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1/31/2014 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 January 31st.
Most likely, you are not going to get rich betting NCAA Basketball by betting the more popular ranked teams, as those are precisely the types of schools that are usually overvalued by the bookmakers, especially with the name familiarity of these clubs among novice bettors. That is a key reason why many ranked teams have losing ATS records, as many are asked to cover double-digit point spreads and sometimes enormous spreads of -20 or higher.
So just as with in any sport, the key to winning in college hoops is finding teams that are undervalued on the NCAA Basketball odds, and more often than not, 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 be here every week from now until the start of the conference tournaments in early March with our weekly lists of top unranked and thus probably some of the more undervalued teams entering each weekend.
We will present a list of five top unranked teams each week while trying to place an emphasis on teams that play that coming weekend, although that may not be the case 100 percent of the time. Keep in mind however that when the teams do play on Saturday or Sunday as usual, the weekly list should continue to be useful beyond each team’s next game, unless of course we were way off base with our selections of those teams being underrated in the first place.
So moving on to this week, here is our list of five top unranked teams based on the latest AP Poll as of Friday, January 31st. Happily all five of these teams do in fact play this weekend, although a couple have drawn tough assignments.
Virginia Cavaliers (16-5, Next Game - Sunday at Pittsburgh): The Cavaliers continue to play some of the best defense in all the land with hardly anyone noticing. Virginia has now won four straight games and in its two wins this past week, it held Virginia Tech and Notre Dame to 45 points and 53 points respectively, with the latter effort impressively coming on the road in a15-point win at South Bend. Virginia is now up to third in the country in defensive efficiency and 13th in effective field goal percentage allowed, and its interior defense has been outstanding as it is ranked fifth in two-point defense at a mere 41.0 percent. The Cavs are 7-1 in ACC play with the only loss coming on the road by four points at Duke in a game effort. Not surprisingly, Virginia leads the ACC in most of the important defensive categories during conference play, namely efficiency, effective field goal percentage allowed and turnover percentage. But just as important has been the improved play of the offense, as while the Cavaliers are a respectable 72nd in the country in offensive efficiency overall, they are unexpectedly fourth in that area during ACC play while uncharacteristically ranking third in three-point shooting at 40.7 percent.
UCLA Bruins (17-4, Next Game - Sunday at Oregon State): It may seem strange to use UCLA and undervalued in the same paragraph, but the Bruins are getting no respect right now from either the pollsters or the oddsmakers, so why not? The Bruins were surprising underdogs Thursday vs. an Oregon team that had struggled in Pac-12 play and UCLA responded with the “upset” on the road to go to 17-4 and overall and to 6-2 inside the Pac-12. The Bruins are extremely well balanced this season ranking 19th in offensive efficiency and 26th in defensive efficiency, and this is a team that has done everything well with no discernable weakness. And UCLA has even faced a good schedule ranked 54th 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 top ranked Arizona. We cannot explain how a team usually as popular as UCLA has not been able to re-enter the rankings since then, but hey, we are not complaining! Then again, this could finally be the week the Bruins re-enter the polls if they win on Sunday.
Florida State Seminoles (13-7, Next Game - Saturday vs. Clemson): Yes, we are well aware that Florida State lost both of its games this week and has now lost three of its last four overall. It should be noted that all three of those losses came on the road though to the likes of Virginia, Duke and NC State, and now may actually be the perfect time to jump on the Seminoles’ bandwagon with three of their next four games at home with the lone road game being a winnable spot at Maryland. Sure Florida State is only 4-4 in ACC play, but all four losses have come vs. good teams (including Virginia twice) and the four wins have been by an average of +12.8 points with three double-digit triumphs. Despite their recent struggles, the Seminoles are still ranked 17th in the country in defensive efficiency and sixth in effective field goal percentage allowed, and like their fellow ACC mates from Virginia, the Noles are also tough inside allowing just a 40.5 percent success rate on two-point buckets to rank third nationally. Also, Florida State grades out better than given credit for offensively ranking a respectable 56th in the land in efficiency and 58th in effective field goal percentage, and the Noles lead the ACC in three-point shooting at a fantastic 42.1 percent during conference play.
Tennessee Volunteers (13-7, Next Game - Saturday at Alabama): Like Florida State, the Volunteers are another seven-loss team that we feel is much better than their record and should continue to be undervalued for weeks to come. We still think that you will be hard pressed to find a better seven-loss than Tennessee, as this team still has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season while winning 20 games, and ironically it may make the Big Dance this season with a worse record than last year. You see, six of the first seven Tennessee losses this year were by single-digits until getting beat down 67-41 by Florida last Saturday, and that is while facing a schedule ranked 36th in the country in SOS, with its worst loss prior to the Gator defeat being by nine points to a Wichita State club currently 22-0. The Volunteers also showed their resolve bouncing back from that blowout loss by trouncing Mississippi by 16 points Wednesday. The Vols have been competitive in every area despite the strong schedule, ranking 25th in offensive efficiency and 48th in defensive efficiency, so again do not let the record fool you.
VCU Rams (17-4, Next Game - Sunday vs. Richmond): If you are looking for the most underrated team from a mid-major conference right now, VCU out of the Atlantic 10 may be your answer. The Rams are 5-1 inside the Atlantic 10, just one game behind the 6-0 Saint Louis Billikens, and they are very close to the Billikens in the Pomeroy Ratings at 26th overall compared to 23rd for Saint Louis. Yet, Saint Louis is 19th in the latest AP poll while VCU did not receive a single vote! But again, that is just the way we like it. The Rams have not minded travelling either with quality road wins over La Salle and Dayton inside the A-10 and this team was good enough to win at Virginia back in the second game of the season. Typical of Shaka Smart coached teams, the Rams can frustrate anyone on the defensive end as they again lead the entire country in defensive turnover percentage at 27.4 percent, obliterating the national average of 18.5 percent, and this is after leading the country in that category each of the last two seasons.