Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Roundtable: What Team Will Remain Undefeated The Longest?

Will Michigan remain undefeated longer than Duke and Arizona? (
BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among three of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: What college basketball team will remain undefeated the longest Duke, Michigan or Arizona?

Kyle Davis: 
Even though Arizona has the easiest schedule of the three, I think Duke will remain undefeated the longest. If they can survive an always-scrappy Davidson team on Jan. 2, the next most probable defeats would come at No. 23 NC State on Jan. 12 and then Maryland on Jan. 26. The Blue Devils have already proven themselves by beating three top-5 teams this season, so they have clearly been tested. While they probably won't make it out of conference play undefeated, it won't be the in the next four games.

Michigan is about to begin a brutal Big Ten schedule that kicks off with Northwestern and then finds the Wolverines facing No. 10 Ohio State, No. 11 Minnesota and No. 12 Illinois all on the road in a four-game span starting Jan. 13. It just doesn't seem likely Michigan can survive that brutal of a stretch without getting banged up and suffering a loss.

Arizona has the easiest schedule with no teams currently ranked in the top 25 ahead, but I still think they'll slip up somewhere. Both wins against ranked teams have been by one point, and probably games they should have lost. Colorado is a talented squad that could give the Wildcats a run for their money on Jan. 3 and Oregon and Oregon State on Jan. 10 and 12 will be tough tests.

Alex Skov:
There are blue blood programs, there are perennial second-tier squads, and there are wildcards in college basketball. Come March, the scales of competition always balance themselves. The odds that Arizona makes it to the second weekend of play are good, barring a meltdown, but even coming into the season ranked 12th in the AP poll and 11th in the coaches poll, the Wildcats are a surprising team to be undefeated at this point. They scraped by against their only two ranked opponents in one-point victories at home, and one of those ranked teams — Florida — recently fell to a Kansas State team that Michigan downed by 14 with a second-half clinic. The Pac-12 is not a basketball powerhouse, but teams like Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State won't leave Arizona's schedule without a pockmark. I would put money on CU wrecking Arizona's 2013 early.

Michigan's situation is a study of contrasts (the program had a stacked roster last season, and the shock of losing an upset to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA tourney would theoretically make them more mature and capable this year) and similarities (the Big Ten offers too many capable opponents in too quick of a succession for Michigan to survive January without a loss) when juxtaposed with Arizona's schedule. That leaves Duke. A Davidson team that beat eventual No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence last season will be no pushover, but Mike Krzyzewski will have the Blue Devils well prepared to win that contest and a road game against questionably powerful but ranked NC State. Duke has already trodden a tough road and face the fewest potential bumps, respectively. The question may not be how long will they be undefeated, but how much regular season prosperity the Blue Devils can translate into the language of postseason play.

Shawn Deegan:

I’m usually uncertain about how to answer questions like this one and this time is no exception. There are so many variables; strength of schedule, talent, playing style and coaching all come into play. If I have to pick one team, though, I’m going with the Duke Blue Devils. First of all, the Blue Devils have few true challenges left on their schedule. The ACC is still a solid conference, but normal powerhouse program North Carolina isn’t what it’s been in the past, leaving Duke as the top dog by a wide margin. There is currently only one ranked team left on Duke’s schedule in NC State, and I don’t see the Wolfpack giving Duke problems if the likes of Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State couldn’t. I just don’t see Michigan, as good as it is, continuing this run in the dominant Big 10. There are just too many landmines in that conference to think Michigan’s run will last as we approach league play. The Pac-12 has some solid teams but, again, not the marquee school to rival Arizona. So the Wildcats have a chance to make me look like a fool. However, I think Duke has better talent than the Wildcats and more options to go to in the event of an off night by one of its studs. The final factor is, of course, coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K is, in my humble opinion, arguably the greatest coach in basketball. His ability to get marquee talent to play together and excel as a unit is unparalleled and he can x-an-o it with the best of them. With Krzyzewski at the helm, I think the Blue Devils have the option to keep them up and motivated in order to continue their undefeated streak through the ACC. I love what each of these teams are doing this year, but in the end, I think Duke’s got the best chance to keep this undefeated streak going.

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