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College Hoops Top 25: Favorites and Frauds

   by Scott Spreitzer - 02/08/2011

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:

We’ll start by giving credit where it’s due. Purdue did lose their leader, Robbie Hummel before the season even began. While they were able to hold it together, so to speak, they haven’t been overly impressive in conference action. If the Big-10 is as mediocre as it looks, this could be a serious problem for the Boilermakers in March. They’re ranked 14th in this week’s AP poll, despite losing four of their last seven games outright. While they’re 7-3 SU in Big-10 play, not a single one of those seven wins came against a conference opponent who’s currently above .500 in league play. In fact, just one, Minnesota, has a legitimate shot to receive a Big Dance invite. The biggest problem is that without Hummel, Purdue is virtually a two-man team. Shut down JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, and chances are, you’re going to beat the Boilermakers. No other player on the roster averages more than 6.8 ppg. Purdue has a date with rival Indiana on Tuesday night, then play at Illinois before returning home to face Wisconsin and Ohio State. We’ll know quite a bit about the Boilermakers following those three tilts. But as of right now, Purdue is this week’s most overrated Top-25 team.

As much as I’d like to simply copy and paste my “Most Underrated Team” from a week ago, North Carolina, I do believe Syracuse is worthy of the this week’s title also. By the way, a future’s wager on UNC is not a bad idea at this time. Back to the Orange. After a slip-up in Big East play that led to a four-game losing skid, Syracuse is back on track having won their last two games, including an eight point win at Connecticut. Coach Jim Boeheim puts four players in double figures per night in scoring, and the Orange still play one of the toughest brands of defense for an opponent to figure out. While Big East teams are used to it, the rest of the nation is not which is why Syracuse could be in for a deep “Dance” run. Besides four scoring options, Syracuse puts nine players in double-figures in minutes played. The Orange are going to be a tough “out” the rest of the season beginning this week with a Wednesday night home game against Georgetown, followed by a trip to Louisville on Saturday and a home tilt with West Virginia on Valentine’s night. Win those three and the Orange will be sitting pretty.

We could have easily opted for Coastal Carolina in this spot, they are a team to be reckoned with, no doubt. But we gave the nod to the Wichita State Shockers. The Mo-Valley entry is at it again, sporting a 20-4 SU record and sitting atop the league standings at 11-2. The Shockers can fill the basket on one end, while playing serious denial basketball on the other. WSU ranks 31st, allowing just 61.5 ppg. And you don’t get many second chances against this team. Wichita State is 3rd in the nation in opposing rebounds allowed at 25.6 rpg. Coach Gregg Marshall sports an extremely deep team with 10 players averaging at least 14 minutes played per game. All 10 players average between 5 ppg and 12 ppg. Wichita should have little trouble at home on Tuesday night with Southern Illinois. The game that draws my interest is Saturday’s road battle at Northern Iowa. The Panthers “shocked” Wichita State in Kansas earlier this season. The Shockers will get a chance for a little road game payback this weekend. Win both of this week’s games and Wichita State could find themselves in next week’s AP Top-25.

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