Producing a perfect season in college basketball is extremely difficult -- but (see 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers) not impossible. For it to happen, though, you need quite a bit of good fortune; at least a few conference games are going to be tight late, and capturing all of them requires a bounce here and there.
Right now we have five unbeatens, but the Duke Blue Devils are best positioned to finish that way based on their overall strength and the relative weakness of the ACC. Heading into tonight's game (at Florida State), my rating system gives them a 16 percent chance of making it to the end of the conference season undefeated. If we generously give Duke an 85 percent chance to win the ACC tournament and a 30 percent chance to win the NCAA tournament (the Ohio State Buckeyes and Kansas Jayhawks are both pretty good squads as well), then the Blue Devils have about a 4 percent chance at perfection. That may sound low, but that's actually a pretty high figure for mid-January.
How high? I tracked down all of the teams that were unbeaten on Jan. 12 since the tournament field was expanded to 64 teams. Based on its future schedule and team strength, I estimated each team's chances of going unbeaten. What follows is a list of the 10 teams with the best chances on this date since 1985.
Much thanks to the indispensible sports-reference.com for pre-2003 data. Since these are back-of-the-napkin calculations, I've rounded the chances of going unbeaten to the nearest whole number.
10. 1987-88 Temple Owls (3 percent)
Temple was far and away the class of the Atlantic 10 in 1987-88. However, John Chaney scheduled two colossal road games in the middle of conference play: Jan. 24 at UNLV and Feb. 21 at North Carolina. The Owls would not get past the Rebels, who led the game only at 2-0 and at 59-58, the final score. Temple would crush UNC at the Dean Dome, and not suffer its second loss until a game in the Elite Eight against second-seeded Duke. The Owls finished 32-2.