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CBB Top 25 Favorites & Frauds
by Scott Spreitzer - 02/15/2011
The college basketball Top 25 poll is certainly fun to look at and make your own judgments. But the fact is any ranking has just as much to do with politics and name recognition than it does with hoops prowess.
What's more important for bettors is to examine Las Vegas power rankings. After all, Vegas makes numbers on every game and those numbers are backed not by publicity, politics or public perception, but by money.
Each week, we’ll take a look at the Top 25 polls and expose where the rankings went wrong and where college hoops bettors can find hidden value in these big-name programs, either betting on or against them:
MOST OVERRATED TOP-25 TEAM: TEXAS A&M (19-5; 8-7-1)
The Aggies check-in ranked 21st in this week's AP poll. But if RPI standings are worth their weight, then all we need to do is look
at the RPI and you'll see that A&M is quite overrated this week. The Aggies, after all, rank 37th in the latest RPI. You can get
a gauge on a team's schedule when you see how many or how few of their scheduled games were actually lined. Texas A&M
has played 24 games this season, yet only 16 were posted on the Vegas board. Eight of the Aggies' 19 wins came against
Alcorn State, Texas A&M-C.C., Texas A&M-International, Stephen F. Austin, Prairie View A&M, Wagner, McNeese State, and
Nicholls State. Are you kidding me? It's no wonder Texas A&M couldn't come close both times they faced legitimate top-10
Texas. It's no wonder they lost their latest home game to Baylor, and scored just 48 points in a nine point loss at Nebraska.
But here they are, ranked in the latest Top-25. All of those cupcakes, yet the Aggies rank just 133rd in FG percentage, including
138th from the arc. A&M hosts Iowa State on Wednesday, a probable win, but certainly not an automatic. And I will not be surprised
if Oklahoma State exacts a little revenge in Stillwater on Saturday. Texas A&M is this week's most overrated top-25 team.
MOST UNDERRATED TOP-25 TEAM: ARIZONA (21-4; 14-8-1)
Four weeks ago, I featured Arizona as my team of the week that not only deserved to be in the AP-Top 25, but one we should
take note of for the rest of the season. Since then, the Wildcats have won six in a row SU, going 5-0-1 ATS. The Pac-10 has taken
its share of "hits" from the media this season, but Arizona has proved they belong in the same breath as Connecticut, Villanova, and
Wisconsin, to name a few. Arizona has the key ingredients to make a "surprise" run in March. The Wildcats have a leader on the floor
in forward Derrick Williams who averages over 19 ppg and 8 rpg. And the team is extremely deep. 10 players have seen action
in all 25 games. In fact, the 10 players all average in double-figures in minutes played per game! Seven players are averaging between
6.4 ppg and 19.2 ppg. The 'Cats are outstanding on the deep perimeter at both ends of the floor, making 40.8% of their 3-pointers
(9th in the nation) while allowing opponents to make just 27.5% of their "threes" (2nd best in the nation)! Arizona is 20th in scoring
and they're one of the better FG shooting teams in college basketball. Throw in their work when it comes to denying opposing rebounds
(11th in the nation) and the RPI may be on the money when they ranked Arizona as the 4th best team on Monday night. The U of A hosts
the two Washington schools this week. They must refrain from looking past the Cougars despite the big revenge opportunity on Saturday
against the Washington Huskies. Arizona is this week's most underrated ranked team.
TEAM THAT DESERVES TO BE RANKED: UCLA (18-7; 11-13-1)
The RPI has taken a liking to the Pac-10 this week and we happen to concur. The Bruins received just 32 points in AP voting, but they
rank 12th in this week's RPI. Ben Howland has done another fantastic job turning this program around during the season. UCLA enters
this week's action having won five in a row and nine of their last 10 SU. They're a decent 6-4 ATS in those games. The Bruins have been
simply "nasty" on the defensive end. Even when you include the 85 points allowed to my most underrated team, Arizona, UCLA has still
allowed just 62.7 ppg in regulation play. UCLA is yet another team with several scoring options. No less than five players average between
10.4 ppg and 13.8 ppg. Opponents can't focus on just one or two players when they face the Bruins. Their overall rebounding numbers
look decent on the season, but they have been fierce on the glass in their last four games. UCLA out-rebounded Oregon State, Oregon,
St. John's, and USC by an average of 11.5 rebounds per game! UCLA plays on the road at Stanford and Calfornia this week. The Bruins
will need a better defensive effort against Cal than the last time, an 86-84 UCLA win, when the Bears connected on 58% of their shots.
Of course, that was before UCLA began clamping down on the defensive end. UCLA is this week's team that deserves to be ranked.