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NCAAB Futures: Bridges’ Return Makes Michigan State Faves

Miles Bridges is returning to East Lansing next season. The surefire lottery pick turned down millions in order to return to Michigan State and try to help claim a national championship for the Spartans. The high-profile return has boosted Michigan State’s profile and has made the Spartans the favorites to cut down the nets next year.

The six-foot-seven forward averaged 16.9 points during his freshman campaign, which is the most by a Spartans first-year player since Magic Johnson. It’s not just Bridges who makes this team a national title contender, though. Four of Michigan State’s top five scorers were freshmen last season and all will be on the team again this upcoming campaign. The young core suffered through plenty of growing pains during their first season together but those should be a thing of the past.

When you add to that young core a couple of high-profile forward recruits, there is a chance that this Michigan State squad has more pure talent than Tom Izzo has ever had in his coaching career.

Of course, the other teams nipping at Michigan State’s heels are the typical programs. Kentucky has the second-best odds at +1100 with UNC, Duke and Louisville all coming in at +1200.

2018 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of April 17 at Bovada

  • Michigan State +800
  • Kentucky +1100
  • North Carolina 1200
  • Duke +1200
  • Louisville +1200
  • Kansas +1400
  • Gonzaga +1400
  • Villanova +1400
  • Arizona +1600
  • Michigan +2500
  • Indiana +2500
  • Wichita State +2500
  • Florida +2500
  • UCLA +2500
  • Butler +2800
  • West Virginia +2800
  • Missouri +2800
  • Virginia +3300
  • Florida State +4000
  • Oklahoma +4000
  • Oregon +4000
  • Baylor +4000
  • Miami (FL) +5000
  • Notre Dame +5000
  • St. Mary's +5000
  • Purdue +5000
  • USC +5000
  • Seton Hall +6600
  • Alabama +6600
  • Connecticut +7500
  • Iowa State +7500
  • Vanderbilt +7500
  • Wisconsin +7500
  • Xavier +7500
  • Cincinnati +7500
  • Creighton +7500
  • Minnesota +7500
  • SMU +7500
  • Maryland +10000
  • Arkansas +10000
  • Illinois +10000
  • Marquette +10000
  • Northwestern +10000
  • San Diego State +10000
  • South Carolina +10000
  • Syracuse +10000
  • Texas A&M +10000
  • Utah +10000
  • VCU +10000
  • Virginia Tech +10000
  • Georgetown +15000
  • BYU +20000
  • Ohio State +20000
  • Providence +20000
  • TCU +20000
  • Stanford +20000
  • Arizona State +25000
  • Auburn +25000
  • California +25000
  • Clemson +25000
  • Colorado +25000
  • Dayton +25000
  • Georgia +25000
  • Iowa +25000
  • Kansas State +25000
  • Mississippi +25000
  • Mississippi State +25000
  • Rhode Island +25000
  • Tennessee +25000
  • Texas +25000
  • Oklahoma State +30000
  • Penn State +30000
  • Texas Tech +30000
  • Wake Forest +30000
  • NC State +50000
  • Pittsburgh +50000
  • Boise State +50000
  • Boston College +50000
  • Colorado State +50000
  • Harvard +50000
  • LSU +50000
  • Memphis +50000
  • Northern Iowa +50000
  • Oregon State +50000
  • UNLV +50000
  • Washington State +50000
  • Washington +50000

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The college basketball season just ended but that is not going to stop fans from looking forward to next season. The wheel keeps on turning and so do the odds, as books have already released their futures for the 2018 national champions.

Kentucky is listed as the early +1000 favorite according to Bovada. Sure, Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo will be playing in the NBA next season but John Calipari faces that type of issue every year. The Wildcats have already signed five five-star recruits and are in the conversation to nab a couple more. There is a notable lack of depth in the backcourt but highly touted recruit Hamidou Diallo has the ability to replace Monk and Wenyen Gabriel will get more minutes after flashing his talent during his freshman campaign.

Following Kentucky is fellow blue blood UNC (+1200). The Tar Heels will need to replace the paint presence of Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. That was a major concern about a month ago but Luke Maye proved that he is capable of being a starter in the frontcourt during the tourney. UNC does look like it will lack some serious size but has a glut of talent at the guard position between returning players and recruits.

