Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December Stock Market

By Jean Neuberger

The 2013-14 college basketball season is heating up and already we've figured something out.

Parity will rule the day again.

So far, no clear cut team has emerged as the serious title front-runner, though Arizona and Syracuse have been solid and deserve their current spots at the top. Some teams have shown that they're legit contenders to make noise in March, while others have shown that they could be the team that crashes in the Big Dance. Let's take a look at some of the teams whose stock is worth buying or selling this season.

Kentucky (8-3)
Stock: Soft Sell

When you inherit a whole bunch of talented freshmen and throw them on the floor, you really don't know what to expect. There's loads of talent on this Kentucky team, but UK can really go two ways: either they gel as a team and make some real noise, or egos clash and the team suffers through a season similar to last year. Julius Randle has shown that he's going to be phenomenal and I really like what the Harrison twins bring to the lineup, specifically Andrew, whose assist to turnover ratio (3.8:2.5) is not bad. The Cats are really hard to diagnose right now, but they're certainly not among the top five teams, though the potential is there.

Villanova (10-0)
Stock: Sell

Surprised an undefeated, a top-10 team, is in the sell column? Believe it.

Villanova hasn't played a lot of quality opponents, but taking down Kansas and Iowa definitely raised and eye and returned the Wildcats back to the national limelight. However, I'm not exactly sold on Nova just yet. Jay Wright's guard-heavy attack generally works in taking down a big opponent or two but it never seems to work come March. I love that their top three scorers, (JayVaughn Pinkston, James Bell, and Darrun Hilliard) average less than 30 minutes a game. I hate their assist to turnover ratio. There's a lot to like; there's a lot not to like. This could change, but for now, I'm not buying a deep March run.

Iowa State (8-0)
Stock: Strong Buy

Iowa State gave Ohio State a major scare last season. This March, I think they scare a lot of people. I really, really like the Cyclones as a underrated seed that goes deep. They've already got three quality wins over Michigan, BYU, and Iowa. They've got five players averaging double digits. They shoot well. They rebound well. They don't beat themselves. Their assist to turnover ratio is fantastic. Fred Hoiberg has done a great job reviving this program and Iowa State seems to have the right ingredients to really throw a wrench in a few brackets come March.

Michigan State (8-1)
Stock: Neutral

The Spartans are good. Very good. When they're playing to their potential, they are arguably the best team in college basketball. The problem is, MSU has often been playing to the level of their opponents. Examples? Columbia. Oakland. Michigan State is similar to Kentucky in that they could easily be a Final Four team, but just as easily could be upset in the first round. Consistent inconsistency has me still up in the air on Tom Izzo's bunch, so I'm willing to say neutral and see more of the Spartans.

North Carolina (7-2)
Stock: Sell

Three really good wins against a good Michigan State squad, a great Louisville team and a young but talented Kentucky team. Two pretty bad losses to a rebuilding Belmont and a lukewarm UAB. It's pretty easy to say that UNC has the most puzzling early resume in college hoops. With that being said, I wouldn't take the Tar Heels past the Sweet 16, if not earlier. It's a hard sell; the peaks and valleys are just that steep. If they can show some consistency in ACC play, I might reconsider.

Wichita State (11-0)
Stock: Buy

The Shockers can really make a case that they're the best team in Kansas right now. Wichita just completed their SEC sweep with a win over Alabama. The most impressive stat of the night? Wichita shot 25-27 from the charity stripe. Cleanthony Early, Tekele Cotton, and Ron Baker are still playing angry and they're showing last season's Final Four run was no fluke.

Massachusetts (9-0)
Stock: Cautious Sell

Chaz Williams is awesome. Having said that, UMass seems to be another undefeated that, while beating a couple of good teams, is set to slide a little. The Minutemen will go as far as Williams takes them, which could be a nice Cinderella streak. Do the echoes of Lou Roe return though? Nope.

Florida (8-2)
Stock: Cautious Buy

The Gators have faced a brutal non-conference slate that I think will bode very well come March. Their losses to Wisconsin and UConn weren't ones to damage their resume too much, and their wins over Florida State, Kansas, and Memphis are solid. The buy is a cautious one for this reason. They've beaten the good teams on their slate that are ranked below them; they just haven't beaten anyone ranked higher than them yet. Billy Donovan's teams tend to make a lot of noise in March though, so take the buy. Just watch carefully.

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