Only two unbeaten college basketball teams left

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Since the start of the season on Nov. 5, college basketball analytics guru Ken Pomeroy, as he does every year, has marked the initial loss for each Division I team with a Twitter post (“Unbeaten teams remaining: 352. (Sorry, Central Arkansas.)”).

The first week of the season claimed 224 victims.

Just 20 teams made it out of November unscathed.

On Saturday, the 54th day of the season, the number of unbeaten teams remaining was reduced to two (sorry, Liberty): San Diego State and Auburn.

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The Aztecs were 97th in KenPom.com’s preseason rankings and have climbed to No. 20. They were No. 1 in the NCAA’s NET rankings last week and are No. 15 in the AP Top 25.

Auburn lost key pieces from last season’s Final Four team but had enough left to start the season No. 22 at KenPom. With just a so-so non-conference strength of schedule, the Tigers have risen just seven spots while starting the season 12-0.

Auburn’s best win came at home over North Carolina State (KenPom No. 35). The Tigers narrowly escaped upset bids by South Alabama (a one-point win) and Furman (81-78 in overtime).

While Auburn has benefited from the early-season schedule, the Tigers figure to be favored in their first four SEC contests. Pomeroy has their first loss coming Jan. 18 at Florida. Auburn will finish with a 25-6 record, according to his numbers.

San Diego State’s resume is slightly better than Auburn’s.

The Aztecs have wins over BYU, Creighton (by 31), Iowa and beat Utah by 28 three days after the Utes upset Kentucky. But San Diego State also needed a last-second 3-pointer to get by San Jose State (KenPom No. 302) and earned no style points in a 16-point win over lowly Cal Poly.

While the Aztecs have a better — although long shot — chance than Auburn at finishing the regular season with an unblemished record, they get their biggest remaining test sooner.

According to Pomeroy’s numbers, San Diego State’s trip to Logan, Utah, to face Utah State will be the only time the Aztecs are an underdog in Mountain West Conference play. Still, San Diego State has just a 2 percent chance of entering the conference tournament with a perfect record. Pomeroy projects the Aztecs will be 26-3 entering March.

Even if the Aztecs continue rolling along, they’ll likely lose ground in the NET thanks to the relative weakness of their Mountain West rivals. Aside from Utah State, New Mexico (No. 66) and Nevada (97) are the only other NET Top 100 teams in the conference. Boise State, which is No. 107, just misses.

If San Diego State can avoid too many off nights, it can still grab a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. And that’s the key to success in March.

Wednesday

Wofford at East Tennessee State -10, Total 144: Last season the Southern Conference produced two NCAA Tournament teams, the Terriers and UNC Greensboro.

The Buccaneers might be the best of the SoCon this year. They’re 12-2 with a win at LSU.

Both these teams have Top 35 offenses. Wofford boasts a win at North Carolina but is subpar in every defensive metric. EAST TENNESEE STATE and OVER

Thursday

Saint Louis at Duquesne -4: The Dukes were toppled from the ranks of the unbeaten by UAB just nine days ago. They promptly followed that with a blowout loss to Marshall.

The Billikens will be Duquesne’s first top-100 opponent this season, and the Dukes, despite starting 10-0, really need a win. DUQUESNE

Friday

Wisconsin +10 at Ohio State: After their 20-point win over Tennessee, is it O.K. to trust the Badgers again?

Their defense is improving, they don’t commit many turnovers and they shoot it well from the line.

Ohio State was 9-0 on Dec. 15 but has since lost to Minnesota and West Virginia.

This should be a low-scoring brawl, which would help the underdog. WISCONSIN

Last week: 1-2

Season: 16-15

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About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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