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Defend That, Digger! The Overrated/underrated edition

ED NOTE: A special thank you to the passionate Syracuse fans that have stopped by today to make this the best Defend That, Digger ever. You guys are great and I would love to see you guys in March to settle this once and for all, hopefully on April 5th in Indianapolis. You have made some great arguments today and I will admit that I was wrong about some things here. What follows is the original, unedited article. The comments are also untouched.

2ND ED NOTE: I think we have seen enough here. Closing the comments early on this one. Thanks again to everyone from Syracuse for changing my mind.

Well, we all know that the Big East is overrated. This makes me come off as an overzealous homer and uneducated blogger, but I have my swagger back. A five game winning streak will do that, especially when the previously out of reach Big Ten title is very close at hand. It has been awhile since I have had a chance to rip on the Big East and the rest of Digger's beloved, but with seeding becoming more and more of a priority, here are some reasons that those teams may not be the elite teams they would profess.

I do think there are some elite teams. From what I have seen of Kansas and Kentucky, they can only beat themselves on a neutral court. They are clearly the best teams, they haven't lost at home, and it has taken a shockingly strong effort for each of them to lose so far. Everyone else is relatively mortal. Let's begin at the top of the "elite" pile:


Are you paying attention, Digger?

Syracuse (23-1)

Evidence of being overrated: LeMoyne 82, Syracuse 79

Seriously, this is one of the elite teams in the country? They lost to a Division II team! Syracuse is lucky that game didn't count, because it should count as three losses for them. I cannot take a team seriously that loses to the likes of LeMoyne. In games that counted Syracuse only has a home loss to Pittsburgh. That's the same Pittsburgh team that lost to Indiana. If you look at the schedule, Syracuse hasn't beaten anyone of note except Georgetown and West Virginia. Their non-conference wins over North Carolina, Cal, and Florida don't look as good right now. Syracuse has only played six true road games too, all in conference play. Of those, just one (West Virginia) came against a team that is definitely going to the tournament. This is no doubt a very, very good team, but let's calm down on booking a trip to Indy just yet.

ED NOTE: Consider me swayed by the many Syracuse posters. Syracuse is no longer overrated, but like everyone else, they are not a lock for Indianapolis.The only teams that are locks for Indy are the four that win on March 27th and 28th in Syracuse, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, and Houston

Villanova (20-2)

Evidence of being overrated: Temple 75, Villanova 65

This is a bit of a stretch, as I think the Wildcats are the best Big East team out there, but they seem a little one-dimensional. They struggle to play defense, as evidenced by giving up 101 at Georgetown this weekend. They also are a lot like Michigan State in that they don't have a lot of size. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are fantastic guards that can win games by themselves. Is Villanova really tested though? Temple is the best non-conference team they played. We'll know more tonight when they play at West Virginia. For a team being so similar to Michigan State I like the Spartans more because they have faced tougher competition.

West Virginia (19-3)

Evidence of being overrated: Purdue 77, West Virginia 62

If both teams have the same number of losses to similar types of teams, how then can West Virginia be ranked ahead of Purdue? The Boilers' 15-point wasn't even that close. West Virginia also lost to Notre Dame, who lost to Northwestern (one of Purdue's three losses) and Syracuse. That is the most impressive win for the Orange, as it came in Morgantown. Purdue is the only team to completely befuddle the Mountaineers so far. Anyone who actually watched that game would know Purdue is easily the better team, yet West Virginia continues to be ranked ahead of the Boilers. Most of West Virginia's best non-conference wins are losing esteem except for Ohio State. This team is capable of going to the Final Four, but I don't trust a Bob Huggins coached team in March. He has a history of early round flameouts.

Georgetown (17-5)

Evidence of being overrated: Old Dominion 61, Georgetown 57

This is really the #8 team in the country? ODU is currently 18-7 and a threat to be an at large team out of the CAA, but that wasn't a great loss since it was at home for the Hoyas. It was even in their smaller, more intimate gym. The Hoyas are an up and down team. They have some great wins over Villanova and Duke, but they also have been blown out in games against South Florida and Syracuse. Georgetown is a dangerous team because they have balanced scoring, a nice post presence in Greg Monroe, and good guards, but they tend to have games where they don't put it all together. They haven't had a four game winning streak since the ODU loss, meaning there are doubts they can win four straight in March.

Duke (19-4)

Evidence of being overrated: North Carolina State 88, Duke 74

Duke is a team that cannot play away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. They are just 2-4 in true road games, exhibiting a weakness that will once again manifest itself in March. Still, they are Duke, so they must be loved into the top 5 if at all possible, and that may happen today when the polls are released.

Texas (19-4)

Evidence of being overrated: The last two weeks

Didn't Gary Parrish say this was one of the teams that deserved to go to the Final Four because they were clearly elite and above everyone else? I guess in Gary's world free throws are not important. It is absolutely pathetic for a team this talented to shoot 61% from the line. Anything less than 75% is an embarrassment, with a special exemption to 70% if you have a Shaq-like center dragging your average down. I can't take a team seriously as a contender when only one player in the regular rotation shoots better than 70% from the line. It is especially sad when this team scores 84 points per game. If they had fundamentals (i.e. defense and free throw shooting) they would be unstoppable.

Teams that are underrated:

Digger may not love these teams, but these are the non-Purdue teams that I really like and have a chance to make some serious noise against the beloved of the Worldwide leader:

Wisconsin (18-5) - I consider the loss at Green Bay erased because they are the only team in the country with three wins over top 5 teams. Unfortunately, they can have games like Green bay or the overtime win over Penn State. This team will officially be dangerous once Jon Leuer returns. Can they translate the home success to the road and on neutral courts?

Northern Iowa (21-2) - This is a very good team that is a serious threat to make the Sweet 16. Their only losses came against DePaul (a bad Big East team) and at Wichita State (pretty good). The DePaul loss cost them a shot at Tennessee in the Virgin Islands. The Wichita State loss has already been avenged. They are also battled tested, as they played a pretty game against us last year as a #12 seed in the NCAA's. As the likely Missouri Valley champ they will make the tournament even as an at large team with good wins over Boston College, Siena, and a Bracket Busters game coming up against Old Dominion.

Tennessee (18-4) - This is an excellent club that still has a chance for some good wins with two games remaining against Kentucky. What they did in the win over Kansas was nothing short of amazing. The losses at Georgia and USC are not pretty, but they came within a shot of beating Purdue. They can play with anyone in the country, even shorthanded.

Cornell (20-3) - Do you really want to play the Fightin' Andy Bernards? They have already scared the crap out of Kansas at home and have beaten some good teams in non-conference play. They could get an at large bid out of the Ivy if they split the season series with Princeton and lose a proposed playoff game for the auto-bid. They also have a legitimate 7-foot center that can be a huge difference maker even against great teams. This team is experienced with a pair of NCAA appearances the last two years.

Butler (20-4) - Everyone said the Bulldogs were overrated after a tough non-conference stretch, but they played about as difficult of a schedule as possible to start. The Georgetown, Clemson, and Minnesota games could have gone either way. This team reminds me of Purdue last year in that they are still young, but they are learning how to win big games still with a few successes (like Ohio State). They've also only seriously been challenged once in conference play and can win the Horizon League title tonight with a win over Loyola. If they are shooting wellt hey can beat anyone. They also play the game the right way.