What others have said. You want to get competive in a hurry, recruit for ATH/D. This is a good starting place for lower prestige teams. You can usually find these guys. They'll be missing other core stats, usually scoring (because the higher prestige teams will be taking them), and other needed ratings. You'll smash SIM teams, and be competive and beat teams rated the same as you who aren't as athletic or defensive. You'll probably make the tournament when your squad turns to SR.
Then you'll hit the wall. You'll get smashed by teams that are actually well put together squads, that have rebounding, scorers, etc. You'll need to do the same and start balancing out your team.
Also, what Dahs said about passing. As the seasons go by, I thought passing was really important. Then I thought it was ball handling. Now when I see my teams lose, I think it was passing again. I'm really looking at my teams and trying to figure out the cost benefit break point on ball handling and passing.