Seven Overrated Teams Headed Into the Tourney
by Robert Ferringo - 03/17/2008
So I'm watching countless hours of "Bracketology" - or, as it should more aptly be referred to: Babblology - on ESPN the night that the seeds for the NCAA Tournament were announced. Now, these guys are paid as experts. This is their chosen profession and the issue that they spend supposedly countless hours watching and analyzing. Yet, when it came time for each of the analysts: Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Dick Vitale to fill out their "virtual brackets" the four of them, collectively, threw up the most chalk, safe, garbage Final Four picks that you could imagine. I believe that two of them - including one of the few analysts I respect, Jay Bilas - actually had all four No. 1 seeds advancing to San Antonio for the Final Four.
All of this begs the question: have they every SEEN the NCAA Tournament? Buzzer beaters, bracket busters, impossible shots, improbable runs, redemption for underachievers, heartbreak for the overconfident, and millions of dollars won and loss on the bounce of a small, leather, air-filled orb; that is the NCAA Tournament. What should happen very rarely ever does, and the true "expert" is the one that can sift through the clutter and noise and expect the impossible.
With that in mind, I compiled a list of seven teams that I know a majority of office workers will be penciling in as the national champions. Now, I came up with this list BEFORE the seedings were announced on Sunday and did so independent of the individual matchups. However, it's always good to go with your first instinct, a rule that I have too often ignored this season. Sometimes the details don't matter. The big picture is that I think these are seven very popular, very chalk teams that have an incredibly minute chance of winning the NCAA Tournament:
1. Duke - The Blue Devils are THE public team in college basketball, so it's almost never a great value play to wager on them. This year's version of the Dukies is like some kind of twisted experiment, with four guards spreading the floor, bombing away from three-point land, and driving to the hole. Somewhere, Cherokee Parks is weeping. But that's why Duke won't win the 2008 National Championship. They are a one-trick pony and they have such a glaring weakness in the middle that a team like Stanford, Louisville, or someone with serious size should be able to manhandle them. One-dimensional teams very, very rarely cut down the nets.
2. North Carolina - I know. You're stunned. I got it. But I'm not into the Tar Heels. Are they better than they were last year, when they didn't even make the Final Four? I say no. Are they better than the 2006 team that won the title - but barely did so with a questionable win over Villanova in the early rounds? Not even close. I don't like UNC because I don't think they shoot the ball well enough from deep. I know they are 68th in the nation, but those are just numbers. Other than Wayne Ellington they don't have anyone that I trust to get hot from the outside and carry them through a five- or eight-minute stretch. Ty Lawson is one of the most overrated players in the country, the ACC officials baby the Heels (and tourney officials won't), and they aren't smart enough to go to Hansbrough in the clutch.
3. Kansas - Down by three. Twenty-six seconds on the clock. No timeouts. Who is Kansas going to? Brandon Rush? Please. I know I don't trust him. You also have to consider the fact that Bill Self is a notorious choke artist and that KU has a nasty history of underachieving at The Dance. The Jayhawks are 1-8 ATS in their last nine games outside of Phog Allen and they have no marquee road wins in the nonconference (USC wasn't nearly as good on Dec. 2 as they are now). Mix in a Red Flag Loss (at Oklahoma State) and I just don't think this team has the makeup of a champion. However, of all of the teams on this list this is the one I could be wrong about.
4. Georgetown - Again, this team is not better than the one that lost in the Final Four last year. They're going to be a tough out, but the Hoyas' dirty little secret is that they didn't beat anyone this year. Well, let me rephrase: they didn't beat anyone on the road this year. All of their marquee wins were in conference games, at home, against teams they should have beaten. Yes, they won at Morgantown. But they didn't really win that game. I'm just saying, this team might have peaked in NYC. I don't expect them to hit 50 percent from 3-point land in too many regionals. And if someone can smother Jonathan Wallace I don't see anyone else on this team stepping up.
5. Tennessee - First, the Vols, like Kansas, may be Final Four-good. But you can't win a championship if you don't play any defense. Tennessee lets way, way too many opponents shoot over 50 percent from the field. They also don't make free throws, hitting just 65.6 percent, which is good for 281st in the land. If you don't play defense and if you don't make free throws you don't win championships. I also think the Vols may have peaked too soon. They are 2-4 ATS since beating Memphis and having a cup of coffee as the No. 1 team in the land.
6. Stanford - They are the anti-Duke. The NCAA Tournament is about guard play and I just don't trust the Cardinal's. None of their guards shoot over 38 percent from long range, and in a one-and-done situation one off shooting night can crush this team. Believe me, the Lopez Bros. will be a tough out. But for all the sound and fury this team has still lost three of its last five games, has two Red Flag Losses against small, quick teams (Oregon and Siena) and they got beat by 1,000 in the first round of last year's tourney. You can't wager the mortgage on a team with no significant experience to draw on.
7. Louisville - The Cardinals are in a similar situation to The Cardinal. Both teams dominate the interior but teams are at the whim of their outside shooting. I'm not saying that Louisville can't make a run. But what I am saying is that when you are 207th in the country in 3-point shooting and 286th in free throw shooting the odds of an off night and a short stay at the Dance are pretty high.