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College Hoops Overrated and Underrated Teams
by Scott Spreitzer - 02/27/2012
Each week throughout the college basketball season, Scott will dissect the new top-25 rankings on Monday evenings and post what he feels is the week's most overrated top-25 team, along with the most underrated ranked team, and an unranked squad that he feels should be in the AP top-25.
MOST OVERRATED RANKED TEAM: UNLV Runnin' Rebels
I have to admit I'm splitting hairs a bit this week to fill this category. I believe we have one of our better top-25's of the season by the pollsters this week. However, when you analyze UNLV's results over the last six weeks, you can make an argument that this team is a tad overrated. Since January 14, the Runnin' Rebels are just 4-4 SU when you remove a 4-0 SU mark against Boise State and Air Force. And it should be noted that the Rebels' barely won on the road against those two teams, escaping in OT against both. UNLV is no road warrior. They're 5-6 SU in true road action this season and three of the five wins came in OT against Air Force, Boise State, and UC-Santa Barbara. They're just a handful of plays away from a 2-9 road record, a 21-9 overall record, and obviously, would not be listed in the top-25. David Rice's troops have played four tough step-up games on the road and lost them all. Indeed, UNLV looked pretty bad in three of the losses, getting rocked by New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Wichita State by an average final score of 72-55. And remember, we are talking about a team that averages over 78 ppg overall. The biggest problem with the Rebels may be coach Rice's inexperience as a head coach. Rice said he wanted to return to a style that would remind people of the Runnin' Rebels of old when he got the job. Unfortunately, this team plays with little patience on the offensive end when they aren't in front of the home folks. A more seasoned coach would probably be able to pull the reigns a bit when the team begins to lose its bearings. Rice was/is a quality hire - but right now, the fact he's feeling his way hurts this team away from the Thomas & Mack. They have a chance to iron out some road issues with a game at Colorado State on Wednesday, before wrapping up the regular season at home against Wyoming. UNLV has the athletes and talent to go deep into March Madness. But they also lack enough discipline to get bounced from the Dance rather early. As far as this week is concerned, the Rebels are the most overrated ranked team...barely.
MOST UNDERRATED RANKED TEAM: Louisville / Wichita State
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or something like that. Back in December, Louisville landed in my Most Overrated slot on a couple of occasions. Of course, they were ranked 3rd in the nation at the time and didn't exactly sport a deep bench. But I also stated back then that the Cardinals may be a "player" as the regular season nears its end. Well, the Cards are there. They are on an 8-2 SU run since January 21, with their only two losses coming by one point at home to 2nd ranked Syracuse and by four points on the road against a tough Cincinnati team. They're a grand total of just two made 3-pointers away from a 10-0 run, including an upset win over the Orange. Louisville is still going without much of a bench, but the team is well-adjusted to their shortcomings and I won't be surprised if Rick Pitino finds a way to get this team deep into the Big Dance. After a home game on Wednesday, the Cardinals wrap up the regular season with a rematch at Syracuse on Saturday.
Wichita State is my "co-underrated" team this week. Those who have followed me throughout the season already know how much I respect the Shockers. They had a tough time convincing the pollsters that they were a top-25 team and now they're having a tough time climbing up the polls. The Shockers not only avenged a home loss to Creighton with a blowout win in Omaha, but avoided potential flat spots a couple of time since the win over the Jays. WSU has won eight straight games and each of the last six have come by double-figures, with an average win margin of 19 ppg. Wichita whipped Creighton by 21 and beat Davidson by 17, with both wins coming on the road. Unlike Louisville, Wichita has depth. Six players average between 14.1 ppg and 8.7 ppg. The Shockers average over 78 ppg, while allowing under 63 ppg. They're 8th in the nation in FG percentage and 29th in FG percentage allowed. The Shockers own a +10.1 rebound margin per game, and with unsung big man Garrett Stutz inside, this is one of the better inside-outside teams in college basketball. They're certainly a team no one is going to want to face in early Big Dance action. Wichita now waits for the MVC postseason tourney. They are this week's "co-most underrated" ranked team.
With all due respect to Gonzaga, this is the first week in a long time where I have no problem with the teams that were left out of the top-25.