Feb 27, 2020 - Sports

The last of college basketball's unbeatens

Courtesy: Swarthmore Athletics

As February winds down, only one team in all of men's college basketball remains unbeaten: Division III Swarthmore (25-0), a tiny liberal arts college outside Philadelphia that's known more for its rigorous academics than its sports teams.

By the numbers: Swarthmore accepts just 9% of applicants and had a total enrollment of 1,647 students last year. For reference, Kansas, the No. 1-ranked team in Division I, enrolls ~30,000.

  • Fun fact: The Garnet have held the No. 1 ranking since the start of the season. The last time a D-III team went wire to wire without a loss? 1999 Wisconsin-Platteville, coached by none other than Bo Ryan.

Meet the coach: Since arriving on campus eight years ago, Swarthmore head coach Landry Kosmalski — a former Davidson assistant who helped recruit Steph Curry 15 years ago — has transformed a destitute program into a powerhouse.

  • From 1950 to 2014, Swarthmore had just seven winning seasons, one conference tournament appearance and zero D-III NCAA tournament appearances.
  • Under Kosmalski, the Garnet have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons and even reached last year's title game, falling 96-82 to Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Meet the team: All five starters average double-digit points, and they all came from high schools within driving distance of Swarthmore's 425-acre campus (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia).

  • Senior captain Zac O'Dell is a chemistry major and recently co-authored a paper on "nanoparticle dissolution kinetics" that appeared in Environmental Science & Technology — an example of the kind of student-athletes that make up Swarthmore's roster.
  • Kosmalski says some of his players can athletically compete at the D-II level and that others could even play D-I. "Whatever the reason, they just ended up with us," he told SI. "Everyone has something unique to offer."

What's next: After finishing the regular season with an average scoring margin of 15.5 points, Swarthmore will play Muhlenberg in its Centennial Conference Tournament opener tomorrow.

D-III men's basketball rankings:

  1. Swarthmore (Pa.)
  2. St. Thomas (Minn.)
  3. St. John's (Minn.)
  4. Wittenberg (Ohio)
  5. Randolph-Macon (Va.)

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