NCAA Basketball Betting: Top Unranked Teams Report - Feb. 21

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, February 21, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

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 21st.

As most of you know by now, you are not going to get rich betting NCAA Basketball by constantly playing on popular ranked teams, as those are exactly the kinds of schools that are usually overvalued by the oddsmakers, especially those with great name familiarity even among the most recreational bettors. That is precisely why so many ranked teams have losing ATS records, as they are often asked to cover double-digit point spreads, even inflated lines upwards of 20 points.

Thus, just as in any other sport, a big key to winning in college basketball is trying to find those undervalued teams on the NCAA Basketball odds, and more often than not, that value will be found with talented unranked teams, many of whom can compete with the ranked teams but are still under the radar. To that end, we will continue be here over the next few weeks with our weekly lists of top unranked and, hopefully, some of the more undervalued teams in the land heading into each weekend.

We will give you a list of five top unranked teams every week while trying to place an emphasis on teams that play over the weekend, and although that may not happen 100 percent of the time, keep in mind that the weekly lists should continue to be useful beyond the weekend’s games even in the rare cases where our teams have both Saturday and Sunday off, unless of course we were dead wrong with our calls of those teams being undervalued from the outset.

Looking ahead to this weekend, here is our list of five top unranked teams based on the latest AP Poll as of Friday, February 21st. Four of these five teams are in fact in action on either Saturday or Sunday, and the fifth team is actually in action Friday night!

Pittsburgh Panthers (20-6, Next Game - Sunday vs. Florida State): The Panthers may have been a tad overrated earlier in the year, but they may now be underrated after dropping out of the national rankings. After all, Pittsburgh is still ranked 16th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings and the Panthers dropped out of the AP Poll after losing back-to-back games first by two points to then undefeated Syracuse on a 40-foot shot at the buzzer and then by four points to North Carolina on the road, the same North Carolina team that just beat previously red-hot Duke. The Panthers may not have that one go-to superstar, which is the reason they may have been overrated earlier on, but they still have too much talent to not be ranked at all and they embrace the “team” concept very well while not really having any discernable weaknesses. The Panthers are ranked 26th in the country in offensive efficiency and 18th in defensive efficiency, and they are good to well above average in all major components that make up those efficiency number on both ends of the floor. It is also worth noting at all six of the Pittsburgh losses this season have come vs. teams currently ranked in the Pomeroy Top 25, with the loss at 22nd ranked North Carolina being the lowest ranked team it lost to.

North Carolina Tar Heels (19-7, Next Game - Saturday vs. Wake Forest): You may recall that the Tar Heels were on this list last week and we thought for sure that they would become ranked this week after beating Pittsburgh last Saturday. But lo and behold they could not join the ranks despite receiving the most votes of any unranked team on the latest AP Poll. That really figures to change this coming Monday though as the Heels should be considered a certainty to become ranked after a busy 3-0 week that ended with a humongous home win over Duke in a snow-makeup game on Thursday, so unless the Heels have a monumental letdown and lose to Wake Forest on Saturday, this should be the last time you see them on this list. But they are here for now and this North Carolina team is winning in different ways than UNC teams of the past that simply outscored their opponents, as this 2013-14 version is actually ranked 12th in the country in defensive efficiency and 13th in offensive rebounding percentage. Furthermore, if you like trivia, with the win over Duke in Thursday North Carolina became the first team in the history of the AP Poll to beat the top four teams in the preseason rankings, in this case Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville and Duke, all in the same season.

VCU Rams (20-6, Next Game - Friday at Massachusetts): VCU is the team on this list that is actually in action tonight as the Rams go on the road to visit the Massachusetts Minutemen, as we discussed in a thread on SBR Forum. Time and again, we have no idea why this 20-6 team coached by Shaka Smart does not get more respect in the polls, as this Rams’ team that we feel is the best unranked mid-major team in the country again received hardly any votes from the AP this week despite being second in the Atlantic 10 behind the Saint Louis Billikens, who the AP has ranked 10th in the entire country! You see, we really do not think VCU and Saint Louis are separated by all that much, with the Billikens ranked 19th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings and the Rams ranked 24th, and for further evidence, consider that Saint Louis escaped with just a two-point win at home over these Rams last Saturday, a loss that VCU gets a chance to avenge in Richmond on March 1st. This team was good enough to win at Virginia back in the second game of the season, a Cavaliers’ team now ranked eighth on Pomeroy, and this team is on the brink of leading the entire country in defensive turnover percentage for the third straight season, which is typical of Shaka Smart-coached teams.

Tennessee Volunteers (16-10, Next Game - Saturday at Texas A&M): The Volunteers may be just 16-10 for now, but this team probably has more of a case to go to the Big Dance than the team that was probably rightfully omitted from the party last season despite going 20-13. Yes, Tennessee recently lost two straight games to get to double figures in losses, but losing each game by single-digits to Missouri and Florida is nothing to be ashamed of. The Volunteers are simply not your typical 10-loss team when taking a look at their peripherals, as nine of their 10 losses this season have been by single-digits! The one exception was a blowout loss at Florida the first time the schools met, a Florida team that may very well be the top ranked team in the country when the new poll comes out next week. Besides that blowout loss, the next two worst losses for Tennessee this season were both by nine points, one to Florida in the rematch and the other to another team that will probably be ranked in the top two when the new poll comes out in 28-0 Wichita State! The Vols are ranked 20th in the country in offensive efficiency and a respectable 53rd in defensive efficiency while facing a tough schedule ranked 29th in SOS, making all of those close losses actually look impressive.

SMU Mustangs (21-6, Next Game - Sunday at Connecticut): So perhaps legendary Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown knew what he was doing when he accepted the SMU coaching job last season? The Mustangs went 15-17 in his first year at the helm, which was still an improvement over the Matt Doherty era, and the Mustangs have really burst on to the scene this year while currently sitting at 21-6. This team did crack the rankings for a week, but it dropped out after getting upset at Temple this past Sunday. Still, they are a team to be reckoned with despite making the jump from the weaker Conference USA last season to the fledging AAC this year, a conference that boasts the likes of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut. And yet SMU has gone 10-4 inside a stronger conference, with the worst of those four losses being by eight points each to the top two teams in the conference in Louisville and Cincinnati both on the road. They also have statement wins vs. Cincinnati in the rematch at home, Connecticut and Memphis along the way, so Brown certainly has his Mustangs NCAA Tournament bound regardless of what happens the rest of the season.