One team certainly worth an early look is Wichita State. This is a Shockers team that ended the season 31-5 overall, made the second round of March Madness and will be returning every single starter next year. It won’t be as easy for Wichita State playing in the AAC compared to the Missouri Valley Conference. However, Gregg Marshall is a wizard of a coach and the depth of this team is undeniable.

2018 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of April 5 at Bovada

  • Kentucky +1000
  • North Carolina +1200
  • Duke +1400
  • Kansas +1400
  • Louisville +1400
  • Gonzaga +1400
  • Villanova +1400
  • Arizona +1600
  • Michigan State +2000
  • Michigan +2000
  • Indiana +2200
  • Florida +2500
  • UCLA +2500
  • Butler +2800
  • West Virginia +2800
  • Wichita State +2800
  • Florida State +3300
  • Oklahoma +3300
  • Oregon +3300
  • Virginia +3300
  • Miami (FL) +4000
  • Notre Dame +4000
  • St. Mary's +4000
  • BYU +5000
  • Purdue +5000
  • Seton Hall +5000
  • USC +5000
  • Alabama +6600
  • Connecticut +6600
  • Iowa State +6600
  • Vanderbilt +6600
  • Wisconsin +6600
  • Xavier +6600
  • Cincinnati +7500
  • Creighton +7500
  • Minnesota +7500
  • SMU +7500
  • Maryland +10000
  • Arkansas +10000
  • Illinois +10000
  • Marquette +10000
  • Northwestern +10000
  • San Diego State +10000
  • South Carolina +10000
  • Syracuse +10000
  • Texas A&M +10000
  • Utah +10000
  • VCU +10000
  • Georgetown +15000
  • Ohio State +15000
  • Providence +15000
  • Arizona State +25000
  • Auburn +25000
  • Baylor +25000
  • California +25000
  • Clemson +25000
  • Colorado +25000
  • Dayton +25000
  • Georgia +25000
  • Iowa +25000
  • Kansas State +25000
  • Mississippi +25000
  • Mississippi State +25000
  • Missouri +25000
  • Oklahoma State +25000
  • Rhode Island +25000
  • Tennessee +25000
  • Texas +25000
  • NC State +30000
  • Penn State +30000
  • Pittsburgh +30000
  • Stanford +30000
  • Texas Tech +30000
  • Virginia Tech +30000
  • Wake Forest +30000
  • Boise State +50000
  • Boston College +50000
  • Colorado State +50000
  • Harvard +50000
  • LSU +50000
  • Memphis +50000
  • Northern Iowa +50000
  • Oregon State +50000
  • UNLV +50000
  • Washington State +50000
  • Washington +50000
  • Mount St. Mary's +100000
  • Saint Joseph's 100000
  • Temple +100000

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We all love Cinderella runs and upsets in March Madness, but you must be happy to see UNC and Gonzaga face off in the national championship game. After all, there is little doubt that the Tar Heels and Bulldogs are the best teams in the nation.

UNC’s combination of board dominance and Justin Jackson’s offensive creativity have made the team a handful for any opponent this season. Senior Kennedy Meeks has been maybe the most important player, as his paint presence has helped UNC become the best rebounding team in the country.

Gonzaga has been one of the most efficient teams in the country thanks to frontcourt depth and the passing abilities of all-American Nigel Williams-Goss. Though Spokane, Washington legend Przemek Karnowski has not looked phenomenal during the tourney, backup Zach Collins has cemented himself as a first-round pick in the NBA draft.

2016-17 National Championship Game Odds
TeamSpreadMoneylineTotal
UNC-1.5 (-105)-125OVER 155 (-105)
Gonzaga+1.5 (-115)+105UNDER 155 (-115)

Odds as of April 3 at Bovada

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And then there were four. Though the road to the Final Four took some twists and turns, three of the remaining teams certainly entered the Madness as popular picks to cut down the nets in Arizona.

UNC enters the Final Four as the slight +140 favorite to win it all after little-known walk-on Luke Maye hit the game-winning shot against Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Of course, we will hear a lot about Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II but Kennedy Meeks may have quietly been the Tar Heels’ most important player. Meeks has averaged 13 rebounds per game over the past three outings while UNC has easily outrebounded each opponent in that span.

