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The golden soufflé

Which of the 13 unbeaten teams have earned it?

Posted: Wednesday December 19, 2007 6:32PM; Updated: Thursday December 20, 2007 9:13AM
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Andy Kennedy has his Rebels undefeated, but the quality of their opponents has been questionable.
Andy Kennedy has his Rebels undefeated, but the quality of their opponents has been questionable.
Rex Brown/WireImage.com

It's one of our most storied annual traditions: since 1998 the 'Bag has had the pleasure of surveying the remaining unbeaten college basketball teams in mid-December and presenting the Golden Soufflé, our award for the undefeated program with the worst creampuff schedule.

Over the years a few patterns have emerged:

• All but one of the Golden Soufflé winners have been schools in the South (the only exception being Pittsburgh in 2003-04).

• Four of the nine Soufflé winners have been SEC West schools.

• Six of the nine Soufflé winners reached the NCAA tournament, with four going to the Sweet 16 but none going beyond.

• Happily, every season fewer teams put together Charmin-quality non-conference schedules.

No fewer than 13 teams remain undefeated in college basketball, and while we don't think any of them will go on a run like Indiana's 1976 national champion (the sport's last undefeated team) some are more worthy than others. And so, as we kick off our look at this year's still-spotless Baker's Dozen, we're happy to present the 2007 Golden Soufflé to ...

Andy Kennedy of 8-0 Mississippi!

Take a bow, coach. Not only are you keeping the Golden Soufflé in the state of Mississippi (after Southern Miss' Larry Eustachy won last year), but you're joining an illustrious group of Soufflé winners that includes:

1998: Cliff Ellis, Auburn (finished 29-4, reached Sweet 16)

1999: John Brady, LSU (finished 28-6, reached Sweet 16)

2000: Dave Bliss, Baylor (finished 19-11, did not reach NCAA tournament)

2001: Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State (finished 27-8, reached NCAA second round)

2002: Ben Howland, Pittsburgh (finished 28-5, reached Sweet 16)

2003: Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh (finished 31-5, reached Sweet 16)

2004: Billy Gillispie, Texas A&M (finished 19-9, did not reach NCAA tournament)

2005: Gillispie, Texas A&M (finished 22-9, reached NCAA second round)

2006: Larry Eustachy, Southern Mississippi (finished 18-11, did not reach NCAA tournament)

2007: Kennedy, Mississippi

Let's break down the remaining undefeateds and separate the posers from the resume-packers:

