CBB: Top 25 Favorites & Frauds
by Scott Spreitzer
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: FLORIDA (22-6 SU; 10-13-1 ATS)
A 6-1 run has the Gators firmly entrenched in the AP Top-25, currently ranked 14th in the nation. I'm not buying it. First of all, I have Florida ranked 29th in my latest power rankings. While I do differ from the AP poll often, I am usually not far off from the RPI rankings, but this is one case where I am. The RPI has Florida ranked even higher than the AP at #11. While they are on a 6-1 run, the Gators could very easily be 3-4 in their last seven games. Home court hasn't meant a whole lot to this team of late. They escaped with a one point win over Tennessee. And the Gators barely slipped by Kentucky in this season's first meeting, a 70-68 win, while having to go to overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Gainesville. Florida has their Big Dance ticket punched already. But I wouldn't put money on them in their final two regular season games, hosting Alabama on Tuesday before playing in Nashville against Vanderbilt this weekend. Florida should get past Alabama, at least SU. But I wouldn't be shocked if they finish the season on a 0-2 slide. Florida plays hard, but they have been quite fortunate down the stretch. The Gators are this week's overrated Top-25 team.
MOST UNDERRATED TOP-25 TEAM: KENTUCKY (20-8 SU; 10-12-1 ATS)
We find Kentucky ranked 20th in this week's AP Top-25. I feel this team is underrated by at least six or seven spots in the rankings. While Coach Calipari began the season with some young faces, the team has played well at both ends of the court for most of the campaign. Kentucky ranks 11th in FG percentage allowed at 38-percent. Yet at the same time, the Wildcats are also getting it done, sacrificing nothing on the offensive end where they rank 20th in scoring. Kentucky can be a nightmare for teams that find the deep perimeter tough to defend. The 'Cats head into this week's action ranked 14th in the nation in 3-point shooting, and they hit over 46-percent of their shots overall. A lack of depth may eventually cost this team in the Big Dance, but they have several scoring "outs" that could springboard them into a deep tourney run. Kentucky has four players averaging between 11 ppg and 17.7 ppg. No less than three players make more than 40-percent of their 3-point attempts. And two players average about 9 rpg. Quality shooting from the perimeter; the ability to drive the paint and finish, dish, or draw fouls; and a strong inside game on the boards! Yet here they are, just 20th in this week's standings. I expect a jump in the polls after closing the season this week with a home game against Vanderbilt and a road tilt at Tennessee. Kentucky is this week's most underrated ranked team.
TEAM THAT DESERVES TO BE RANKED: KANSAS STATE (21-9 SU; 11-13 ATS)
Many preseason magazines had Kansas State going to the Final Four, or at least the Elite-8 this season. But thanks to injuries and some off the court turmoil, Frank Martin's team looked NIT-bound not all that long ago. But the Wildcats have won five in a row and seven of their last eight. They have beaten Kansas in Manhattan, and now own road wins over Texas and Nebraska. K-State led Texas throughout the second half on Monday night never looking in danger of losing the contest. They did the same to Nebraska, and whipped Kansas for almost an entire 40 minutes. Texas got physical with Jacob Pullen on Monday, but the team's leading scorer picked up his game in the second half despite a wrist-injury. But the 'Cats showed they have others who can pick up the slack, including Curtis Kelly and Rodney McGruder. Kansas State is surging at the right time. They're making 48-percet of their FG attempts during the run, including 44-percent from the arc. This is a team that no one is going to want to face through the first couple of rounds of March Madness. Kansas State is this week's most underrated Top-25 team, but must stay away from a potential flat spot when they host Iowa State on March 5.
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