Gonzaga is posting the second-best odds with the Bulldogs entering the Final Four at +180. After starting the tourney slowly, Gonzaga decimated Xavier 83-59 in the Elite Eight to book the first Final Four berth in program history. Much like UNC, it has been an often-overlooked player for the Zags who has made the biggest impact. Johnathan Williams has averaged 16 points and seven rebounds while shooting 63.1 percent between the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight.

After the two No. 1 seeds, odds drop off with Oregon sitting at +550 and South Carolina at +750. Tyler Dorsey has been the hottest shooter of the tourney, as the Ducks sophomore has averaged 24.5 ppg while shooting 62.9 percent from the floor and 65.4 from deep. Senior Sindarius Thornwell has had a March Madness for the ages, with the Gamecocks guard averaging 25.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game while playing aggressive, pressure-based defense.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of March 27 at Bovada

  • UNC +140
  • Gonzaga +180
  • Oregon +550
  • South Carolina +750

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In a March filled with upsets and tightly contested games, Kansas has been the lone No. 1 seed to look absolutely dominant. In the first weekend of the tourney, Kansas had an average scoring margin of plus-29 points, shot 54.7 percent from the field and outrebounded opponents by a combined 30 boards.

With the Jayhawks crushing their opposition, Frank Mason and company find themselves as a slight +475 favorite to win the NCAAB tournament entering the Sweet 16. Kansas will face off against Purdue in the Sweet 16, which could expose a lack of frontcourt depth but will likely see the guards continue to draw fouls and rack up free points. Slowing down Kansas won’t be easy for any defense, as all five starters are averaging double-digit points so far during March Madness.

UNC comes in close behind Kansas at +500. The Tar Heels rightfully cruised past Texas Southern in the first round but then struggled mightily against Arkansas. UNC shot just 38.1 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from deep while turning the ball over 17 times, but lucky for them Arkansas looked just as bad. Getting Joel Berry going will be a huge help for UNC, as the point guard has been dealing with an ankle injury and has not looked good during March Madness.

Easily the most intriguing region is the East. Villanova and Duke both went down in the second round and any of the teams remaining could find themselves in the Final Four. Florida has the best odds of any team in the East to cut down the nets at +1200. The Gators absolutely destroyed Virginia by holding the Cavaliers to just 39 points. We can’t expect Florida to play that well defensively and their opponents to play that poorly offensively, but the Gators have a very good defense and can score when they need to.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of March 20 at Bovada

  • Kansas +475
  • UNC +500
  • Arizona +650
  • Gonzaga +650
  • UCLA +900
  • Kentucky +1000
  • Florida +1200
  • Baylor +1600
  • Michigan +1600
  • West Virginia +1800
  • Oregon +1800
  • Wisconsin +1800
  • Purdue +2000
  • Butler +4000
  • South Carolina +5000
  • Xavier +7500

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After months and months of anticipation, it’s finally time for the NCAAB tournament to begin. With the bracket out, fans can map potential matchups for their favorite teams throughout the tourney and see just how difficult it is going to be for their boys to cut down the nets.

Of course, oddsmakers have done the same thing to see who should justifiably be listed as betting favorites entering the Madness. And the names atop the list should not come as much of a shock to casual and hard-core fans of basketball alike.

ACC rivals Duke and UNC pace the pack. The Blue Devils find themselves entering the tournament playing their best basketball of the season and have a relatively easy path to the Elite Eight. It gets infinitely more challenging from that point on with Duke taking on Villanova in the East Region finals if chalk holds true. The Tar Heels have some favorable matchups with the No. 1 seed in the South Region, but that bracket also features the likes of UCLA and Kentucky.

The next three teams are nothing but college basketball blue bloods with Villanova, Kansas and Kentucky all within striking distance of the top spot per the odds.

’Nova enters the tourney as the best team in the country and few people would debate that. They have maybe the most valuable player in the country in Josh Hart and their lineup largely consists of the same team that won it all last year.

Kansas has potentially the best backcourt in the country, which has proven to be incredibly important for deep runs into the tournament over the past several years. Frank Mason III is one of the two most clutch players in the country. Only Oregon’s Dillon Brooks can keep up with the senior, and he has routinely put the team on his back late in games this season.

Kentucky is a dangerous pick due to their relative inexperience — their top three options offensively are freshmen — but they may have more skill than anyone else in the nation. Malik Monk is plenty capable of creating his own shot and De’Aaron Fox flashed some prolific scoring in the SEC tournament to go with his versatile game.

