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Overrated and Underrated on the College Hardwood

   by ASA - 02/26/2008

A common theme with overrated teams is outstanding offense. Fans love offense and with that love comes heavy action on the higher-scoring teams. The oft-used phrase, “Defense wins championships,â€쳌 rings true in this scenario because despite how many points teams like Duquesne, Baylor and Florida score, those high-scoring point totals don’t necessarily translate into wins.



With underrated teams often come underrated players. Under-the-radar teams like Fordham, Nebraska and LSU are getting excellent efforts from their star players but those efforts are going unnoticed on a nightly basis. This week we’ll give those players, and their teams, the attention they deserve.



Underrated

Fordham – The Atlantic 10 Conference receives very little attention as is but the lower-profile programs like Fordham get even less fanfare. With teams like Xavier, St. Joe’s and Temple taking up most of the headlines, the Rams, despite strong play, get little notice. It’s guaranteed that the rest of the conference has taken notice, though.



Led by the inside-outside combo of Marcus Stout and Bryant Dunston, who are 11th and 12th in the conference in scoring, Fordham has gone 4-1 ATS in its last five games. Highlighting that stretch has been SU wins over Temple, Charlotte and Massachusetts. Xavier is running away with the A-10 but the rest of the league is tightly contested as only three games separate second-place St. Joe’s and 11th-place Fordham. The Rams have been playing really well lately and a favorable schedule down the stretch could make the A-10 race even tighter.



Nebraska – This college basketball season has seen an infusion of Australian talent. St. Mary’s Patrick Mills, Vanderbilt’s Andrew Ogilvy and Baylor’s Aaron Bruce have received most of the hype due largely to their team’s success. One Aussie who hasn’t been getting the attention he, and his team, deserve is Nebraska’s Aleks Maric. The senior big man is averaging nearly 16 points and 10 boards per game and has led the ‘Huskers to a recent turnaround.



Never known as a Big 12 powerhouse, Nebraska has posted back-to-back impressive wins over Texas A&M and Kansas State. Maric hasn’t been playing up to his usual standards but that’s because the opposition is focusing solely on stopping him, which has opened things up for his teammates. The ‘Huskers are 13-3 at home this year, outscoring its foes by an average of 15.6 points per game. With Maric leading the way, Nebraska is a team to reckon with down the stretch, especially at home.



LSU – The Tigers may be last in the SEC with a 3-9 SU record but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a strong play ATS. Head coach John Brady was fired Feb. 8 due to lack of positive results but his now former team had been making strides prior to his dismissal and has continued to grow since. LSU is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games, beating Ole Miss, Florida and Auburn outright while taking Tennessee and Kentucky down to the final whistle.



Leading the charge has been junior guard Marcus Thornton, who has gone largely unnoticed in the star-studded SEC. Thornton is fourth in the conference in scoring and has been vital to LSU’s success. He has tallied 20 or more points in eight of LSU’s 10 wins this year, averaging 21.8 points per game in those contests. If Thornton has a favorable matchup, the Tigers are a strong play.



Overrated

Duquesne – It’s no secret that a majority of basketball fans love offense. They love high-scoring teams and for good reason. Teams like Duquesne routinely provide entertaining games with their fast-paced brand of basketball. That doesn’t mean they provide a winning brand of basketball.



The Dukes have lost their last three games SU and ATS, losing twice outright as double-digit favorites. They dropped home games to Richmond and La Salle as 12.5- and 11-point favorites, which sandwiched a 27-point blowout loss at Xavier. Duquesne is second in the A-10 and ninth in the nation with 82.3 points per game on the season but the conference has figured out how to defend its high-octane attack. The Dukes are averaging just 62.3 points over their last four games. If they don’t score in the 80’s, they rarely win.



Baylor – Long-time cellar-dweller Baylor was the talk of the Big 12 after starting the season 16-2, winning a five-overtime thriller at Texas A&M and making a rare appearance in the top 25. The Bears haven’t been the same since that epic win over A&M, going just 2-6 SU and 3-5 ATS in their last eight games.



The Bears are averaging 81.8 points per game for the season but an allergy to defense has negated their offensive endeavors. Baylor has allowed 85.5 points per game over its last eight games, allowing 92 or more points three times. The rest of the Big 12 has figured out how to beat Baylor and the Bears haven’t figured out a countermove. Until they do, their opposition is a strong play.



Florida – The two-time defending champion Gators were expected to have a dropoff when their entire starting lineup from the prior two seasons either graduated or moved on to the NBA. The dropoff wasn’t expected to be this steep, though. With Billy Donovan still at the helm of the program and numerous quality recruits expected to step up, Florida was still considered a legitimate contender in the SEC. That has not been the case, though, especially over recent weeks.



The Gators are just 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS over their last six games with those four losses coming by 14 points per game. The quartet of Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taureen Green was obviously an offensively-talented group but what made them champions was their defense. Florida’s current crop of players just doesn’t possess the defensive prowess the previous crop did. The Gators have allowed 79.4 points per game over their last six games. A 3-peat is a longshot with defense like that.

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