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Matt Norlander

Tracking the Undefeateds, Vol. II

The Dagger

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Who's left without a scratch? We've got the list and some details about the teams, who they play next, and why they will/won't lose in the immediate future. Funny to see how easily teams get lopped off this list, by the way. We're at 14; 10 days ago, we were at 28.

This'll be whittled down even further next week, as anticipation and attention grows for those unblemished.

OK, let's do this thing, you know? Off we go. Enjoy.

Unbeatens remaining: 14.

Cleveland State (12-0). Norris Cole (right) and the Vikings have a good formula going; it's called, "Get Cole the ball." The Vikings senior guard is factoring into 33 percent of the team's possessions - good for 14th best in the country. Who knows how long Gary Waters' team can continue this unexpected run, though. The 12-0 mark is misleading, to an extent, because two of the wins have come against non-Division I competition, plus, there hasn't been a game yet against a school ranked in the top 100. That changes in just a few days. Next two games: Saturday at West Virginia; Dec. 22 vs. South Florida.

Duke (10-0) Kyrie Irving's toe injury has made the Blue Devils even more interesting than before. Without him, no one believes this team has any chance of going undefeated. With him, I still don't think there's a prayer. Nevertheless, the enigmatic point guard is on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time. Fortunately for Duke, the cushiony portion of the schedule is now, as the team has its largest break between games all season, then gets patsies to play before the ACC slate starts. Next two games: Dec. 20 vs. Elon; Dec. 29 vs. UNC-Greensboro.

Syracuse (10-0) We've got a Syracuse team that lacks one of its signatures: a deep-shot threat. Nobody on this team has the range or consistency of Andy Rautins, Gerry McNamara, etc. But can Rick Jackson's incredible play offset that? Likely not, but it goes a long way. And Scoop Jardine can still come into his own. The Orange's next real test likely won't come until after New Year's decorations are still being tossed away: Jan. 1 vs. the Fighting Irish. Next two games: Saturday vs. Iona; Dec. 20 vs. Morgan State.

Brigham Young (10-0). Cougars are still in the clear, and Jackson Emery and his hipster hairstyle are likely saying a thank you to the hoops gods every night because of it. This team's backed up its talked - Utah State, Saint Mary's, Arizona all lay in its wake. Next two games: Saturday vs. UCLA; Dec. 21 at Weber State.

San Diego State (10-0) A fun, fun team that's appropriately getting more and more love, more and more press by the week. The Aztecs are now a top-10 team in the polls, and many are rightfully calling them the best team in the West. (Yes, better than BYU.) SDSU has the 10th-most-effective offense in the country, which is only helped by the fact this group shoots the ball effectively well and doesn't turn itself over. The upcoming schedule isn't tough now (SDSU's had a healthy dose of decent teams, though), so this group has a real chance to creep into the top five in the next three weeks. Next two games: Tonight vs. Cal Poly; Saturday vs. UC Santa Barbara.

Kansas (9-0) Bill Self wants you to know his team is awful. Thanks, Bill. Now, look! Here comes Josh Selby! Getting ready for your hideous, no-good, despicable Kansas Jayhawks! Destined to not be threatened with a loss until mid-January! Next two games: Saturday vs. Southern Cal; Dec. 22 at California.

Central Florida (8-0). In the inaugural post, I wrote, "Forgive us for being presumptuous again, but we're not seeing how the Knights knock off the Gators in Gainesville." Uh, whoops. How shortsighted of me. And now UCF is being discussed as a possible C-USA winner. Laughing? OK, now go check the stats. Team's a top-40 KenPom.com squad, and it rates third in eFG% defense (a stat you need to take seriously) and 11th in eFG% offense. This group is a lot of fun to watch, plus there's a Jordan kid involved. Stay undefeated as long as possible, Knights. Please. Next two games: Wednesday vs. Louisiana-Lafayette; Saturday at Miami (FL).

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Cincinnati (8-0). Sneaky team. Yances Gates (right) and the Bearcats haven't played anyone except Dayton, really, and the Flyers are proving to be one of the biggest letdowns of 2010-11. Mick Cronin's team will need to avoid being the South Florida of a year ago. Bulls started 10-2 and then nosedived once Big East play began. Unclear how truly talented this group is right now. If it wants to make a statement soon, beat OU by double digits. Next two games: Tonight vs. Georgia Southern; Saturday vs. Oklahoma.

Connecticut (8-0) Is it all Kemba Walker? No. But most of it is. Alex Oriakhi has looked fine, but he's got to demand the ball more. Not thinking newbie Shabazz Napier (what a name) can sustain a full season and turn into a reliable Robin to Walker's Bruce Wayne. But UConn getting to this point without a loss is incredible enough. And Walker is as must-watch as it gets right now in college basketball. Next two games: Dec. 20 vs. Coppin State; Dec. 22 vs. Harvard.

Ohio State (8-0). Jared Sullinger is nearly as must-see-TV worthy as Walker, to be completely truthful. (And why wouldn't I be?) Sully dropped 40 - becoming the second Big Ten freshman to do so in league history - on the poor fools playing for IUPUI last Thursday. Sort of amazing this team could be a lot better than it was last year with Evan Turner. To be fair, this was expected by quite a few, too. Matchup to look forward to: two days before Christmas, it'll be big man on big man, future pro vs. future pro, as Oakland's Keith Benson bodies up on Sullinger. Next two games: Wednesday vs. Florida Gulf Coast; Saturday vs. South Carolina.

Louisville (8-0). Rick Pitino truly is one of the best combinations of X-and-O and recruiter in the country. You're seeing that proven here in the final days of fall. The Cardinals easily taking down Vegas Saturday was an incredibly promising sign for this team's long-term viability this season. They're too inconsistent at guard to stay unbeaten for much longer, but I'm as surprised by this start as any other team listed above or below. Next two games: Tuesday vs. Drexel; Saturday vs. Gardner Webb.

Tennessee (7-0). To borrow a phrase, Bruce Pearl is an absolute magician. This team has the best free throw rate in the country. A Tennessee team ... ! Scotty Hopson is playing like the NBA talent he is, and the Volunteers haven't looked weak once this season. How do you beat Tennessee? Hope the foul shots don't fall, wait for Melvin Goins to hurt the team with turnovers, and slow the Vols down as best you can. Next two games: Tuesday vs. Oakland; Friday at Charlotte.

Baylor (6-0) Haven't seen too much of the Bears because the team took a week off for exams. That Gonzaga game Saturday should be plenty interesting. Zags are down this year, need a win bad, and we may not see them play more aggressively all year than in that game; it's that dire, I think. As for the Bears, life is just fine with LaceDarius Dunn in the fold and freshman sensation Perry Jones living up to his billing. Team will be a force in the Big 12. Next two games: Wednesday vs. Bethune-Cookman; Saturday vs. Gonzaga.

Northwestern (5-0). Wildcats have milked this, as they've only gotten in five games. What's that about! It's a long road to the first NCAA tournament for Northwestern, but getting off to an undefeated start is going to be paramount in a tough, tough Big Ten. Basically, most out-of-conference wins are currency that's worth about one-fourth of what a W in the Big Ten will be, on average. Next two games: Tonight vs. Long Island; Thursday vs. American.

Photos: AP.

Matt Norlander is the editor of College Hoops Journal. You can email him at editor@collegehoopsjournal.com and follow him on Twitter.

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