Once again, Gonzaga finds itself a step behind the elite. The Bulldogs have become a bit of a joke among college basketball fans with their habit of folding early in the NCAAB tourney. This team is different from the program’s past, as it has a glut of scorers instead of relying on a select few like the past. The Zags will get tested early and often in the tournament, but this team seems up to the challenge.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of March 12 at BetOnline

  • Duke +600
  • North Carolina +600
  • Villanova +750
  • Kansas +800
  • Kentucky +850
  • Gonzaga +1000
  • Arizona +1200
  • UCLA +1200
  • Louisville +1600
  • Oregon +1800
  • Florida State +2500
  • West Virginia +2500
  • Florida +2800
  • Purdue +2800
  • Baylor +3300
  • Virginia +3300
  • Iowa State +3300
  • SMU +3300
  • Michigan +3300
  • Notre Dame +4000
  • Wisconsin +4000
  • Butler +5000
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Cincinnati +8000
  • Saint Mary’s +8000
  • Creighton +10000
  • Maryland +10000
  • Michigan State +10000
  • Oklahoma State +10000
  • Rhode Island +10000
  • Miami +15000
  • Vanderbilt +15000
  • Xavier +15000
  • Wichita State +15000
  • South Carolina +20000
  • Northwestern +20000
  • Virginia Tech +20000
  • Seton Hall +20000
  • USC +20000
  • Kansas State +20000
  • Middle Tennessee +20000
  • Dayton +25000
  • Arkansas +25000
  • Marquette +25000
  • Providence +25000
  • Wake Forest +25000
  • VCU +30000
  • UNC Wilmington +50000
  • Nevada +50000
  • Winthrop +50000
  • Princeton +75000
  • East Tennessee State +75000
  • Vermont +75000
  • Bucknell +75000
  • New Mexico State +200000
  • Iona +200000
  • Florida Gulf Coast +200000
  • North Carolina Central +200000
  • Kent State +500000
  • Troy +500000
  • Jacksonville State +500000
  • Mount St. Mary’s +500000
  • New Orleans +500000
  • South Dakota State +500000
  • Texas Southern +500000

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This season has been one of unpredictability in college hoops. Unlike many previous years, there is not a small handful of teams running away from the rest of the nation. Instead, we are seeing every team dropping a couple of games, as there are currently 21 teams ranked that have four to six defeats on the year.

With parity reigning supreme, books have found themselves at a loss as to who should be the favorite to cut down the nets in Phoenix. Duke, Gonzaga and Kansas all sit at +700 to be the last team standing, with UNC and UCLA close behind at +900. And all of those teams have flaws.

Duke has a bad tendency to lose close games. Gonzaga is undefeated but plays in the WCC. Kansas has struggled to guard the 3-point line. UNC has had issues on the road. UCLA’s defense is just atrocious.

Though this all sounds negative, it has been great for college basketball. This season has epitomized that any team can win any game more than any other in recent memory. Of the five teams mentioned above, four have dropped at least one game against an unranked opponent. This has given bettors fits at the time but it also means there is plenty of value when it comes to the futures market.

A perfect example is Syracuse. The Orange are currently +4000 and have wins over FSU, Duke and Virginia. Syracuse is unranked but at +4000, they have better odds than ranked Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Creighton, Butler, SMU and St. Mary’s.

Long and short, there is plenty of value at the top of the board but there is just as much deeper down. There are teams with legitimate chances to cut down the nets, teams that have beaten some top-tier opponents, that can be had as high as +10000.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of February 23 at Bovada

  • Duke +700
  • Gonzaga +700
  • Kansas +700
  • North Carolina +900
  • UCLA +900
  • Villanova +1000
  • Kentucky +1200
  • Oregon +1200
  • Louisville +1400
  • Arizona +1400
  • Florida +2000
  • Florida State +2500
  • Baylor +2500
  • West Virginia +2800
  • Maryland +3300
  • Virginia +3300
  • Wisconsin +3300
  • Purdue +3300
  • Syracuse +4000
  • Cincinnati +5000
  • Notre Dame +7500
  • Creighton +7500
  • Butler +7500
  • Michigan State +10000
  • SMU +10000
  • St. Mary's +12500
  • Miami (FL) +15000
  • Xavier +15000
  • Iowa State +15000
  • USC +15000
  • Wichita State +15000
  • South Carolina +20000
  • Indiana +20000
  • Michigan +20000
  • Oklahoma State +20000
  • Northwestern +30000
  • Kansas State +30000
  • Dayton +30000
  • Marquette +30000
  • California +30000

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It took Gonzaga being ranked the top team in the nation and being the last program in D1 to remain undefeated for oddsmakers to notice, but the Bulldogs are finally the favorites to win the NCAAB Tournament. Sure, there were probably some doubts about Gonzaga entering the season considering the program would be relying on a team largely composed of transfers, but those are long gone.

