How long can Syracuse and Wichita State remain undefeated? A look back

Where the two unbeatens at this stage stand among others at this point

Perhaps the greatest threat to Syracuse’s undefeated start won’t be games like Saturday, when the Orange defeated Duke in overtime in a wild atmosphere at the Carrier Dome.

Instead, the end for Syracuse’s winning streak may be games like Monday. All the emotion from two days earlier had left the building as Syracuse got the best shot from a capable Notre Dame team. Save for 3-point sharpshooter Trevor Cooney, the entire Syracuse roster had an off night in the 61-55 win.

Wichita State will have its own challenge this week with road games against the second place team in the Missouri Valley (Indiana State on Wednesday) and another road trip to a team tied for third (Northern Iowa on Saturday).

Going undefeated is near impossible in college basketball. No team has made it to Selection Sunday undefeated since UNLV in 1990-91 before the Runnin’ Rebels lost in the Final Four to Duke.

Since Indiana finished the 1975-76 season undefeated, 24 teams have been unbeaten at the time of the first Associated Press poll in February.

Making this season more rare is the double of Syracuse and Wichita State unblemished to start the month. Since Indiana ran the table, two teams have been unblemished at this stage of the season only four times before 2013-14.

The last time two teams started February undefeated, a Jameer Nelson-led St. Joseph’s team and Stanford were both 18-0 at this stage of the season.

What can Syracuse and Wichita State expect for the remainder of the season? In all likelihood, a loss. The Shockers have the easier schedule, but they also haven’t won the Missouri Valley Tournament since 1987.

Here are a few other notables looking back at the teams undefeated at this stage of the season:

• In the last decade only three of the six teams that started February undefeated stayed that way into March. The best winning streaks to start the season since 2003-04 are as follows:

2004-05 Illinois (29-0, ended March 6 at Ohio State)
2003-04 St. Joseph’s (27-0, ended March 11 by Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament)
2003-04 Stanford (26-0, ended March 6 at Washington)
2007-08 Memphis (26-0, ended Feb. 23 by Tennessee)
2010-11 Ohio State (24-0, ended Feb. 21 at Wisconsin)
2011-12 Murray State (23-0, ended Feb. 9 by Tennessee State)

• Since Indiana went undefeated in 1975-76, only one other team undefeated at the start of February won the national title (2001-02 Duke), three others reached the title game (2007-08 Memphis, 2004-05 Illinois and 1978-79 Indiana State), and three topped out in the Final Four (1995-96 UMass, 1990-91 UNLV, 1980-81 Virginia)

• Jim Boeheim has been here before as his 1999-2000 Syracuse team started 19-0 before losing on Feb. 5 to Seton Hall. Among the coaches who also have twice reached the first week of February undefeated since 1975-76 include John Calipari at UMass and Memphis, Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV and Ray Meyer at DePaul.

• The names of players who have been undefeated at this point of the season is staggering: Larry Bird at Indiana State, Ralph Sampson III at Virginia, Michael Jordan at North Carolina and Christian Laettner at Duke.
 

Undefeated in the first week of February since 1975-76
Season Team Finish NCAA Tournament
2013-14 Syracuse (22-0)    
  Wichita State (23-0)    
2011-12 Murray State (23-0) 31-2 Round of 32 (lost to Marquette)
2010-11 Ohio State (21-0) 34-3 Sweet 16 (Ohio State)
2007-08 Memphis (21-0) 38-2 National runner up (Kansas)
2004-05 Illinois (23-0) 37-2 National runner up (North Carolina)
2003-04 Stanford (18-0) 30-2 Round of 32 (Alabama)
  St. Joseph's (18-0) 30-2 Elite Eight (Oklahoma State)
1999-2000 Syracuse (20-0) 26-6 Sweet 16 (Michigan State)
1996-97 Kansas (22-0) 34-2 Sweet 16 (Arizona)
1995-96 UMass (21-0) 35-2 Final Four (Kentucky)
1991-92 Duke (17-0) 34-2 National champion
  Oklahoma State (20-0) 28-8 Sweet 16 (Michigan)
1990-91 UNLV (18-0) 34-1 Final Four (Duke)
1987-88 BYU (15-0) 26-6 Round of 32 (Louisville)
1983-84 North Carolina (20-0) 28-3 Sweet 16 (Indiana)
  DePaul (17-0) 27-3 Sweet 16 (Wake Forest)
1982-83 UNLV (18-0) 28-3 Round of 32 (Utah)
1981-82 Missouri (18-0) 27-4 Sweet 16 (Houston)
1980-81 Oregon State (17-0) 26-2 Round of 32 (Kansas State)
  Virginia (18-0) 29-4 Final Four (North Carolina)
1979-80 DePaul (19-0) 26-2 Round of 32 (UCLA)
1978-79 Indiana State (20-0) 33-1 National runner up (Michigan State)
1976-77 San Francisco (21-0) 29-2 First round (UNLV)
1975-76 Indiana (18-0) 32-0 National champion

 

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