Mississippi (8-0)
Best win so far: at Central Florida
Will face reality on: Jan. 9 at Tennessee
We only take half-hearted pleasure in singling out the Rebels, since their schedule is a bit tougher than, say, Big John Thompson's old teams at Georgetown (remember all those games against St. Leo and Hawaii-Hilo?). But Ole Miss's only true road game has been at Central Florida, and the home slate has featured such luminaries as Mississippi Valley State, Lamar and Troy. Freshman point guard Chris Warren has a nice future, but it's hard for us to get excited about any team in the SEC West this season. Keep in mind: If Ole Miss beats fellow unbeaten Clemson in San Juan this weekend we reserve the right to give the Soufflé to Tigers coach Oliver Purnell instead.
Teams That Can Back It Up
Texas (11-0)
Legit wins: at UCLA; Tennessee (in Newark, N.J.)
Next big test: Saturday vs. Michigan State (in Auburn Hills, Mich.)
No team boasts a pair of wins as impressive as the Longhorns' victories over Tennessee and at UCLA, and a W over the Spartans' would be one more pebble on the pile. We're concerned about UT's lack of depth, but that should be less of a concern as guys get healthy.
Washington State (9-0)
Legit wins: at Gonzaga; at Baylor
Next big test: Jan. 12 at UCLA
The Cougs didn't exactly schedule a bunch of heavy hitters, but no undefeated team other than Wazzu and Texas boasts a true road win against an opponent in the current AP Top 20. Taking down Gonzaga at the new Kennel was an eye-opener, but Tony Bennett's Cougs will really catch our eye if they can win two out of three in their brutal opening stretch of games in the Pac-10 (at Washington, at USC, at UCLA).
The Jury's Still Out
North Carolina (9-0)
Legit wins: BYU (in Las Vegas)
Next big test: Jan. 23 at Miami
More power to Roy Williams for scheduling true road games at Ohio State, Kentucky and Rutgers, but let's be honest: it's possible that none of those teams will make the NCAA tournament. The win against BYU is a bit more impressive, but the Heels' TV-friendly back-loaded ACC schedule (and a worse-than-expected ACC) means we may not know much about UNC until February. (And no, we don't count the Jan. 6 game at Clemson as a stiff test.)
Memphis (8-0)
Best win so far: vs. USC (in NYC)
Put up or shut up time: Saturday vs. Georgetown
It's a great week for games involving unbeatens: Duke-Pittsburgh on Thursday, Clemson-Ole Miss (potentially) on Sunday and Memphis-Georgetown (potentially) on Saturday. But first the Tigers have to win at Cincinnati on Wednesday, no small task if the Bearcats play as well as they did in a narrow loss at Xavier last week. The non-conference wins so far are pretty ho-hum (Oklahoma, UConn, USC), but Memphis still has games to come against Georgetown, Arizona, Gonzaga and Tennessee.
Kansas (11-0)
Best win so far: at USC
Put up or shut up time: Feb. 11 at Texas
Bill Self's team looks really good, but true road wins at USC and Georgia Tech aren't quite the same as Texas winning in Pauley Pavilion. I was already asked on Tuesday by a Kansas City radio station if the Jayhawks would be undefeated heading into March. It's possible, I guess, but hardly likely. The Big 12 North is better this year, and I have a hard time seeing KU sweep all of its games at Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas State. That said, the Jayhawks won't face a ranked team until they venture to Austin on Feb. 11.
Georgetown (8-0)
Best win so far: vs. Alabama (in Birmingham)
Put up or shut up time: Saturday at Memphis
The Hoyas haven't been afraid to hit the road, winning at Ball State and Old Dominion, but taking down Memphis in the FedEx Forum would elevate G-town's resume to Texas-sized status. When even the understated John Thompson III says he likes this team, it's a sign that the Hoyas could be really, really good.
Duke (9-0)
Best win so far: vs. Marquette (in Lahaina, Hawaii)
Put up or shut up time: Thursday vs. Pittsburgh (in NYC)
The Blue Devils have caught some stick for not scheduling a single true road game this season, but any reasonable person would have to be impressed if Duke can follow up its Maui takedown of Marquette with a win over Pitt in the Garden on Thursday.
Pittsburgh (10-0)
Best win so far: at Washington
Put up or shut up time: Thursday vs. Duke (in NYC)
The Panthers always seem to be undefeated at this time of the season, but we're still looking for any evidence that Jamie Dixon's team has what it takes to finally advance beyond the NCAA Round of 16. Beating Duke on Thursday would certainly provide some of that.
Vanderbilt (10-0)
Best win so far: at DePaul
Put up or shut up time: Jan. 17 at Tennessee
We finally saw Aussie superfrosh A.J. Ogilvy play a full game in the Commodores' come-from-behind win at DePaul, and we came away mighty impressed. A ruthlessly efficient finisher, Ogilvy joined my growing list of the nation's best-passing big men by throwing a wrap-around bounce pass from the top of the key for one assist and firing an inside-out skip pass against the zone for a three-pointer on another.
Miami (10-0)
Best win so far: at Mississippi St.
Put up or shut up time: Jan. 23 vs. North Carolina
We're going to go out on a limb and pick the Canes to finish third in the ACC. Jack McClinton is an unconscious scorer when he wants to be, and his mano-a-mano showdown (and victory) against Mississippi State's Jamont Gordon last week was high drama. The Hurricanes' resume (headline by wins against unranked Mississippi State, VCU and Providence) is pretty good, but we still need to see more.
What are you doing here?
Sam Houston State (9-0)
Best win so far: vs. Texas Tech
Will face reality on: Jan. 5 vs. Central Florida
The most impressive thing about our favorite Southland Conference team's still-perfect season is that the Bearkats were able to schedule home games against Texas Tech, Fresno State and Central Florida. SHS also picked up road wins at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Saint Louis, and while we aren't under any illusions about the Kats' they'll be a fun story to keep an eye on as long as they stay spotless.
Clemson (8-0)
Best win so far: at Mississippi State
Will face reality on: Jan. 6 vs. North Carolina
The 'Bag keeps hearing that this Clemson team is different from the one that missed last year's NCAA tournament after starting the season 17-0, but we just don't see it. Home wins against Old Dominion, Purdue and South Carolina are mildly intriguing, but with these guys we've learned to wait until the ACC season begins in earnest

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