Overrated & Underrated

Overrated & Underrated

Overrated & Underrated
By Joe Nelson
VegasInsider.com

The Top 25 rankings feature great shifts each week, with voters often reacting to short term results. Each week several teams climb up a bit too high based on a soft stretch in the schedule or losses by teams ahead of them in the polls. Other teams can take falls despite losses that are justified through tough scheduling spots and opposition. There are teams that are overrated and underrated each week in the polls; here are three teams in each column this week.

Overrated

Miami, FL (AP #2):
Former George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga deserves a ton of credit for the breakthrough season for Miami. The Hurricanes absolutely deserve to be ranked this high as they inch closer to locking up the ACC regular season title, sitting with a 13-0 conference record. Is Miami really the second best team in the nation however? Probably not.  They do have high-end wins over Michigan State and Duke but both of those games came at home. In ACC play the Hurricanes are still perfect but not without many close calls and some good fortune. Five wins have come by six points or less including each of the last three wins. Other than Miami, the ACC has been filled with disappointing teams. Duke has not lived up to its impressive non-conference showing and with key injuries the Blue Devils are no longer the same team. NC State has been a huge disappointment this season though the Wolfpack still have the talent to make a late season run. Teams like Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech have also been very disappointing. While the ACC is used to being ranked as one of the top conferences in the nation, most measures call it the fourth or fifth best conference this season and really only three teams are a lock for the NCAA Tournament right now. Miami will certainly win the conference although they still do have to play at Duke and the Hurricanes will deserve to be a #1 or a #2 seed in the Big Dance but in a wide open field this will not be a team that the other contenders will fear seeing in their region.
   
Georgetown (AP #11): The Hoyas may be in the best position to win the Big East, sitting at 9-3. They have to play Syracuse twice still on the schedule but if they can earn a split, Syracuse has a much tougher draw still having to also face Louisville and Marquette. Current conference leader Marquette also has a tough finish with tricky road games and home dates with the Orange as well as Notre Dame. Georgetown has won seven games in a row but the big wins over Louisville and Marquette both came at home in very tight games. There are not many impressive road wins for the Hoyas on the season and the non-conference season did not feature any meaningful wins either. Taking Indiana to overtime impressed but it was still a loss and wins over UCLA, Tennessee, and Texas won’t count for very much at this point in the season despite looking like nice wins at the time. Georgetown will enter the Big East tournament as one of the top four seeds and they could climb into a very high position in the NCAA Tournament with a strong showing the rest of the way. Georgetown could be ripe for an early upset just like last season however, losing to #11 seed NC State as a #3 seed in the round of 32. The Sagarin and Pomeroy rankings call Georgetown the fourth best team in the Big East and this team has far less potential in March than the Syracuse and Louisville teams ranked just barely ahead of them in the polls.

Ohio State (AP #18): The Buckeyes have certainly been ranked much higher over the course of the season but this is a team that is raising serious question marks with losses in three of the last four games. They have played Michigan in two very tight games, with the home team winning narrowly each time. They have been blown out by Indiana and Wisconsin in the last two weeks however and wins will be tough to come by in the final weeks. Ohio State has a very challenging remaining schedule with Minnesota and Michigan State in key home games this week before having to go to Bloomington next weekend. The finale at home against Illinois will be a tough game as well as Illinois crushed Ohio State at home early in the conference season and that game may be a bigger game for an Illini team sitting on the bubble. Ohio State did not produce any wins of merit in the non-conference season, losing in both big games with Duke and Kansas and having the game with Marquette cancelled. Should the Buckeyes continue to stumble down the stretch this may be the Big Ten team that is sitting on the bubble. Wins over Michigan and Wisconsin at home are nice but there is not much else to hang on to with this team. DeShaun Thomas is having a great statistical season but Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith have failed to make big strides this season in a year they were expected to pick up more of the load on offense.

Underrated

Butler (AP #15):
With a more grueling conference slate this season in the move to the Atlantic 10, Butler has taken a few losses. St. Louis actually now leads the league but Butler is clearly still the best team in the conference and the team most likely to make a NCAA Tournament run to the second weekend. Brad Stevens has obviously proven himself as a great coach, particularly in big games and this year’s team has as many high end wins as any team around. Wins over Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana, Vanderbilt, and Gonzaga present as rich of a non-conference resume as any team in the nation and the depth of the Atlantic 10 this season has provided Butler with good preparation for the postseason. Butler beat Gonzaga without its leading scorer as this team played well without Rotnei Clarke and that adversity will help make this team stronger. There are big games remaining for Butler, hosting St. Louis and Xavier and also having to play at VCU so it is unlikely that the Bulldogs will climb any higher but this is a team with a higher ceiling than most teams and confidence heading into the postseason. Butler is not well liked by the Sagarin or Pomeroy rankings but this is a team that will have its best ready for the most meaningful games.

Colorado State (AP #22): The Mountain West has been one of the deepest and toughest conferences in the nation and yet the best team in the conference is getting very little national respect. New Mexico did beat Colorado State at home and Lobos sit above the Rams but should Colorado State avenge that loss with a home date this weekend they should be in control of the league. A big game at UNLV waits this week and that result is important but the Rams have a favorable closing schedule with winnable games in the final four. The only conference losses came in very tight road games, in overtime at San Diego State and by five points at New Mexico. Losing to Illinois-Chicago is a big blemish on the resume but there are a number of solid wins on the non-conference slate as well, though no true marquee wins. The Rams have the ability to compete with major conference foes however with their great size, featuring the best rebounding numbers in the entire nation. This team has great offensive efficiency with that size advantage most statistical rankings call Colorado State the best team in the Mountain West and a top 15 team nationally despite just barely entering the national polls. The Rams still have some work to do to ensure an at-large bid in the Big Dance but this is a team no one will want to draw.

Middle Tennessee State (Unranked): The Sun Belt has produced teams that have made noise in recent NCAA Tournaments and Middle Tennessee State is the clear class of the league at 15-1 in conference play. The Blue Raiders may be building a case for at-large inclusion in the NCAA Tournament should they falter in the conference tournament as they have now won 12 straight games. None of the losses were bad losses though losing comparison arguments with Belmont and Akron could hurt the team if they leave room for discussion with another loss. They did beat Mississippi and Vanderbilt for impressive wins over SEC teams and the overall schedule rates a bit better than expected given that the Sun Belt lacks any other high quality teams this year. Middle Tennessee State has looked the part and most rankings agree. Pomeroy has the Blue Raiders at 29th and this is a team with great defensive efficiency, a quality that often transforms into a much better shot at postseason success. One thing working against Middle Tennessee State is not playing in the Bracket Buster as the resume could really use another solid win but this is a team that will be a tough out should they find their way into the NCAA Tournament.

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