The Zags have everything you could ever need in a national champion. A stud point guard in Nigel Williams-Goss, a dominant big man patroling the paint in Przemek Karnowski, tons of shooters, a defensive mentality and an excellent head coach. Some will want to ignore these and point out that Gonzaga’s conference isn’t very good, but the Bulldogs are 4-0 against ranked opponents while posting a scoring margin of plus-10.5 points in those affairs.

UCLA finds itself near the top once again, as the Bruins have rattled off four straight wins following a two-game skid. UCLA is easily the best offense in the country with the team averaging 91.9 ppg and shooting 53.3 percent. In addition to that, Lonzo Ball has started to assert himself more and more as a scorer lately without hindering his playmaking abilities. Of course, the Bruins need to prove they can stop anyone of note defensively because you can’t win the national championship by just getting into pure scoring contests.

Keep your eyes on Duke, as the Blue Devils are surging back up the board following the return of coach Mike Krzyzewski. Grayson Allen is apparently back to his old scoring ways, Luke Kennard is a handful for opposing defenses and Jayson Tatum is a superstar. The Blue Devils are loaded to the brim with talent and are clearly pointed in the right direction once again.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of February 14 at Bovada

  • Gonzaga +700
  • UCLA +800
  • Kansas +850
  • Duke +1000
  • Louisville +1000
  • Kentucky +1100
  • Villanova +1100
  • Arizona +1200
  • Oregon +1200
  • North Carolina +1200
  • Florida State +1800
  • Virginia +1800
  • West Virginia +2000
  • Florida +2200
  • Wisconsin +2800
  • Baylor +2800
  • Maryland +3300
  • Purdue +4000
  • Notre Dame +5000
  • Cincinnati +5000
  • Creighton +6600
  • Syracuse +6600
  • Butler +7500
  • Michigan State +10000
  • South Carolina +10000
  • Xavier +10000
  • Indiana +10000
  • St. Mary's +10000
  • SMU +10000
  • Iowa State +15000
  • USC +15000
  • Wichita State +15000
  • Oklahoma State +20000
  • Michigan +20000
  • Northwestern +20000
  • Kansas State +20000
  • Dayton +25000
  • Marquette +30000
  • Miami (FL) +30000
  • Virginia Tech +50000
  • Alabama +50000
  • Rhode Island +50000
  • California +50000
  • Texas A&M +50000
  • Seton Hall +50000
  • Clemson +50000
  • Arkansas +50000
  • Tennessee +50000
  • Illinois State +50000

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We all know just how loaded with talent the freshman crop of guards is in college this season. The likes of Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr. and Markelle Fultz are grabbing headlines and will be off to the NBA next season, but veteran savvy has proven to be the most important aspect for backcourts during the NCAA Tournament.

Of the 20 players who made up the starting backcourt tandems for the past 10 national champions, 16 were upperclassmen. And only one team sent two underclassmen to the court regularly; the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats started Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague. And, to be frank, guards didn’t matter for a team that had Anthony Davis dominating the paint the way he did.

With the assumption that two upperclassmen will comprise the backcourt for this year’s national champion, here are a few teams that may cut down the nets in Phoenix.

Kansas Jayhawks (+800)

Frank Mason is the front-runner for the National Player of the Year. Mason is leading the Big 12 with 19.9 points per game while sitting fourth in the conference with 5.2 assists per contest. The senior is also shooting a gaudy 50 percent from the field and 51 percent from beyond the arc.

Though he is getting overlooked, Devonte Graham has actually been playing better this season than he did during his sophomore campaign. Graham has made a sizable jump in nearly every statistical category this year. Though he’s not as flashy as Mason, he is a steady presence who can be counted on to contribute on both ends of the floor.

