5. Some unheralded unbeaten teams
Just over three weeks into the season, just 18 (17) teams remain unbeaten. As we just pointed out, some teams have had very challenging schedules early while others have cruised against weaker opponents. Strength of schedule is obviously a big factor in determining how relevant some of these unbeaten teams are. The fact of the matter is that 9 (8) of them are currently ranked, so let’s focus on some of the unheralded unbeaten instead.
Southern Miss (8-0) is the only current unbeaten that sits outside the Top 100 in the KenPom rankings, but they haven’t just sat around at home playing nobodies. The Golden Eagles have already picked up road wins over Vanderbilt and Liberty, two teams likely to finish the season among the Top 100 teams. While they also boast three wins over non-D1’s, Southern Miss’s start is still impressive, and it may continue with mostly easy games on the slate in December.
Three teams in the Mountain West still boast unblemished records, as New Mexico, UNLV, and Utah State are all unbeaten. UNLV has wins over Dayton, Southern Illinois, and Minnesota and will face some stiffer competition in the coming weeks; New Mexico has already won at SMU, while Utah State’s most impressive work has come at home against mid-majors. It’s hard so far to say any of these teams are better than San Diego State, but nobody’s complaining about their starts.
One of the final unbeaten two seasons ago, Drake is off to a 6-0 start, though Wyoming is the most intriguing win on their resume to this point. In that same light, Missouri’s 8-0 start under new coach Dennis Gates looks great, but the only somewhat impressive win came Tuesday night at Wichita State. St. John’s has a few intriguing wins (Temple and Syracuse), but they’ll certainly face a much stiffer test when Big East play rolls around next month. Kansas State has toppled LSU and Nevada while Mississippi State took care of Marquette and Utah, but it’s premature to call either of them contenders at this point.