Overrated/Underrated Teams: February Edition

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on February 3rd, 2016

As we enter February and March looms large, the identities of teams begin to crystallize both on the floor and in our minds. Sure, things can always change, but with over 20 games for most teams already in the books, it’s safe to say we know who these teams are. But those assumptions aren’t always right. Due to scheduling oddities, injuries or just plain poor judgment, the conventional wisdom on certain teams isn’t necessarily correct. So here is a rundown of several teams that are likely to be exposed as either underrated or overrated as we enter the stretch run of the regular season.

Overrated

Dunn's Rise Has Been Meteoric (USA TODAY Sports)

Kris Dunn’s rise has been meteoric, but has his team followed? (USA TODAY Sports)

  • Providence (18-5), ranked #11 — The AP Poll will tell you that the Friars are #11 in the country. Joe Lunardi will tell you they’re a #4 seed. But we’re here to tell you they aren’t that great (ed. note: this was written before last night’s loss at DePaul). For a team led by the great Kris Dunn, Providence is a shockingly bad offensive team, with an offensive efficiency that ranks just 118th nationally. Moreover, of its six Big East wins, five have been by four points or fewer or came in overtime. That probably means that Dunn is clutch and the Friars know how to win close games, but it also means that they’re keeping games closer than a borderline top 10 team should. This is reflected in the Friars’ low KenPom ranking of #47 (it was #39 prior to the DePaul game). Besides, as talented as this team is, Ed Cooley has never lacked for talent. What he has lacked is success. Don’t be surprised if that trend continues down the stretch.
  • Pittsburgh (17-4), unranked — Three weeks ago, the Panthers were 14-1, ranked #20 in the national polls and had the nation’s fourth most efficient offense. Six games later, that offense has fallen to 19th in efficiency and the Panthers are simultaneously falling off the map. Aside from an 18-point loss at Louisville, Pitt has yet to play any of the ACC elites, and should count itself extremely lucky to be 6-3 including close wins against Georgia Tech and Florida State. However, the good teams are coming. The Panthers will play Virginia, North Carolina, Miami, Duke and Louisville in February. Their current best win is one of games at home to Syracuse or at Notre Dame, but more wins are going to be hard to find down the stretch. The Panthers could see themselves on the bubble very soon.

  • Washington (14-7), unranked — This one may go without saying, but with the Huskies tied for second in the Pac-12 standings and listed as a #10 seed in Lunardi’s current field, we felt obligated to put them here. Washington just isn’t very good. Here are their six Pac-12 wins: by three in double-overtime, by two, by four in overtime, by four, by 12 and by two. As a matter of fact, Washington has been outscored by a total of 10 points in Pac-12 play, suggesting that its 6-3 record has more to do with luck than skill. The Huskies play fast and loose and are fun to watch, and Andrew Andrews is a fantastic name and player, but this team won’t stay relevant very much longer. KenPom ranks Washington 76th nationally and we agree. Unless you are filling out NIT brackets, you won’t need to worry about this team come March.

Underrated

Wichita State With Fred VanVleet Healthy is a Different Matter. (AP)

Wichita State With Fred VanVleet Healthy is a Different Matter. (AP)

  • Wichita State (16-5), ranked #21 — As Fred VanVleet goes, so go the Shockers. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the Shockers went 0-4 against Division I competition in his absence (counting the game in which he injured himself). Even then, losses to Iowa and USC now appear downright excusable, and if you really want to apologize for the Shockers, you could claim that VanVleet still wasn’t at 100 percent when Wichita State lost at Seton Hall in overtime after his return. However you feel about that, though, there’s no debate that the Shockers are playing ominously well right now. In a league where the same Northern Iowa team that beat Iowa State and North Carolina is currently seventh in the MVC standings, the Shockers are 10-0 with just one win coming by single figures. VanVleet and Ron Baker are seniors. Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp is playing better with each passing week. The Shockers will no doubt be underseeded in March because of those losses, and they will also be very dangerous.
  • Connecticut (15-6), unranked — The patented UConn National Championship strategy has been to play very good defense and have just enough offensive talent to carry you through March. Though no one is talking about the Huskies, this team ranks fourth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, and they’ll only get better now that the nation’s best shot-blocker, Amida Brimah, is back from a six-week absence. The Huskies are also 1-4 in one-possession games, implying they are likely a little better than their overall record suggests. It remains to be seen if Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs are on the Kemba Walker/Shabazz Napier/Ryan Boatwright trajectory, but Gibbs could light it up at Seton Hall, Purvis was a one-time McDonald’s All-American, and Hamilton is a legitimate triple-double threat with NBA potential. There are worse guys to rely on offensively.
  • Georgia Tech (12-10), unrankedStay with us here, but the Yellow Jackets might be the best 2-7 conference record team in the country. All of their ACC games have been decided by fewer than 10 points and if they had parlayed late leads at North Carolina and at home against Louisville into real victories as opposed to moral ones, then Georgia Tech would be a legitimate bubble team. For what it’s worth, the Jackets have had the toughest ACC schedule thus far, per KenPom, which puts them 58th nationally. The Jackets play five seniors, with Marcus Georges-Hunt leading the way with four 20+ point games in ACC play. Don’t be surprised if Georgia Tech’s record begins to settle closer to .500 in a Clemson-esque run for future national relevance.

Bonus: Teams in mid-major conferences who are playing really well even though they aren’t yet nationally relevant: Saint Mary’s, VCU, Saint Joseph’s, Valparaiso, Yale, Stony Brook

William Ezekowitz (26 Posts)


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2 responses to “Overrated/Underrated Teams: February Edition”

  1. Joe Dzuback says:

    Nice to see the Atlantic 10’s Saint Joseph’s and VCU get some recognition for their work this season. You are about two weeks ahead of the big media players on this Will. The Rams brought a mediocre 8-5 record into conference play, due in equal parts to first year coach Will Wade and the roster he inherited from Texas-bound Shaka Smart negotiating a Period of Adjustment and having Wade integrate a fifth year senior (Liberty’s Korey Billbury) into his offensive system. Credit goes to Wade for having the eye to recognize Moe Alie-Cox’s strengths and having the courage to dial Smart’s 94 foot HAVOC press and trap defense back 47 feet to a mid-court variation. The preliminary results, a 10-2 conference record with wins over Saint Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure. They are slated to close the regular season at #16 Dayton in a game that should decide who rides the top line going into the conference tournament in Brooklyn.

    Since their 14 point home loss to Villanova on December December 1 the Hawks have compiled a 17-2 record with wins over Temple, Virginia Tech and George Washington. Currently tied for second in the Atlantic 10, Saint Joseph’s will host frontrunner Dayton Wednesday night in a game that could scramble the top of the conference. No wonder the Hawks have started to appear on Jerry Palm’s and Joe Lunardi’s brackets.

  2. Joe Dzuback says:

    My bad on Korey Bullbury — he is a fifth year senior out of Oral Roberts, not Liberty.

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