Baylor Bears (+2800)

Let’s get one thing straight first: this is Johnathan Motley’s team. Baylor will be focused on Motley’s fantastic two-way game for the entire season. However, the backcourt tandem of Manu Lecomte and Al Freeman has been a big reason for the Bears’ success.

Since transferring from Miami, Lecomte has masterfully controlled the Baylor offense while increasing his own offensive output. Freeman has not been getting the ball as much as he did last season with Lecomte on the roster and has seen a dip in his stats due to this, but he is dependable, steady and knows the offense well.

*Junior Ishmail Wainright technically plays the three but is largely used in a combo guard role for Baylor.

Saint Mary’s Gaels (+10000)

This is a team that has the perfect duo running the attack. Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon have no problem playing in one of the slowest-paced offenses in the country while giving everything they have on defense. This tandem passes the ball so well that 64.8 percent of the Gaels’ points come off the assist.

The senior-junior duo understands that the goal is to properly run the offense and get the ball into the hands of Jock Landale and Calvin Hermanson. Naar and Rahon simply will not get rattled under the bright lights, now let’s hope that the big men can handle it as well.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of February 7 at Bovada

  • Kentucky +700
  • Kansas +800
  • Gonzaga +800
  • UCLA +900
  • North Carolina +900
  • Villanova +1000
  • Duke +1000
  • Arizona +1200
  • Oregon +1200
  • Louisville +1800
  • West Virginia +2000
  • Florida State +2000
  • Baylor +2800
  • Virginia +2800
  • Florida +2800
  • Wisconsin +2800
  • Maryland +2800
  • Notre Dame +4000
  • Purdue +4000
  • Creighton +5000
  • Butler +5000
  • Michigan State +6600
  • Xavier +6600
  • Cincinnati +6600
  • Iowa State +7500
  • Indiana +10000
  • St. Mary's +10000
  • South Carolina +10000
  • Syracuse +10000
  • Wichita State +15000
  • USC +15000
  • Oklahoma State +15000
  • SMU +15000
  • Virginia Tech +15000
  • Michigan +20000
  • Northwestern +20000
  • Miami [FL] +20000
  • Dayton +25000
  • Rhode Island +50000
  • California +50000
  • Texas A&M +50000
  • Seton Hall +50000
  • Clemson +50000
  • Arkansas +50000
  • Alabama +50000
  • Tennessee +50000

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Everything was supposed to be coming up roses for the Duke Blue Devils this college basketball season. Duke was returning its leading scorer in Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson was on the mend and the team boasted one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. However, 20 games into the season, Duke sits at 15-5 and ninth in the ACC.

These struggles, especially within conference play, have everybody wondering: what has happened to Duke?

It’s not a question you can answer easily. It’s a complex situation that has slowly affected the team through a series of dominoes falling one by one. One of the most pressing issues has been the absence of Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has been away from the team following back surgery. Since then, Duke has gone 3-3 (as of this writing) and has seen its defense begin to crumble.

Nothing against interim coach Jeff Capel, but Coach K is the most successful college coach of all time and has a wealth of experience dealing with highly touted prospects. Which leads to the next issue.

The Blue Devils have zero identity. I know that sounds like a buzzword, but this Duke team has been failing to mesh. Normally, Krzyzewski is able to take the best players from their respective high schools and get them to buy into his scheme to better the team and their career. However, without Krzyzewski’s guidance, the players don’t seem to understand one another. Duke simply doesn’t pass the ball well, with players opting to call their own number far too often. The Blue Devils are averaging just 0.477 assists per field goal made, which has them ranked 283rd in the nation.

This lack of awareness comes back to the biggest question Duke faced during the preseason: who is the point guard? If you look atop the national rankings, the best teams tend to have the best point guards. Whether it’s the likes of Frank Mason’s incredibly efficient shooting or Lonzo Ball’s pass-first style, talented play at the one has become critical in college basketball this season. Either Grayson Allen or Luke Kennard has been forced to play point this season and both are natural twos, though Allen is an OK passer. Frank Jackson is the starter of the future, but still has a shooter's mentality that won’t aid in facilitating the offense.

