We're fascinated by undefeated teams because going undefeated for any considerable period of time is so hard to do. The college basketball season is but a month old, after all, and we've already winnowed the undefeated pool down from 351 teams to just seven.
Here are all seven undefeated teams, in the order in which each team will likely suffer its first loss:
Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-0)
Tuesday (Dec. 12), at Cincinnati Bearcats
Mississippi State's yet to play a game outside of Starkville, and its best win to date was its two-point victory last week against Dayton. Speaking of modest margins of victory, four of the Bulldogs' seven wins against Division I opponents have come by single digits (the triumph over the Flyers, plus home wins against Green Bay, Stephen F. Austin and Jacksonville State). So, no, a loss on the road to a ranked Cincinnati team would not qualify as a shocker. Still, give credit to Howland for a noticeably improved defense. SEC opponents aren't going to enjoy trying to make 2-pointers against 6-foot-11 freshman Abdul Ado and 6-foot-10 junior Aric Holman.
When they actually lost: Dec. 12 at Cincinnati (65-50)
People wailed and moaned when Georgetown released its nonconference schedule -- and people were right to wail and moan. The Hoyas now sit at 8-0 with one road victory (at Richmond) and wins at home over the likes of Maryland Eastern Shore, Maine, Coppin State, Howard and North Carolina A&T. The first opponent that Patrick Ewing's team will play that could potentially find itself in a postseason tournament of any kind will be Syracuse this coming Saturday. That will also be Georgetown's first loss. The Orange are pretty good in these Big East reunion games.
When they actually lost: Dec. 16 vs. Syracuse (86-79, in OT)
Florida State Seminoles (9-0)
Dec. 30, at Duke Blue Devils
We're still trying to figure out the Seminoles, in part because we're still trying to figure Florida out. It may be the case that FSU's 17-point win in Gainesville really is a big deal, in which case it will be time to call Leonard Hamilton's bunch the surprise team (in a good direction) of 2017-18 so far. More specifically, this could turn out to be the best shooting team that Hamilton's yet had in Tallahassee. No one, to my knowledge, saw that coming the season after onetime mainstays Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes had all made their departures. Well done, Terrance Mann & Co. (I see you, M.J. Walker), but winning at Cameron Indoor will be a challenge.
When they actually lost: Dec 16 vs. Oklahoma State (71-70)
Arizona State Sun Devils (9-0)
Dec. 30, at Arizona Wildcats
If you're a devotee of the "Who have they beat?" school of basketball thought, then Arizona State is likely your No. 1 team in the country. Bobby Hurley's group trounced Xavier by 16 on a neutral floor and then beat Kansas by 10 in Lawrence. ASU has embraced small ball fervently and with a high degree of success. Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Remy Martin are all listed at 6-foot-1, and, basically, none of the opponents the Sun Devils have played so far have had enough defenders to keep up with all three of these guys. Ironically, KU's also going small (at least by its own lights), but against the Jayhawks the trio from Tempe combined for 72 points with 14 assists, seven steals and just four turnovers. No, Arizona State won't run the table on the road in the Pac-12, but, goodness, what an arrival on the national scene.
When they actually lost: Dec. 30 at Arizona (84-78)
Miami Hurricanes (8-0)
Jan. 13, at Clemson Tigers
Jim Larranaga's team is playing its next few games on the road, and three of those will take place several time zones away in Hawaii as part of the Diamond Head Classic. Common sense suggests that the Hurricanes could drop one of those contests, but I like UM's chances to run that mini-table, take care of Florida State at home and ride this streak all the way to mid-January. That's when a road date at Clemson awaits, and, while the Tigers aren't inspiring particular fear or even coverage nationally, they're a good team with an easy win over Ohio State to its credit. Moreover, Miami hasn't won at Littlejohn Coliseum since a 45-43 barnburner in 2013. (The barn burned slowly.) Life on the road in the ACC is difficult, even for an outstanding defensive unit like the Hurricanes.
When they actually lost: Dec. 23 vs. New Mexico State (63-54)
TCU Horned Frogs (10-0)
Jan. 2, at Baylor
You might not associate TCU with untrammeled basketball success, but this season actually marks the second time in the last four years that the Horned Frogs have reached December as one of the nation's past remaining undefeated teams. The team started 2014-15 with a 13-0 record (and recorded the school's first appearance in the AP rankings in 16 years), only to post a 4-14 mark in Big 12 play. That kind of collapse won't happen to Jamie Dixon's group in 2017-18. TCU is poised to earn its first NCAA tournament bid since 1998 thanks to excellent shooting achieved by Kenrich Williams, Vladimir Brodziansky and Desmond Bane, among others. The Frogs will drop a few games on the road in Big 12 play, but this is the best team Dixon's had in years.
When they actually lost: Dec. 30 vs. Oklahoma (90-89)
Villanova Wildcats (10-0)
Feb. 17, at Xavier
It's just so shocking to be writing a piece like this in December and find Villanova still undefeated. No, wait, what's the opposite of surprising? Traditional. Villanova's record in November and December over the past five seasons now stands at 60-3. Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson are two of the best players in Division I, Phil Booth has returned with a vengeance, Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall are rock-solid and Omari Spellman is improving with each passing game. It's amazing to realize that, in theory, every single one of these guys could be back next year. (In reality, the NBA will throw a sack over Bridges and abscond with him forcefully if he keeps playing the way he did against Gonzaga.) But, in the here and now, this team may stay undefeated for a while.
When they actually lost: Dec. 30 at Butler (101-93)