’t been beat up by a tough conference. They are healthy and going into the Big Dance thats huge. Look at KU trying to get Embid healthy for the run, why is he hurt? Playing against bigger stronger faster teams, that want to beat on you to slow you down.

    Is Marshall a coach that can keep them on track and not panick if they are down 12 at halftime to a UNC or Arizona?

    Is is going to happen? I’d bet against it, but they do have 31 out of the way.

  • WSU 31-0 record has happened not because they have a superior team that dominates. Yes, they have a very solid, experienced, well coached team that plays very well together, does not beat itself and does not have a superstar they defer to…but the main reason they are undefeated is because they played a super soft schedule. Does anyone think that if WSU would have played the same schedule as KU (or any other top ten team) they would be unbeaten? Absolutist not; they would have as many if not more loses than KU.

    WSU will have a high seed in the tournament, likely a #1, so the first two games they will win comfortably, but after that, we will see how good they are, particularly now that they have a huge target on their backs and they are no longer the underdog chasing the top teams but the team being chased instead.

  • @JayHawkFanToo Agreed, had they been in the Big 12, or the Big 10, there is no way they could run the table on those high elite major teams. No. Way. WSU will absolutely get beaten in the ncaa’s. They haven’t had their weaknesses exposed. They haven’t had a chance to fix those weaknesses, whatever they are. A really good team from the above conferences or a really tough mid major team will beat them. I think the elite 8 or sweet 16 is where it will come.

  • @Lulufulu85 HEM has his own teams?? No wonder he knows so much about the game…

  • @nuleafjhawk Good post. I see what ya did there with “they could be 22-7…”. I agree that Wiggins has been great, though, and his 16ppg is best ever for a Bill Self frosh, as well as for a KU frosh (ever.). Not to mention the fact that that kid can play D better than Ellis and Tharpe. Wiggins is all we could have asked for from an attitude and athleticism standpoint, but is still a frosh, of course, so there will be room for improvement. While I really enjoy Self’s 2-4yr players, we finally got a legit OAD, and he has been gem of a youngster. I was actually watching Nick Wiggins the other day in a WSU game, and realized there is NO similarity in their games. I do hope, for Nick’s sake that Andrew was able to go see a few WSU games, as Nick did come to AFH to watch KU beat Brady Heslip…oops, I mean Baylor…

  • @nuleafjhawk hehehehehe

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