It’s still fairly early in the season and Duke has time to fix its wrongs. The presence of Krzyzewski should do wonders for this team, though it may come a little late for a conference title. Once the NCAAB tournament hits, we will see what this Duke squad is made of, but unless there is something we are not seeing, it may not be championship material.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of January 26 at Bovada

  • Kentucky +600
  • UCLA +600
  • Villanova +900
  • North Carolina +900
  • Gonzaga +1000
  • Kansas +1200
  • Florida State +1200
  • Arizona +1200
  • Duke +1400
  • West Virginia +1400
  • Baylor +1600
  • Virginia +2200
  • Louisville +2500
  • Oregon +2800
  • Wisconsin +3300
  • Notre Dame +4000
  • Creighton +4000
  • Indiana +5000
  • Purdue +5000
  • Michigan State +5000
  • Butler +5000
  • NC State +5000
  • Xavier +6600
  • Maryland +6600
  • South Carolina +7500
  • Florida +7500
  • St. Mary's +7500
  • Syracuse +7500
  • Cincinnati +10000
  • Virginia Tech +15000
  • Wichita State +15000
  • Michigan +15000
  • USC +15000
  • Rhode Island +20000
  • Oklahoma State +20000
  • SMU +20000
  • Texas A&M +30000
  • Iowa State +30000
  • Miami (FL) +30000
  • Seton Hall +30000
  • VCU +30000
  • Clemson +30000
  • California +30000
  • Ohio State +30000
  • Dayton +30000
  • Connecticut +50000
  • BYU +50000
  • Pittsburgh +50000
  • Arkansas +50000
  • Illinois +50000
  • Alabama +50000

-------------------------------

Lost among the usual blue blood powerhouses and the exciting high-tempo offenses that television networks adore has been the Arizona Wildcats. Coach Sean Miller has taken a group of young players and molded them into a team ranked in the top 30 nationally in scoring differential, rebounding rate and points allowed.

With the Wildcats sitting atop the Pac-12 as of this writing, one needs to wonder just what Arizona will need to do in order to get people to pay attention.

Arizona has two losses, but neither of them were what could be considered bad, as they lost to Butler and Gonzaga by a combined 11 points. Yes, those two games were easily the stiffest competition Arizona has faced all season, but this young core of players should learn and grow from those early season losses long before the one-and-done style of March Madness.

The freshman trio of Lauri Markkanen, Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons has quietly developed into one of the best in the nation. The three youngsters are averaging a combined 39.9 points and 15.1 rebounds per game while shooting 45.1 from the floor. These three could get even better with starting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright returning to the lineup.

Jackson-Cartwright is a diminutive true point guard who excels at keeping the ball safe and getting the first pass off to the right player. His return from injury could potentially force Simmons to move to the shooting guard position, which should allow him to utilize his best asset, which is his jumper.

The Pac-12 will feature a brutal slate of games for a young Arizona team, but that should be the true litmus test of the Wildcats. Arizona’s defensive scheme will allow the team to hide some of the issues its younger players may have through conference play, but don’t expect any of those struggles to continue into March.

Arizona still has a steep hill to climb in order to cut down the nets but, if you see this team getting better throughout the season, you may not find better value than right now.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of January 10 at Bovada

  • UCLA +500
  • Duke +525
  • Kentucky +550
  • Kansas +1200
  • North Carolina +1200
  • Villanova +1200
  • Baylor +1400
  • West Virginia +1800
  • Indiana +2200
  • Gonzaga +2200
  • Oregon +2200
  • Wisconsin +2500
  • Louisville +2500
  • Florida State +2500
  • Virginia +3300
  • Creighton +3300
  • Purdue +3300
  • Michigan State +4000
  • Arizona +4000
  • Butler +4000
  • Syracuse +5000
  • Xavier +5000
  • St. Mary's +6600
  • Wichita State +7500
  • Notre Dame +7500
  • NC State +10000
  • Florida +10000
  • Virginia Tech +10000
  • Cincinnati +10000
  • Michigan +12500
  • South Carolina +12500
  • Rhode Island +15000
  • Oklahoma State +15000
  • USC +15000
  • Georgetown +20000
  • Texas A&M +20000
  • Iowa State +20000
  • Clemson +20000
  • California +20000
  • Maryland +20000
  • Seton Hall +30000
  • Ohio State +30000
  • Washington +30000
  • Connecticut +30000
  • Miami (FL) +30000
  • Colorado +30000
  • SMU +30000
  • BYU +30000
  • Marquette +30000
  • Kansas State +30000
  • Dayton +30000
  • Pittsburgh +30000
  • Arkansas +30000
  • San Diego State +50000
  • VCU +50000
  • Illinois +50000
  • Alabama +50000
  • Oklahoma +100000

-------------------------------

Baylor is fourth in the nation, according to the Associated Press. The Bears opened the season with 12 consecutive wins by an average of 20.9 points per game. They also have four wins over then-ranked opponents.

