North Carolina has a claim to be the best state for college basketball. Of course, there’s 2005 National Champions North Carolina and 2001 National Champions Duke. Also, there’s two-time champion North Carolina State and Wake Forest, which finished second in the league in 2004-05.
Beyond the Big Four, there are still plenty of interesting college basketball teams in North Carolina. High Point University is a contender in the Big South Conference behind Player of the Year candidate Arizona Reid. Appalachian State and Davidson are in the running in the Southern Conference. And the Wingate Bulldogs of the South Atlantic Conference are one of the top teams in Division II. Pfeiffer, Barton and Queens should all battle for the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference Crown.
But with all of the great college basketball in North Carolina, only one team among the more than 50 four-year colleges and universities in the state is undefeated. UNC, Duke, Pfeiffer, Queens and Wingate each have one loss. The last undefeated college basketball team in North Carolina is the Guilford College Quakers.
Members of the Division III Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), Guilford College is 6-0, which is the team’s best start since the 1967-68 season. For many years Guilford College was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and had a reputation as a basketball powerhouse. Former Quakers star Bob Kauffman was the third pick of the NBA Draft in 1968 and was a three-time NBA All-Star. Guilford College is best known for its 1973 NAIA National Championship basketball team, which featured three future NBA players in Lloyd Free (who later changed his name to World B. Free), M.L. Carr and Greg Jackson.
This year’s Guilford College squad is led by a pair of juniors in 5-foot-9 point guard Caleb Kimbrough and 6-foot-11 center Ben Strong. The pair are best friends who have played together since middle school and who actively sought to play basketball together at the collegiate level. Strong, an athletic big man with both good hands and footwork, could have played at a higher collegiate level, both out of high school and after the past two seasons, but chose to stay with the Quakers. Division I’s loss has been Guilford College’s gain, as teams have to spend a great amount of time defending him in the post.
Strong’s presence opens up the floor for everyone else on the team, most notably swing man Jordan Snipes. If that name sounds familiar, you probably saw him on ESPN and all of the other highlight shows two years ago when he threw a full-court lob that went in the basket with 0.6 seconds remaining, which sent the game into overtime. Guilford College eventually won the contest, 91-89 over Randolph-Macon.
The Quakers began this season with an exhibition victory over Division I Elon University. They opened the season in the Roanoke Classic in Salem, Virginia, and won both games. Next up was Guilford College’s annual battle with inter-city rival Greensboro College. The Quakers jumped on top early but needed overtime before emerging with a 78-74 win.
Since then, Guilford College has begun conference play. The Quakers won their first three ODAC games, including a road game at Hampden-Sydney, which was picked in the pre-season coaches poll to finish second in the league, two spots ahead of Guilford College.
Like most college basketball teams, Guilford College is in a stretch where not many games are played, as students take Final Exams and get a Christmas break. Their next tilt is a home game versus Shenandoah on December 18th. It’s the first of three straight non-conference games, with the next game coming on December 30th at Methodist followed by a January 2nd date at Averett.
The Quakers return to ODAC play the beginning of January, with road games at Randolph-Macon and Virginia-Wesleyan, with the latter being the defending Division III National Champions. Last season, Guilford College struggled during this time period, but the team hopes for better things this season.
If you are looking to see a good college basketball game, think beyond Division I. And if you are in North Carolina or Virginia, it would be well worth the effort to see Guilford College, the last undefeated team in the state of North Carolina.