College Basketball Handicapping: Most Overrated Teams
by Robert Ferringo - 12/2/2009
The Hype Machine completely overheated and exploded in the offseason regarding John Calipari and the 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats. And just about everyone in the country bought The Resurrection hook, line and sinker. They were instantly crowned as a preseason favorite to win the national title and they opened the season No. 5 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll and No. 4 in the Associated Press Poll.
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Well, I'm going to go out on what I feel is a very sturdy limb and say that Kentucky is by far the most overrated college basketball team in the nation.
The Wildcats suck. And I'm not kidding. They are completely and totally overrated as a Top 5 team and I, personally, think that if you stripped the name off the jersey this would be an NIT team. They don't suck like a Big West bottom feeder, but if we're grading them based on how they relate to the other BCS conference teams I can unequivocally say that this is not a really good basketball team.
Kentucky has bumbled its way to 7-0 while facing the No. 329-rated schedule in the country. They have played zero teams that I predict will play in a postseason tournament and I don't see what they have accomplished that would convince anyone that they are anything but a fringe Top 25 team. They won by just two points against a Miami, OH team that is probably the fifth-best team in the MAC East. They managed a 10-point win over Sam Houston State in a game in which they allowed 92 points. And they needed overtime to beat a weak Stanford team that is one of the two or three worst in the god-awful Pac-10.
But here is the best part: Kentucky has actually MOVED UP in the ESPN poll and they have dropped just one slot in the AP poll. It's stunning.
And it isn't only the numbers and the final scores that have me thinking that Kentucky is the most overrated team in the country. Simply watching them I find very little that is redeeming about this group. Yes, they have a group of freshmen that was supposed to be The Next Big Thing. But what people forget about freshmen is that most of them aren't that good their first year. And that's what we're seeing now. John Wall leads the team with 19 points per game, but I've yet to watch the game in which I found myself saying, "Wow, that guy is just dominating and is clearly the best player on the floor."
Then there is Patrick Patterson. For some reason people think that this guy is an All-American talent. I don't see it. He has no face up game, he doesn't pass or handle the ball, and he basically is just one of those guys that's just freakishly more athletic than his opponents. He couldn't take this team to the NCAA Tournament last year so now I'm supposed to believe that he's going to get them to Indianapolis? Child, please.
Again, this team will grow as the season goes on. The freshmen that are leading this team will start to figure things out and Coach Cal will become more adept at using his personnel. But when I try to handicap teams that I think can A) be reliable moneymakers throughout the year and B) make noise in March there are certain things that I look for: experience, cohesiveness, talent, a couple years of building momentum, a go-to guard, and several other factors. Right now Kentucky has potential - they have decent talent, but right now even that is 80 percent potential and 20 percent reality - and that's really it. I am not high on this team and I think that when all is said and done they won't be the best team in the country; they might be the fourth-best team in the SEC.
Below are the Elitist Eight, my most overrated teams in the country right now. Now, again, being "overrated" is kind of relative. I could say that Troy is overrated in the Sun Belt and that's completely different than saying that North Carolina is overrated nationally. I judge teams based on my view of both public perception and oddsmakers lines. It's about value, not about trying to predict whose going to win the national title.
So with that in mind, here are nine teams that I think are the most overrated teams in college basketball at the moment:
Honorable Mention: Villanova (No. 3 ESPN/USA Poll, No. 3 AP Poll)
I'm not saying that Villanova isn't a very good team. I'm not even saying that they aren't the best team in the Big East and, by default, one of the top teams in the country. But I am saying that every year there are a couple Top 10-caliber teams that are just money-burners at the window. I think Nova could be just that. This team has certainly earned its current ranking (which isn't the case with most of the other teams on this list). They won the San Juan Shootout by taking down three potential tournament teams (George Mason, Dayton and Ole Miss) and then came home and dominated perpetually underachieving, though somewhat talented, LaSalle. Those are all good wins. And this team should get better when Reggie Redding returns in mid-December. So they could, in theory, get even better. But beware: their Big East is really back loaded. This team will likely enter conference play as a Top 5 or Top 8 team and then be faced with significant double-digit spreads against improved teams. And even if they play well in those games then I think they will hit the wall late. This is a very good team and everyone knows that I absolutely love Scottie Reynolds. But they play better as a dog than a big favorite and over the course of a Big East season their lack of interior size is going to wear them down.
