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The Anatomy of an Undefeated Season

You can thank Gregg Doyel’s appearance this week on KSR for bringing back up the conversation of Kentucky possibly striving for an undefeated season this year. Doyel proclaimed that he believes this Kentucky team can do it. He outlined a number of reasons why this could be the team to do it, some of which I will touch on below. No team necessarily needs the pressure of completing an undefeated season, but John Calipari did open the door for the buzz when he brought up the notion and goal that he has for himself and his teams in the future. Calipari has not flat out said that this will be the team to do it, but he did say that after winning a national championship– the next big milestone would be going “40 and 0.”

Let’s be clear here. I am in no way saying that Kentucky will go undefeated this season in college basketball. To me, that’s a fun side story that won’t disappoint me if it doesn’t happen as long as Kentucky has an otherwise great season. If Kentucky wins a national championship this season, no one will gripe if the Cats dropped a game or two, or even more than that along the way. But it’s a fun sidebar and one that is at least worth discussing in some fashion. Let’s take Kentucky specifically out of the equation, and just look at what the anatomy of an undefeated season in college basketball would look like. What exactly would it take? And what are some of the obvious and not so obvious factors that would need to play into the equation?


1. Avoid being in 1 of the top 3 conferences

This might have been Gregg Doyel’s best point when talking about Kentucky’s chances for an undefeated season. Although Kentucky does play in a BCS conference, the SEC has been really down as of late. Florida is the only team that has comparable talent to the level of Kentucky’s at this point. A few other teams will be in the hunt, but Kentucky will always have the most talent on the court in each SEC game they play this season. It’s not like the SEC in football where each week you are potentially playing a top-25 ranked opponent.

2. Hope for a down year in college basketball

Obviously this one is not going to be in anyone’s favor to complete an undefeated season this year. College basketball as a whole will be strong this year, with 5-6 teams at the top who have the talent, experience and depth to win a national championship. Five or six of the teams this year would have likely been the favorites to win the national championship had they played last year.

3. Stay Healthy

No matter how much depth you have (and we will discuss that more below), every team in college basketball is one major injury away from being drastically changed. In a game like basketball with only 5 players on the court at a time, missing one key player is much more detrimental than in other sports such as football. A team could still bounce back and win a national championship after a key injury to a big contributor, but could that team still go undefeated? That seems highly unlikely.

4. Depth

Depth is not only important when it comes to avoiding being hindered by potential injuries, but depth also becomes a major factor when a player or two has an off night. When you’ve got 6-8 big-time players who can lead the team in scoring on any given night, a team can afford for a player or two to have an off night. During the course of a long regular season, even the best of the best will have an off night. If a team has the depth to make up for the off night though, tough games can still be won.

5. Returning players

Calipari has proved that you can win with freshmen. But it still hasn’t been proved that you can win without at least a few returning players in the mix as well. It would be a lot to ask of a team of newcomers to not experience any growing pains or hiccups early on. Hopefully the infusion of a few veterans can bridge the gap in the early part of the season while the young players are still figuring things out.

6. Have a great point guard 

You can win without a great point guard sometimes, but you can’t win every game without a great point guard. A great point guard will carry a team to a few wins that maybe they shouldn’t necessarily get. A shaky point guard will cost a team at least one game that maybe it should have won.

7. Have great defense

Great defense leads to easy baskets. There will be a game or two at least at some point during the season in which the other team’s defense is stingy and maybe the shots aren’t falling. When this happens, great defense HAS to create easy scoring opportunities to give the slight edge.

8. Avoid having many tough true road games

If you can play MOST of the toughest teams on your schedule at home or at a neutral site, that’s preferable. Also, if you can avoid a few potential tough road conference games at places where the road environment is typically tough (ex: Kentucky avoiding playing AT Tennessee this year), that’s a plus as well.

Kentucky will play a brutal non-conference schedule that includes 3 of the top 5 ranked teams in the country: Michigan State, North Carolina and Louisville. Luckily only one of those games will be played truly on the road (at North Carolina). Kentucky will likely draw a great crowd for the Michigan State neutral site game, and Louisville comes to Rupp Arena. Kentucky’s road trip to Florida will be a tough one in the SEC schedule, but every other road game is do-able.

9. Establish a go-to player, maybe even 2

No matter how balanced a team is, there has to be that one (maybe 2) player that gets the call to have the ball in his hands when his team is in desperate need of a basket. The player has to be talented enough to get the job done, but also confident enough to want the ball in his hands in those moments (ex: Brandon Knight in 2011). There will likely be a few times during the course of the season in which that player is called upon to either win a game, or simply stop a major momentum-swing by the opponent.

