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Overrated and Underrated on the College Hardwood

   by ASA - 02/12/2008

History and recent past results often lead to future preconceptions. A good year or a run of good seasons or a bad year or run of bad seasons give certain teams a reputation of being either a great team or an awful team. Things change, though, but these reputations don’t. This frequently results in certain teams being overrated based on past success and other being underrated based on past failures. Here are a few of each of those cases:


Indiana – The Hoosiers are currently second in the Big Ten and 13th in the AP Poll but there may not be team in the top 15 less tested than this one. Indiana’s strength of schedule is 10th in the 11-team Big Ten Conference. It has yet to beat a team currently in the top 25 and picked up just its first victory over a team with an RPI higher than 49 with Sunday’s win over Ohio State.

The Hoosiers’ three losses – at Xavier, at Wisconsin and at home versus Connecticut – have come against their three toughest foes. They just haven’t proven they can beat a good team. Indiana’s nine conference wins have come against teams with a combined conference record of 29-70. The Hoosiers will get a true test over the next week when they take on Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State over the course of seven days.


Purdue – Not much was expected of these Boilermakers as their youth and inexperience made them a prime candidate to break out next year. Nobody expected that breakout to come this season. Purdue, 10-1 in Big Ten action and 19-5 overall, recently made its first appearance in the top 25 and have done so on the strength of a nine-game winning streak.

The Boilers have covered nine of their last 10 outings behind a group of players largely unheralded coming out of high school. Their top four scorers, including three freshmen, are of sophomore or younger status. Most experts would expect a young team like Purdue to struggle on the road but that has not been the case. The Boilers are 6-1 ATS on the road this year and are fresh off an upset of Wisconsin in Madison, which is a nearly impossible venue to win in for visiting teams.


Southern Illinois – The Salukis are one of those teams whose reputation exceeds its production this year. They have dominated the Missouri Valley Conference over the past few seasons, earning a No. 4 seed in last year’s NCAA Tourney. This is not the same Southern Illinois team, though. The Salukis are just 12-12 SU on the season despite being favored in 19 of their 24 games. The odds-makers have expected the Salukis of old but those Salukis have not showed up this year.

Road struggles have been the primary factor behind Southern Illinois’ poor record this season. The Salukis are just 1-9 SU and 2-8 ATS away from home this year, averaging just 54 points per game in those nine losses. Southern Illinois has made it to six consecutive NCAA Tournaments but it’s going to take a miracle to make it seven straight.


Bradley – Three weeks ago, the Braves were sitting at 1-5 in MVC action and 8-10 overall. Fast forward to the present day and Butler is 7-6 in conference action and 14-11 overall following a 6-1 SU stretch highlighted by six straight covers. The Braves started the season covering just four of their first 14 games. They are currently riding a 7-2 ATS run and nobody has noticed.

Drake has been the talk of the MVC all season long but nobody seems to remember the battle the Bulldogs got when they visited Bradley, In its toughest conference game to date, Drake needed a last-second layup to pull off the win. Since that game, the Braves have gone 6-1 with an average margin of victory of 9.2 points per game. Bradley is playing its best ball of the season right now and could be a legitimate threat to Drake come conference tourney time.


Pittsburgh – The Panthers stormed out to a 10-0 start behind an easy non-conference slate and moved to 11-0 following an upset of Duke at Madison Square Garden. Injuries then struck with starting guards Levance Fields and Mike Cook missing a substantial amount of time. The season has unraveled for Pittsburgh since then with the Panthers going just 7-5 SU and 6-5 ATS. The odds-makers haven’t seemed to take notice, though.

The absence of Fields and Cook has been amplified by Pitt’s road struggles. The Panthers are just 2-4 SU in their last six road games with their only wins coming against St. John’s and South Florida, which are a combined 5-17 in Big East play. Their struggles were even more evident in a 13-point home loss to 10-15 Rutgers as 18-point favorites. Yet Pittsburgh remains in the top 25.


Maryland – The ACC has been a two-horse race pretty much all season with Duke and North Carolina predictably taking up much of the conference headlines. Maryland has emerged recently, though, to steal some of those headlines. The Terrapins sit just a game behind the Tar Heels with a 6-3 conference record following a four-game winning streak.

Following a Dec. 22 home loss to American University, nobody expected Maryland to be much of a threat in the ACC. The Terrapins have used that unlikely loss as motivation, though, and have gone 10-2 SU and 8-2 ATS since, including an 82-80 upset of UNC. Sophomore guard Greivis Vasquez and senior forward James Gist have led the charge, combining for 40 points, 14.3 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game over Maryland’s four-game winning streak.

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