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2/7/2014 12:00:00 AM
Each week the LT Profits Group take a look at the top unranked college hoop teams. Here is a look at the top unranked and probably undervalued NCAA Basketball teams as of February 7th.
As most of you know by now, you are not going to get rich betting NCAA Basketball by playing on the more popular ranked teams, as those are exactly the types of schools that are most often overvalued by the bookmakers, especially with the name familiarity these clubs possess among novice bettors. That is why many ranked teams have losing ATS records, as many are unjustly asked to cover double-digit point spreads and even bigger spreads of -20 or more.
Thus, just like any sport, the key to winning in college basketball is finding teams that are undervalued on the NCAA Basketball odds, and usually that value can be found with unranked teams that have the talent to compete with the better clubs but are still under the radar enough to offer value. And we will continue be here every week from now until the start of the conference tournaments with our weekly lists of top unranked and therefore probably some of the more undervalued teams entering each weekend’s large slates of games.
We will give you a list of five top unranked teams each week while trying to place an emphasis on teams that play that coming weekend, and although that will usually be the case, it may not be 100 percent of the time. Remember though that when the teams do play on Saturday or Sunday as usual, or even on the rare occasions that they do not, the weekly list should continue to be useful beyond the weekend’s games, unless of course we badly blew the calls with our selections of our underrated teams in the first place.
So on to this week, here is our list of five top unranked teams based on the latest AP Poll as of Friday, February 7th. All five of these teams do in fact play this weekend, and only one of the five draws an especially difficult assignment.
Ohio State Buckeyes (18-5, Next Game - Saturday vs. Purdue): That’s right, the Ohio State Buckeyes can now be considered undervalued after they were seemingly overrated to begin this season. Ohio State fell out of the AP Poll for the first time in like forever shortly after losing at home to Penn State as a huge favorite three games ago, as the Buckeyes’ struggling offense continued to plague them. The Buckeyes are ranked just 96th in the country in offensive efficiency, and that inability to consistently score points is the reason why Ohio State lost five out of six games following a 15-0 start. But while that weak offense was the reason the Buckeyes were overvalued to begin with, they do still have an outstanding defense and it is that unit that makes then undervalued right now with so much less expected of them. Ohio State is ranked fourth in the country in defensive efficiency, 15th in effective field goal percentage allowed and 17th in defensive turnover percentage, and in the two games since the stunning home loss to the Nittany Lions, all that the now unranked Buckeyes did was go on the road and upset Wisconsin and Iowa outright at two difficult venues, both times as uncharacteristically decided underdogs!
UCLA Bruins (17-5, Next Game - Saturday at USC): The Bruins are the second team this week that is almost never on anyone’s undervalued list but must be considered as such at the current time. UCLA began this season ranked and remained in the AP Poll for a while, and yet are having difficulty re-entering the polls despite some nice wins. The Bruins are very well balanced this season ranking 24th in offensive efficiency and now an identical 24th in defensive efficiency, and this is a team that has done everything well with no obvious weakness. Furthermore, UCLA has even faced a good schedule ranked 57th in SOS. Yet, this team fell out of the national rankings after an 8-0 start despite its first three losses of the season coming vs. Duke, Missouri and then top ranked Arizona, and it has been unable to re-join the ranks despite beating four teams in the Pomeroy Top 50 since the Arizona loss. Then again, the Bruins are partly to blame as they were probably on the verge of re-entering the rankings this week until they lost their last game at Oregon State on Sunday. Still, their full body of work seems to merit a Top 25 ranking and they are ranked 21st overall on the Pomeroy Ratings.
VCU Rams (19-4, Next Game - Saturday at St. Joseph’s): We feel that VCU should retain its ranking as the single most underrated team from a mid-major conference right now for another week. The Rams hail out of the Atlantic 10 and they are now 7-1 inside the conference including six straight wins since suffering their only conference loss to a good George Washington team. The Rams remain just one game behind the 8-0 Saint Louis Billikens in the A-10, and they are very close to the Billikens in the Pomeroy Ratings at 24th overall compared to 20th for Saint Louis. Yet again this week, Saint Louis is 13th in the latest AP poll while VCU did not receive a single vote. But our job is not to question the pollsters but rather to take advantage of opportunities like this. Remember that this team was good enough to win at Virginia back in the second game of the season, and the Cavaliers finally cracked the national rankings this week after being on this list the last two weeks. Head Coach Shaka Smart is doing it again, as typical of his teams, the Rams once again lead the entire country in defensive turnover percentage at 26.9 percent, destroying the national average of 18.5 percent, and this is after VCU led the country in that category each of the last two years.
Tennessee Volunteers (14-8, Next Game - Saturday vs. South Carolina): This is probably our more controversial choice this week, especially after Tennessee suffered its eighth loss of the season 64-60 at Vanderbilt on Wednesday. However, the Volunteers are simply not your typical eight-loss team when looking at their peripherals and that loss to the Commodores could actually serve the purpose of keep the Vols undervalued for a while longer. This seems like the opposite situation of last year, when Tennessee failed to make the NCAA Tournament with 20 wins, as the Volunteers may actually be more worthy possibly with a worse record this season. You see, Wednesday marked the seventh time in their eight losses that the Volunteers lost by single digits, and their two worst losses this seasons have been the one blowout at third ranked Florida and a nine-point loss to fourth ranked and currently 24-0 Wichita State! The Vols have continued to put up consistently strong numbers vs. a very good schedule ranked 35th in the country in SOS, especially offensively where they are now incredibly ranked 11th in the land in offensive efficiency. They are also a respectable 71st in defensive efficiency.
SMU Mustangs (18-5, Next Game - Saturday vs. Cincinnati): Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown raised a lot of eyebrows when he accepted the SMU job last season, but after going 15-17 in their first year with the legendary coach at the helm, the Mustangs have already surpassed that win total this season while currently sitting at 18-5. Furthermore, they have accomplished that while making the jump from the weaker Conference USA last season to the fledging AAC this year, a conference ranked seventh in the country as a whole according to Pomeroy. And yet SMU has gone 7-3 inside a stronger conference, with two of three losses being to Top 10 teams by single-digits on the road as the Mustangs lost at Cincinnati by eight points and at Louisville, also by eight points. They also have statement wins vs. Connecticut and Memphis along the way, so Brown certainly has his Mustangs heading in the right direction. Typical of Brown’s teams, SMU is playing excellent defense ranking 17th in the country in efficiency and sixth in effective field goal percentage allowed, thanks to leading the country in two-point defense allowing just a 40.2 percent success rate. The Mustangs now get a chance to avenge the Cincinnati loss on Saturday, but even though SMU now gets the Bearcats at home, that still easily looks like the most difficult next assignment for any of our undervalued teams this week.