The Few, the Proud, the Undefeated -

The Few, The Proud, The Undefeated


by Andy Force
Senior Writer,
December 22, 2004


The nonconference season is coming to a close and teams have established their RPI, SOS, AP poll, and every other alphabetic permutation you can concoct. With five undefeated teams left in Division I, who is for real and who are the posers?

In the Big 12, four teams almost closed out 2004 unscathed: Kansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State.

First of all, Oklahoma State is proven with wins over speedy UAB, veteran Syracuse, and budding UNLV. The loss to Gonzaga looks like a small dent in their overall NCAA resume.

Perhaps aided by the home heavy schedule (first 10 games all inside Allen Fieldhouse), the Jayhawks have knocked off 6 NCAA tourney teams from a year ago. It is difficult to decide if their 10-0 record is legitimate though. Seven home wins against retooling teams does not impress. Kansas knocked off Saint Joseph's after backcourt mates Delonte West and Jameer Nelson joined the NBA ranks. Reigning sweet sixteen member Nevada lost WAC player of the year Kirk Snyder to the NBA. Their coach Trent Johnson slid into the vacated Stanford position. Former Louisiana-Lafayette coach Jessie Evans heard the calling of "go west young man" as he accepted the SF Dons job. These teams lost to Kansas inflating a suspect 7-0 team to 2nd in the national polls. They may be that good, but how do you know? Even the Georgia Tech win was a close one with the Jackets' star player hurting. The real test will come against Kentucky.

To be fair, the Aggies of A&M are starting over, with UTEP wizard Billy Gillespie taking over the reigns. He has the task of replacing (or better yet upgrading) from the loss of 7 players from last seasons' pitiful squad. They failed to win a game in the Big 12 regular season. To gain confidence, the Aggies have taken down the likes of Louisiana-Monroe, Chicago State (isn't Chicago a city?), and Texas-Permian Basin to start this year. Good job guys. They also sport 2 ½ wins over their A&M brethren, as they bested Prairie View A&M, Alabama A&M, and NC A&T.

Kansas State has not beaten anybody of value but is out of the gate swiftly. A frequent nonconference misstep traditionally costs Kansas State momentum. This year they avoided that pitfall and nearly entered Big 12 play 11-0, save for a loss to the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. This year's edition features one aspect the Wildcats have been sorely lacking, a go-to guy. K State has not made the NCAA field since 1996 on Mitch Richmond's back. Their stud Jeremiah Massey, Sporting News' Big 12 Most Underrated, is sporting 14 ppg, and 7 rebounds per despite struggling through a minor slump. Regardless, the jury is still out on these guys too.

The Big 12 will be brutal this year, and these four teams are most likely a reflection its toughness. However, Texas A&M and Kansas State have not played a noteworthy team so their records are tenuous at best. Kansas is unproven outside of Lawrence. The conference will sort out the mighty and the meek soon.