10 Overrated Teams You Should Be Wary of Picking in Your March Madness Pool
Much of a team's postseason success depends on matchups, making it difficult to identify overrated teams before the NCAA tournament bracket is announced.
However, several teams seem to be given more credit than they deserve in the national rankings or by bracketologists.
Our ranking of the top 10 overrated teams is based on expected underachievement relative to that team's national ranking in the Associated Press or USA Today Top 25 polls, or its projected seeding in the NCAA tournament by bracketologists Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com and Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com.
For example, a team projected to be seeded No. 1 by bracketologists will be rated on its ability to reach the Final Four. A team ranked, say, No. 15 in the polls may be rated on its chances of getting to the Sweet 16.
Gonzaga is a good team. Based on the season results, it deserves to be ranked No. 1 and earn a No. 1 seed.
Nonetheless, we have serious doubts about whether the Bulldogs can win the national title or even get to the Final Four.
Dominating the West Coast Conference is not an indication the team is ready to win a national title. While top teams in power conferences were improving by playing a rugged schedule, the Bulldogs could only plateau.
The Bulldogs' victories over Kansas State and Oklahoma State were impressive last December.
There's a reason no team from outside the six power conferences has won an NCAA title since 1990.
A bigger issue is point guard. The Bulldogs don't have one. Kevin Pangos is a capable player, but he's not a true point guard, and is not expected to be drafted by the NBA, according to NBADraft.net and DraftExpress.com. Fifteen of the 16 teams that played in the NCAA championship game the past eight years had a point guard who was later drafted by the NBA.
Gonzaga's greatest postseason success came in 1999-2001, when it was a so-called "Cinderella team" facing no pressure. The Bulldogs have not won more than two postseason games since they became a national power.
But the Tigers may fall short of those limited expectations. They certainly are not as good as their No. 7 AP ranking on Christmas Day suggested.
Their 31-point loss to Florida in January followed by a three-point victory over the Gators in February is indicative of two Missouri traits:
1. The Tigers are erratic. Even if they win a game or two in the postseason, they are unlikely to go far. They lost in the first round to Norfolk State last year when they were seeded No. 2.
2. They play well at home and poorly on the road. The Tigers were 2-8 in games played on their opponent's home court, beating only Mississippi State and South Carolina, both of whom were 4-14 in the conference. No NCAA tournament games are being played in Columbia, Missouri.
UCLA is a strange team. The Bruins could be listed among the 10 most underrated teams as well as the 10 most overrated.
Everything depends on matchups and the Bruins' state of mind.
If they are allowed to play a free-wheeling game, they could get on a roll. A team with UCLA's talent could go deep into the tournament if it gathers momentum.
If they face a physical team that forces them to play a rugged, half-court game, they may lose early and look bad doing it. Cal blew out UCLA with a physical style that made the Bruins surrender. UCLA also lost by double digits to Washington State, which finished tied for last.
Picking UCLA in your pool is a gamble. The Bruins are a high-risk, high-reward proposition.
Creighton has an absolute star in Doug McDermott. He may be the best offensive player in the country.
However, the Bluejays have two issues that make them vulnerable:
1. They have no other reliable offensive threat. McDermott is the only player averaging double figures in scoring. If he has an off game or the opponent concocts a defense to contain McDermott, the Bluejays are cooked.
2. The Bluejays rely on a precise half-court offense to score. Generally that's a good thing. But in the postseason, the ability to score in transition or having a player who can create offensive opportunities on his own is almost essential to win the inevitable tight games.
Creighton is ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and seeded No. 6 and No. 7 by Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi, respectively. Things will have to fall into place nicely for the Bluejays to live up to those numbers.
Florida is headed in the wrong direction.
Anything less than a Final Four berth will be considered a disappointment, and we expect Gators fans to be disappointed.
The Gators lost three of their final six games before the conference tournament, and the SEC is not terribly strong. They simply are not playing as well as they did earlier.
More problematic is their lack of NBA-caliber talent. Every one of the past 25 national champions had at least one player who became a first-round NBA draft pick. Fifteen of those teams had at least three first-rounders.