10. Have something to play for by the time the conference tournament rolls around

If a team is still undefeated heading into the conference tournament, the motivation to continue the winning streak should be enough. Every now and then though, you will see a team who has more to fight for (ex: NCAA tournament livelihood) upend a team who is already comfortably secure in the tournament or with a #1 seed.

11. Favorable NCAA Tournament match-ups

Avoid playing a team that maybe has a bad seed, but has caught fire at the right time (UCONN in 2011). Avoid playing a team that has a particular style that does not match up well with yours (WVU in 2010).

12. Luck–Be able to win at least 1 game that maybe you shouldn’t have

During the course of a potentially 40 game season, there will likely be at least one game in which a team simply should not have won. Sometimes it takes a little luck, but finding a way to win that one game that really should have been a loss– could be the key to getting that undefeated season.


To me, the 2 factors that are the most important when considering Kentucky’s chances for an undefeated season are #1 and #2 on the list. The relatively easy SEC schedule in comparison to some other BCS conferences Kentucky could be in bodes well for Kentucky’s chances. But #2 on the list is what makes any team going undefeated this season in college basketball seem a bit unlikely. There are just a lot of talented players and a lot of really good college basketball teams across the country this year. If you took this year’s Kentucky team and put it in last year’s college basketball world…I would say that an undefeated season was a major possibility. With this season, it’s still a possibility but the road is not easy.

Let’s just get through that Michigan State game first, shall we?

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

22 Comments for The Anatomy of an Undefeated Season

  1. eh
    2:41 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    Go back to Ksr college. Check the vols roster for details.

  2. Step 13
    2:44 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    Be far and away better and more talented than everyone else.

  3. Rei
    2:49 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    b-but Louisville’s roster is better than Kentucky’s.

  4. WRB
    3:00 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    3 is looking at last year’s rosters. Just like most idiot bird fans.

  5. Bobby Knight
    3:21 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    If Kensucky goes undefeated it should not count. I did it when we only played 32 games. Also, my team was all Jr and Sr, while Kensucky is all Fr. Plus my players had to go to class.

  6. Matt Jones
    3:23 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    Breaking news, William “The Refrigerator” Perry is dead. I am awesome at reporting fake news.

  7. Eric Bledsoe
    3:24 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    5)what do you mean? I good in the class.

  8. Ally Tucker
    3:59 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    I am a serious journalist. Please post serious and thoughfull comments.

  9. CaptainBoogerLips
    4:28 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    #13 – Play in a football conference where no one else gives an ish about basketball.

  10. uk >>>>> u of L
    4:38 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    kentucky has a MASSIVE size advantage on louisville:

    their tallest player that’s worth anything is montrezl, who is 6’8″ and 235 pounds. UK has 5 players taller than that: Willie Cauley Stein 7 ft 245 lbs; Julius Randle 6’9″ 240 pounds; Dakari Johnson 7 ft 250 pounds; Marcus Lee 6’9″ 205 pounds, Derek Willis 6’9″ 210 pounds.

    guards: chris jones 5’11” 185 lbs; russ smith 6’0″ 170 lbs; terry rozier 6’1″ 195 lbs; anton gill 6’3″ 195 lbs; kevin ware 6’4″ 185 lbs. so gill and ware are a little bigger but they’ll be backup players. now look at kentucky: andrew harrison 6’5″ 205 lbs; aaron harrison 6’5″ 205 lbs; james young 6’6″ (some say 6’7″) 210 lbs; hawkins and polson are smaller, but they’re still the same average size as louisville’s guards. harrisons and young will be the primary guards anyway.

    and they’re all incredibly athletic, quick, and strong. louisville may have fast guards, but uk’s are just as fast/quick, and much bigger and stronger. and frankly, much more talented. louisville has good forwards in blackshear, behanan, and montrezl, but once again, uk is bigger, stronger, more “intimidating”/”domineering”, and (sorry-not-sorry cards fans) more talented. randle is the practically superman. poythress is the incredible hulk (once he gets fired up, that’s why i call him the incredible hulk). willie cauley-stein is still raw but very long, strong, FAST, and an incredibly versatile athlete. his basketball skills will only improve. lee is an insanely long and bouncy athlete. dakari is a TANK. and maybe not willis this year, but if he works hard, he’ll only get better and tougher.

