CBB: Top 25 Favorites and Frauds (March 8)
by Scott Spreitzer
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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:
*NOTE: Beginning Next Monday (3/14) we'll look at the overrated and underrated seeds in each region of the Big Dance.
MOST OVERRATED TOP-25 TEAM: BYU (28-3 SU; 13-14 ATS)
Calling BYU this week's most overrated top-25 team may not jive with the RPI or some of the respect power ranking polls
in the nation, but the fact is there were two players the Cougars could not afford to lose heading into March Madness.
One of those is obviously Jimmer Fredette. The other is suspended forward Brandon Davies. The forward was BYU's only
effective interior player. His absence makes this team incredibly vulnerable against capable opposition. I released New Mexico
last week and we cashed the ticket when the Lobos rocked BYU in Provo. Davies' was badly missed. Davies was the team's third leading
scorer and top rebounder. And at 6-9, he was the tallest "regular" on the team. So, while the Cougars may deserve their top-10
ranking based on what they have accomplished over the course of the season, the fact remains, they're not a top-10 team without
the services of Brandon Davies.
MOST UNDERRATED TOP-25 TEAM: UTAH STATE (28-3; 15-12 ATS)
The Aggies are ranked 23rd in this week's AP Top-25. I believe they're still 8 to 9 spots too low. Utah State has put up outstanding
numbers on the offensive end this season. They average over 72 ppg on 47.2% shooting, including 37% from the arc. But it's their
play on the defensive end that really catches your eye. The Aggies rank 3rd in the nation, allowing just 58 ppg. They absolutely
shut down the opposition, holding them to 38.3% shooting, which ranks 6th in college baskets, and 30.7% from the arc, which ranks
20th. USU is a hustle team no doubt. They're one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, ranked 52nd in rebounds per game,
while allowing just 27.4 rpg, the 20th best mark in college basketball. Some will argue that they play in a mediocre WAC conference.
But I believe the team has a chance to make serious noise in the Big Dance. Let's not forget, the Aggies whipped St. Mary's in Moraga,
and two of their three losses came on the road early in the season at Georgetown and BYU. Utah State is a team no one wants to
draw in their first two rounds of the Big Dance. The Aggies are this week's most underrated top-25 team.
TEAM THAT DESERVES TO BE RANKED: VILLANOVA (21-10 SU; 11-16-1 ATS)
This is the first time I have ever argued for an unranked team to be in the rankings after losing four straight games. First of all, Villanova's
four losses didn't exactly come against the "little sisters of the poor." Losing to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame means they lost to two teams
that can both make a legitimate argument for a #1 seed in the Big Dance. Their other losses came against St. John's and Syracuse, two more
Big East teams that could be in for a long Dance run. The Wildcats can get a little cold on the offensive end at times, but again, consider the
opposition. Defensively, Villanova holds teams to less than 40% from the field, including 31.9% from the arc. No matter who they draw, the
Wildcats will be an extremely tough "out" on the defensive end. They'll also be flying under the radar unless they come up big in the Big East
tourney which begins on Tuesday night. The 'Cats have the talent to make a deep tourney run and they are this week's team that deserves
to be ranked.
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