8. Georgia Tech (No. 23 ESPN, No. 27 AP)
The Yellowjackets are the team that I said, entering this season, where so underrated that they were overrated. They were in the Top 22 in both preseason polls and haven't slid to the level where I feel they should have started. Everyone is ga-ga about this team as an ACC sleeper team. But I still don't see it. They were 12-19 last year and have back essentially the same team, plus one good freshman. That's a lot of ground to make up from being a bottom-feeder to being a Top 20, Sweet 16-threatening team. They still don't have solid point guard play and even though Paul Hewitt is a helluva nice guy and a great recruiter he still only has one winning season over the past four years. This year their best wins are an eight-point victory over George Mason and an 11-point win over Mercer. What ever happened to earning your ranking?
7. Louisville (No. 18, No. 20)
I can't say enough bad things about this team. Let's just take all of the negative karma surrounding Dick Pitino and bend it over a table. (I'm sorry, did I say, "bend it over" I meant to say "put it on" the table. My bad, Dick.) Just focusing on what's on the court I can say that I don't really like much about this squad. Samardo Samuels is backing up the fact that he was one of the most overrated players out of high school last year. If anyone thinks the light is going to turn on for Edgar Sosa, they don't know anything about basketball. And if Jerry Smith keeps shooting like he has been (19.2 percent from three-point range) then these guys are in big trouble. They are deep, if you like mediocre, out-of-control perimeter players. And the guy that I like the best, Reginald Delk, is getting really inconsistent minutes. Don't be fooled by their blowouts over Arkansas (who was, quite literally, relying on a dude off the tennis team on the inside) and Appalachian State. Both of those games were tight early in the second half, and those are teams that Louisville should handle from start to finish. That loss at UNLV was not an aberration; Louisville is probably the seventh or eighth best team in the Big East, not a Top 20 team in the country.
6. Georgetown (No. 14, No. 16)
This is a team living off reputation. Even though the reputation for this group of Hoyas should be a team that suffered a late-season collapse last year and wasn't good enough for the NCAA Tournament. So someone tell me what they've seen out of this soft, unproven, mediocre group so far this year that has them believing? Was it a 46-45 win over Temple? Blowouts over Savannah State and Lafayette? This team hasn't played anyone and didn't have a chance to be exposed in a marquee non-conference tournament. This team is shooting the ball well and they are a solid club, with better chemistry now that Dejuan Summers has moved on. But they aren't even close to being a Top 10 team in the nation.
5. North Carolina (No. 11, No. 10)
They just aren't that good. I've said it since the start of the season, I've been betting against them since the start of the season, and I've been collecting against them since the start of the season. Now, Syracuse, the same team that absolutely manhandled UNC on a neutral court in a 16-point win, is just a couple spots ahead of UNC. How is that? Nevada almost beat the Tar Heels at home and in the four games where they failed to cover (Nevada, SU, Valpo and FIU) they have missed the number by an average of 14 points per outing. Their guards are weak and they aren't going to get any better. This team might be tough in March, but right now they are just a bunch of young, overrated stiffs lumbering around, rebounding, turning the ball over and dunking. This is a No. 6 seed, not a No. 2. And I know that they beat Michigan State on Tuesday. But Michigan State was, quite literally, the 10th team on this list and I left them off. This UNC team is going to be all over the map, and just wait until they have to play true road games...
4. Connecticut (No. 13, No. 14)
Yes, they hammered an LSU team that might be in the CBI at the end of the year. Other than that they struggled to put away William & Mary and Hofstra in Storrs while only beating Colgate by 14. (For the record, Syracuse just beat Colgate by 34.) This team simply cannot shoot and even though their bigs look great getting off the bus they don't look like they have a clue down in the paint. The Huskies are 1-4 ATS and haven't looked good doing it. I think that this team will improve and there certainly is raw talent here. And, unlike teams like North Carolina and Louisville, I think that their guards will get better.
3. Butler (No. 20, No. 23)
Click here to get my full write-up on why this surprise entry is one of the most overrated teams in the nation.
2. Washington (No. 10, No. 12)
Just like North Carolina, I have said since the start of the year that I think that this Huskies team is garbage To this point, I think I've been right. But it's early. Washington can't shoot and they have absolutely no one on the roster that can replace what they lost with Jon Brockman's graduation. The Pac-10 is pathetic this year and may be the No. 8 conference in the country. So Washington will stay overrated for awhile this year because they are apparently the only team out West that can walk and chew gum at the same time. So let's see, they haven't left home yet and they are already stumbling. They are 1-3 against the spread and have failed to cover their numbers by an average of about 13 points per game. That includes a five-point win over a Wright State team playing without two of its players and a four-point win over Montana in which the Huskies shot 8-for-33 in the first half and 20-for-65 (30.8 percent) against the Grizz zone. Don't believe the hype - UW is not good.
And there's no doubt about it.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained around +150 Units and $12,000 for his $100 bettors since mid-February in college basketball. You can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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