Five Undervalued College Basketball Teams Heading into Conference Tournaments and March Madness


Payne Insider - Posted on 07 March 2013

 Creighton Blue Jays Undervalued from a Betting Perspective Image hosted by PayneInsider.com

Written By: Rich Salvatori @DickieSalvatori

The college landscape is in unique form - tightness of matchups is apparent and it allows for the unexplainable. Ole Miss falling at Mississippi State and Purdue winning in Madison would depict such.

Timing, motivation and situation create interesting opportunities and the aforementioned unexplainable to take place. In a generation where immediate gratification is held above all else, it’s important to think outside the box and consider teams flying under the radar.

Oddsmakers are well equipped for tournament season; after all, they’ve had months of preparation gauging the inner-workings of each team. That said, they understand the tendency for overreaction to recent events by the casual bettor. Sports books also comprehend this is the time of year where recreational bettors swarm the basketball marketplace like flies on feces. March Madness is the single largest event in sports betting (Super Bowl largest one day event), so keep an eye for undervalued teams in the marketplace as sports books cater to a less sharper client base.

Here are five teams undervalued in the college basketball marketplace that should provide value in their conference tournaments and beyond.

Louisville Cardinal: (AP Rank #8), (Vegas Power Rank #3)

The Cardinals' first loss came to Duke during life without Gorgui Dieng, debatably their most valuable piece. Louisville’s next four losses include Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown on the highway along with a five-overtime war in South Bend nobody will soon forget.

Louisville flexed their muscle in a rematch with Syracuse last Saturday knocking off the Orange in one of college basketballs toughest environments. Remember, this was a final four team a season ago that returned their core group. Throw in the fact they’re ranked #1 in defensive efficiency and this team has final four potential...again!

Depth, experience and coaching make this one of the most formidable units in the country. Vegas odds has Louisville installed at 12-1, extremely hefty considering this team has an equal, if not better chance to cut down the nets as a Gonzaga team listed at 6-1.

The 'Ville can get retribution on senior day against Notre Dame this Saturday. The Big East tournament follows, but the Big Dance is where this team should shine. Louisville has showed more scoring punch and increased offensive rebounding the last month, if they can score the ball and make opposing teams take it out of the basket their attacking defense will be a massive headache in tournament format.

Texas Longhorns: (AP Rank NR), (Vegas Power Rank #79)

Texas won’t be where they want at season’s end in terms of tournament qualification, but this young team has grown up significantly in recent weeks. The return of Myck Kabongo has helped immensely for a team playing inspired defense and rebounding the ball at a solid level. Sheldon McClellan, Ioannis Papapetrou and Cameron Ridley are better suited playing their new roles after dealing with carrying the load in Kabongo’s absence. While the 'Horns lack offensive firepower to grab leads and pull away, their style wears on opponents mentally and is extremely difficult to deal with.

Texas has been pushing the ball and playing more up tempo since Kabongo’s return, but they have the ability to slow things down and frustrate opponents with more drawn out offense. Such tactics worked in narrow losses to Kansas and at Oklahoma, as well as more recent home wins against Iowa State and the rematch with the Sooners.

The Big 12 tournament will feature plenty of teams on the "bubble." Teams flooded with teenagers facing pressure can falter at any time, but Texas will have little stress on their shoulders.

Creighton Blue Jays: (AP Rank NR), (Vegas Power Rank #14)

Creighton cruised to a 17-1 start before dropping 6 of their final 13, but the MVC is power rated the 8th best conference in college basketball. Blue Jays’ suffered four of five conference losses on the road, with the sixth coming against St. Mary’s. That matchup took place on the opposite side of the country on the heels of a five games in 13 days stretch - small glimpse of the situations college hoops encompass.

Creighton boasts the most efficient offense nationally, and showcases perimeter shooting at virtually every position. It makes their inside-out offense centered around Doug McDermott virtually unstoppable.

Hard to say why this team has been written off, but they’ve been cast out of the national spotlight. Winning the MVC tournament will be difficult, but Creighton can easily muster an elite eight run. Their success will be predicated on draw - they can be streaky shooting the ball from outside and have regressed defensively, but McDermott’s presence and their experience provides exponential value in march.

Alabama Crimson Tide: (AP Rank NR), (Vegas Power Rank #70)

When handicapping the SEC one could probably argue that Missouri has the second most talent top to bottom behind Florida, but don’t sleep on Alabama. The Crimson Tide just lost in Mississippi marking their third loss in eight games, the other two include a three-overtime slugfest in Baton Rouge and a loss against Florida in Gainesville (led deep into second half).

Few teams have the guard depth ‘Bama does, arguably the most vital quality successful teams feature in march. They also grade out as a top 30 team in defensive efficiency. The Tide may get bounced early if they sneak into the field of 68, but they can be a real threat in the SEC tournament where each game will be life or death.

Oklahoma Sooners: (AP Rank NR), (Vegas Power Rank #39)

The Sooners sit at 20-9 and will likely grab another win at TCU where they’ll be about a 15.5-point favorite. Overshadowed by some of the bigger names in the Big 12 don’t overlook OU. They have wins over Kansas and Oklahoma State and have tremendous versatility and depth.

Their bench accounts for 37% of their minutes played, good for 51st overall in the nation. Their starting bigs (Osby and M'Baye) can step outside and shoot from the perimeter initiating matchup nightmares for the opposition.

Oklahoma lost their starting point guard Buddy Heild earlier in the year and didn't miss a beat. You could argue they picked up a few crucial conference wins in that time span and their scoring depth make them difficult to game plan.

They tripped up at home against Stephen F. Austin earlier in the year, proof that strong defensive teams capable of playing at a slow pace can trouble the Sooners. That type of matchup could be equally challenging in a neutral setting during the NCAA tournament, but they should grade out well in both the Big 12 and NCAA fields.

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