5. Winthrop Eagles
Conference: Big South
Leading Scorer: Charles Falden is averaging 13 points per game.
Victories: @South Carolina Upstate (twice), UNC Greensboro (neutral court), Little Rock (neutral court), Campbell (twice), @Charleston Southern (twice), Gardner-Webb (twice), and Furman.
Net ranking: 39
KenPom ranking: 107
Sagarin ranking: 104
Average ranking: 83
Why they are undefeated: There are multiple reasons why the Eagles are undefeated but it is Winthrop’s shut down defense that is the main reason why there remain undefeated at 11-0. The Eagles as a defensive-minded team have been able to become an outstanding defensive stopping machine that has been able to limit opposing opponents’ offenses this season.
Winthrop’s defense has not given up more than 77 points a game this season with the exception of two games this season. The Eagles offense continues to produce by putting up a tremendous amount of points on the scoreboard when they have to in order to win. Winthrop has scored over 91 points four times this season. In both games of their games against South Carolina Upstate, for example, they scored107 and 95 points on them. They have as well scored 94 points in their last game against Campbell and 91 on Gardner-Webb.
Winthrop has won six games, not on their home court which is very impressive for a mid-major program. The Eagles have defeated UNC Greensboro, Little Rock, and Furman who all have winning records, and combined their current record is 21-12.
Reasons to be Pessimistic: Comparable in some regards to Citadel’s strength of schedule, the opponents that Winthrop has faced this season have not been overly challenging by any stretch of the imagination. The two wins over South Carolina Upstate are nothing to brag about as the Spartans are 3-9 at this point of the season and the two victories against Charleston Southern are not impressive as the Buccaneers are 1-8 this season.
Winthrop will have little opportunities to move up in the Kenpom and Sagarin rankings but luckily for them, they are 39 currently in the Net rankings and that is the ranking that counts in the eyes of the NCAA tournament committee. However, if the Eagles can remain undefeated for a little longer and eventually win their regular-season conference title and follow it up with winning their conference tournament, the Eagles can get as high as an 11 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Next Opponent: Longwood on 01/14