Not having a pro-caliber point guard is also a shortcoming that could hurt the Gators in the postseason.
Syracuse's zone defense will present problems for any team that's not hitting its three-point shots. But a hot shooting opponent could put the Orange out early.
Syracuse is not the team it was earlier in the season, when it was 18-1 and ranked No. 3. It lost seven of its 13 remaining regular-season games, including four of its last six before the Big East tournament. Granted, all its losses were to quality teams, but teams with the expectations Syracuse has needs to be playing better in March.
Opponents have discovered that Syracuse is a poor three-point shooting team (31.3 percent, 263rd in the country at the start of the week, according to NCAA.com) and are defending the Orange accordingly.
Syracuse's victory over Pittsburgh in the first round of the Big East tournament may have restored some confidence, especially since the Orange shot so well from beyond the arc.
It may not be enough, though.
4. New Mexico
History and style suggest New Mexico may not live up to postseason expectations.
However, New Mexico has never advanced past the second round in the NCAA tournament. It was a top-five seed in both 2010 and 2012 and lost in the second round both times. As a No. 3 seed in 2010, the Lobos struggled in the first round against No. 14 seed Montana, then lost to No. 11 seed Washington.
Obviously, this is a different New Mexico team, but the issues are somewhat the same. The Lobos rely on outstanding defense to win. That works well over the course of a long regular season, but offensive firepower is needed in a pressure-packed, single-elimination format.
The Lobos rank 155th in the nation in scoring offense and 218th in field-goal percentage, according to NCAA.com. They scored just 34 points in a loss to San Diego State and 46 in a loss to St. Louis.
Some teams with offensive limitations have done well in the NCAA tournament, notably the 2010 Butler team that lost to Duke by two points in the title game.
It is rare, though.
Oregon does not even vaguely resemble the team that was 18-2 overall and 7-0 in the Pac-12, including wins over UCLA and Arizona.
The Ducks, once ranked No. 10 in the country, have slipped to a No. 8 seed in the tournament projections of Jerry Palm and No. 9 according to Joe Lunardi. But those numbers still seem to overestimate the Ducks' postseason potential at this point.
The downturn began when freshman point guard Dominic Artis was injured and lost for eight games. By the time he returned, things were out of hand.
Oregon went 5-6 in its 11 games heading into the conference tournament. The confident, aggressive style that had been present in January has dissolved into self-doubt.
A first-round defeat, perhaps even a blowout loss, seems possible.
As the ACC regular-season champion, Miami is automatically seen as a Final Four candidate.
However, three things suggest the Hurricanes may not reach the Final Four and may lose well before that:
1. Miami has not played well lately, losing three of its last five games before the ACC tournament. Losses to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, both of whom finished 6-12 in the ACC, were particularly troubling.
2. The Hurricanes rely on defense, ranking only 135th in scoring offense, according to NCAA.com.
3. The Hurricanes lack NBA-caliber talent. Neither NBADraft.com nor DraftExpress.com projects any Miami players to be taken in the first round of the NBA draft. Every one of the past 25 NCAA champions had at least one future first-round NBA draft pick on its team, and 15 of those teams has at least three first-rounders.
Arizona's wins over Florida and Miami seem like a long time ago now.
Those two December victories are why the Wildcats are seeded No. 3 in Jerry Palm's tournament projections and No. 4 in Joe Ludardi's. But those expected seeds seem to overstate the Wildcats' rightful status based on their play the past two months.
The Wildcats were just 4-4 in their final eight regular-season games when the conference title was on the line. They were not awful by any means, but they did not exhibit the qualities that made them look like a Final Four team three months ago.
Point guard play is an issue. Although Mark Lyons has a history of making clutch plays, he is not a true point guard in the playmaking sense. In the Wildcats' last four regular-season game, Lyons totaled just four assists and 10 turnovers. Nick Johnson has been their top assist man late in the season.
Lacking a playmaking floor leader and ranking 116th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, according to NCAA.com, are not the recipe for postseason success.
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