The 5 Most Overrated College Basketball Teams in 2015
We always like to keep our eyes on the underrated teams in college basketball as March Madness begins so that we can impress our friends and improve our brackets, but we also need to keep in mind some squads that might be a little overrated, too -- because they might just fall victim to a double-digit seed or this year's "Cinderella."
Those are the first-round upsets you need to pick to get ahead in your bracket challenges and win some money or just some respect among friends and colleagues. A lot of wanna-be-Joe-Lunardis won't pick those types of matchups correctly, but after reading this, you will at least know which teams may end up with overly generous seeds in the tournament.
You know why? Because a lot of people will just look at the teams' records and their ranks among the AP Top 25. However, you will have another layer of numbers -- our rankings based off of our metrics here at numberFire.
These rankings are driven entirely by analytics and number-crunching, and they are indicative of a team's true performance after factoring in things like strength of schedule, RPI, offensive, and defensive efficiency. Our teams are ranked according to their team nERD, which measures overall team efficiency and is an estimate of a team's score differential against a league-average team on a neutral court.
So we're going to take a look at five teams our nERD rankings say are overrated in the current AP Top 25 poll and see just how good they really are.
Wichita State Shockers
AP Rank: 13
nERD Rank: 18
The Shockers have usually been the best mid-major in the country not named Gonzaga for a few years. Accordingly, they're ranked 13th in the nation with a record of 23-3, with two losses coming against the RPI top 15. They're also ranked 19th in the nation in offensive efficiency and 10th in the nation in defensive efficiency -- both better than at least 94% of all NCAA teams.
On the other hand, Wichita State isn't the same team we saw go 35-1 just a year ago. They're only the third-best mid-major in the country, behind Gonzaga and Northern Iowa. In fact, the Shockers lost at Northern Iowa by 16 points and scored just 54 points in the loss. Their strength of schedule is 89th in the nation, and we project them as a 5-seed come tournament time -- potentially a prime matchup to pick a 12 over 5 upset in the first round.
AP Rank: 18
nERD Rank: 24
At 20-5 overall and 9-3 in the SEC, the Razorbacks are ranked 18th in the nation -- the highest ranked SEC team next to the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. They're also ranked 24th in RPI and 29th in offensive efficiency. However, the Razorbacks have the seventh-highest pace in all the land and are fairly inconsistent.
That's mostly due to the fact that the Razorbacks aren't very solid defensively. They're just 73rd among all teams in defensive efficiency and have given up 80 points on five different occasions this year -- and they haven't had a rough schedule by any means. Arkansas is a mere 67th in the nation in strength of schedule and have lost to three teams outside the RPI top 50 (Clemson, Florida, and Tennessee). As a result, we have the Razorbacks pegged as a 7-seed and likely to face a tough 7-10 matchup in the first round.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
AP Rank: 10
nERD Rank: 16
With a record of 22-4, the Fighting Irish are now ranked 10th in the nation and second in the ACC. They are the third-best team in the nation in terms of offensive efficiency and are better than 99.7% of all the offenses in the nation. To say they're one of the best offenses in the nation would be an understatement. In terms of major conference offenses, they might be the best.
But Notre Dame's downfall comes on the defensive end of the floor. They're 135th in all of college basketball in defensive efficiency and have faced just the 92nd hardest schedule in all the land. In fact, they gave up 90 points at Duke just 10 days ago. Notre Dame has its weaknesses, and the Fighting Irish might be exposed in the NCAA tournament sooner rather than later. We have the Irish down for a 6-seed, and in that position, they'd likely await a team capable of exploiting their poor defense.
AP Rank: 21
nERD Rank: 28
The Mustangs are rolling -- they're 11-1 in their last 12 games, with 6 of those wins coming away from Moody Coliseum. On the season, SMU's 21-5 and 12-2 in the American conference. Not only is SMU first in the conference, but they're also 28th in the nation in nERD and 20th in RPI. The Mustangs are very solid on both ends of the floor -- they're in the 84th percentile offensively and 90th percentile defensively.
But on the downside, SMU's beaten just one team (Tulsa) in the RPI top 50, and they've lost to all the others. Some could argue that SMU shouldn't even be in the top 25, like our metrics suggest. We currently project the Mustangs to enter the tournament as one of the 8-seeds in those dreaded 8-9 matchups. Be on the lookout for where they fall in this year's bracket.
AP Rank: 16
nERD Rank: 35
The Maryland name must carry a lot of weight -- they're the most overrated team in the top 25, according to our algorithms. In fact, compared to the other four teams on the list, the Terps have the biggest difference -- by far -- in their AP and nERD ranks. As good as their RPI (18th), offensive efficiency (66th), and defensive efficiency (56th) are, Maryland's strength of schedule isn't stellar.
The Terps have just the 44th toughest schedule in the nation and have lost three out of their last seven games. So while they may be second in the Big Ten, according to the numbers, they're not really top-20 material. We do, however, see Maryland as a 5-seed entering the tournament as they should likely finish out their season 4-1 against just one team inside the RPI top 50. They should go into the tournament strong, but they might be suspect to an upset not many could see coming.