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:
Our apologies, but we've been on the road all week, so there's not a lot of time to answer questions. (Promise I'll get to more next time.) But here goes:
Who will remain unbeaten the longest? --Nick Miller, Lake Jackson, Tex.
I'd say either Kansas or North Carolina, two legitimate national-title contenders that have pretty tame schedules until February. Speaking of the Heels, is anyone else concerned in the wake of Tyler Hansbrough's various contact-related injuries (the broken nose vs. Duke, the concussion vs. Rutgers, etc.) that the biggest threat to his winning national Player of the Year might be the injury risk of Hansbrough's bull-in-a-China-closet playing style?
What's your take on Tennessee's Brian Williams? I thought the big freshman's 16 and 14 in only 22 minutes against Western Kentucky was quite impressive in what amounted to his debut game. Has Tennessee finally found its inside presence? --Earl, Bumpus Cove, Tenn.
I want to see how Williams follows up his breakout, but it was definitely encouraging (although the 'Bag would like to send a positive word to the guy Williams replaced, Duke Crews, who's out indefinitely with a heart condition).
Bruce Pearl hasn't had a dominant big man during his tenure in Knoxville, and if Williams could be that guy it might help free up Chris Lofton, who has been disappointing so far this season. I'd argue that we all got a little too down on Tennessee after its early loss to Texas. Clearly the Longhorns are much better than originally advertised, and the Volunteeers' wins against West Virginia and Western Kentucky are pretty solid.
What did you mean by "If you're a point guard and you see Ed Hightower refereeing your game, you'd better not carry the ball?" You should just say that if you are playing basketball Ed Hightower will be refereeing your game. When was the last time you saw a game on TV that did not have Hightower, Jim Burr or Steve Welmer on the court? If Hightower can referee a game in Maui and a game in Orlando within 24 hours, don't be surprised to hear that he picked up a high school game near LAX while changing planes. --John Barrett, Highland Village, Tex.
The 'Bag wishes he had the non-stop work ethic of Ed Hightower. In fact, we think it would be awesome if an enterprising 'Bag reader got Hightower to officiate a wedding (in uniform, of course).
Great point about classes losing their meaning. Take Georgetown's Roy Hibbert, for example. He turned 21 last week! He's barely a year older than O.J. Mayo but has been playing against Shelden Williams and Greg Oden in the past three years instead of high schoolers. --Mac McCullough, Washington D.C.
Hibbert's learning curve has been remarkably steep, too, which is why we're so fired up to see him match up against Memphis' Joey Dorsey on Saturday. (While we're at it, we'd like to make a correction. Memphis' Derrick Rose is 19, not 20 as we stated last week.)
Many thanks to two readers who came up with other examples of four brothers who've played Division I college basketball:
The Mahaffeys (all at Clemson from 1959-70): Tom, Donnie, Randy, Richie. (David Alexander, Cherry Hill, N.J.).
The McCachrens (all at North Carolina in the 1930s): Dave, Jim, Bill, George. (Ted Keith, New York City).
Lastly, the 'Bag wants to send a get-well wish to Dick Vitale, who underwent throat surgery this week. No college basketball journalist puts in more miles than Vitale, who until now had never missed a scheduled game.
Send in your questions and we'll get to more of 'em next time ...