  11. Fire Mark Emmert
    4:39 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    Read the post a few below, and sign a petition to allow former USMC sergeant to play football this year. He did our country a valuable service and the evil empire of the NCAA and Mark Emmert deemed him ineligible to play for MTSU because of his participation in nothing more than military only pick up games. What a disgrace that the NCAA is under the control of Idiot Emmert.

    Be sure to sign and tell others to do the same.

  12. Jeremy_Jarmon?
    4:42 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    #11: What about me?

  13. Flippy23
    4:55 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    Seriously…..after the crap we went through last year someone has the balls to even discuss an undefeated season ?? Odds are we won’t have an undefeated November !!

  14. sgt. stadenko
    4:59 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    How about just be happy to have a team that is one of the teams that is the favorites to win it all? Undefeated season will not happen….period. Too many idiot UK fans have already put the jinx on it, like the idiot who points out that their pitcher is throwing a no hitter in the 7th inning then he goes out and gives up a hit the next inning. I am a die hard but I can see what opposing fans are talking about when they say some of us are obnoxious. We lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT and now some of you are talking about an undefeated season. I hope you can see how dumb you sound. UK will be damn good in March but will be vulnerable in the early part of the season and then there is always a few games during league play where the other team is playing out of their mind, getting calls, and UK could have an off night.

  15. Robbie Mo
    5:20 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    Lol, at UK for an undefeated season. Remember, we play each other again!

  16. Troll Identifier
    7:45 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    SMH @ this comments section. It’s like the entire ghetto that is Louisville just got cellular data on their Obama phones and they all came straight to KSR to troll! Seriously, shouldn’t you all be at home trimming your line beards or tattooing each other or something?

  17. Bobbum man
    9:03 pm August 18, 2013 Permalink

    14- like the idiot that believes in jinxes?

  18. bigcatstanding
    12:03 am August 19, 2013 Permalink

    #13 Don’t put we on here when you by far don’t believer or have no knowledge of what Coach Cal has done with good teams,this team is more talented than any team I can ever remember. You sound like those Louisville fans, saying things hoping it sticks, or saying things to help them through their insecurities. #5 and for the idiot Indiana fan yours don’t count because it wasn’t in the modern era, and because your kids feared the wrath of dip s*** if they didn’t win. back to the Louisville fans and there midget contenders lol. Our teams average size, is greater than your teams biggest player. It will be like keep away high school style against first graders. UK OWNS YOU ILF#9. PS Do you really want to put I and Hatter Knight in the same Sanders

  19. bigcatstanding
    2:52 am August 19, 2013 Permalink

    Part 1 got that covered because like he said like Florida no one in any other conference has the talent Kentucky has A+. Part 2 got that covered ever thuogh it’s not a down year where on another level A+ Part 3 is the same as part 4 because we are so deep it won’t matter, especially when our second line up would be a top 25 team A+. Part 5 enough said we have 2 first round draft picks get real A+ Part 6 through 9 Get real #1 PG then you contradict yourself by saying to avoid tough conference games on the road then at the same time saying our conference is week. Defense do you think that could possibly be a problem with 11 to 12 players fighting for playing time. and I challenge you to find one team that is playing a tougher schedule than Kentucky. So the favorable schedule is out the window, after we have already played the best earlier in the year. And isn’t that what being a number one overall is about getting favorable matchups. BBN OWNS YOU. ILF#9

  20. bigcatstanding
    3:08 am August 19, 2013 Permalink

    #14. If you are really a UK fan then how can you explain using last year’s team and this years team in the same breath. Anyone that knows anything about basketball wouldn’t look so stupid as to say that. Then you go on to tell the rest of the real Kentucky fans how and what to expect from this year’s team. When the 3 previous years with great talent has shown what we can expect from this team.. This team is most likely the greatest assembly of talent ever in college basketball history and we’re not supposed to expect excellence what a jackass. PS. I will say this to you because of you being a so-called Kentucky fan, you might research if I’m right unlike a hater. Kentucky played Robert Morse and they’re starting lineup was without two starters, so if we were so interested in winning that game with only 7 scholarship players available, then why would we set 2 starters. COACH along with everyone else was ready to get the season over with. GO BBN

  21. bigcatstanding
    3:20 am August 19, 2013 Permalink

    #10 good post but Harrell is only 6’7 and UK has 8 players that tall or taller John hood 6’7 / Alex Poythress 6’8 / James Young 6’7 and the 5 players you mentioned. Alex Poythress was most impressive player, at the Kevin Durant camp the past summer, and they said he has grown 2 inches this year.

  22. mercury morris
    10:17 am August 19, 2013 Permalink

    Just ask me about how to be UNDEFEATED! We are going to the White House tomorrow!!!!