If we only look at the four games against ranked opponents, Baylor has an average scoring margin of plus-12.5 while holding opponents to 36.8 percent from the floor. 

Despite all of this, the Bears are +2500 to win the national championship. That has them tied for the 10th-best odds in the country, which includes being tied with an Oregon team they defeated 66-49.

Barring a collapse of epic proportions, Baylor should at least finish second in the Big 12 and easily clinch a bid into the NCAA tournament. Any opponent facing Baylor during March will be in for a battle, as the Bears’ top seven scorers are at least juniors, which means they were with the program during their Sweet 16 run in 2014 and their unceremonious early exit in 2015. This experience has been important over the past several years, as veteran-laden teams have traditionally done well in the tournament.

Once again, Duke remains the favorite, according to books, with the Blue Devils sitting at +400. There are plenty of returning names on the Duke roster with Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson leading the way. However, it has been Jayson Tatum who has really been the star, as the freshman has averaged 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in his first five games since joining the lineup following foot injury.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of December 27 at Bovada

  • Duke +400
  • UCLA +500
  • Kentucky +700
  • Kansas +900
  • North Carolina +1000
  • Villanova +1200
  • Indiana +1800
  • Louisville +2000
  • Gonzaga +2200
  • Wisconsin +2500
  • Oregon +2500
  • Baylor +2500
  • Syracuse +2800
  • Virginia +2800
  • Michigan State +3300
  • Creighton +4000
  • West Virginia +4000
  • Xavier +4000
  • Arizona +5000
  • St. Mary's +5000
  • Wichita State +6600
  • Purdue +6600
  • Notre Dame +7500
  • NC State +7500
  • South Carolina +10000
  • Virginia Tech +10000
  • Michigan +10000
  • Florida +10000
  • Texas A&M +10000
  • Rhode Island +10000
  • Butler +10000
  • Oklahoma State +12500
  • Ohio State +12500
  • Florida State +12500
  • Georgetown +15000
  • Iowa State +20000
  • Connecticut +20000
  • Washington +20000
  • Cincinnati +20000
  • Clemson +20000
  • USC +20000
  • California +20000
  • Miami (FL) +25000
  • Colorado +25000
  • SMU +25000
  • Seton Hall +25000
  • Texas +30000
  • BYU +30000
  • Arkansas +30000
  • Marquette +30000
  • Oklahoma +30000
  • Maryland +30000
  • Kansas State +30000
  • Dayton +30000
  • San Diego State +50000
  • VCU +50000
  • Pittsburgh +50000
  • Nebraska +50000
  • Alabama +50000
  • Illinois +50000

-------------------------------

UCLA came into the season with high hopes, but some tempered expectations with several freshmen stepping into the starting lineup. But these youngsters have been a big reason why the Bruins have opened the season 10-0, including a massive victory over a then No. 1 ranked Kentucky team.

Lonzo Ball has stepped into the starting point guard position and has instantly cemented himself as one of the best point men in the country. Ball is averaging 15.0 points, 8.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field through the first month of the college basketball season. Ball’s impressive play has also allowed senior Bryce Alford to catch and shoot, which he is much better at than off the dribble.

Although T.J. Leaf was a five-star recruit, Ball’s arrival in LA overshadowed Leaf’s arrival but the 6’10” small forward has been a phenomenal shooter. Leaf is averaging 17.6 points while shooting 67.9 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc.

UCLA’s combination of youth and experience has made the Bruins one of the best teams in the nation and has caused the value on their futures odds to dwindle. Opening the season, the Bruins were +5000 but that number had plummeted to +800 – the fourth-best – as of Monday.

Unsurprisingly, Duke remains atop the odds at +450. The Blue Devils opened the season 10-1 with the one loss coming at the last second to a then No. 7 Kansas squad. The scariest part of Duke’s start? The Blue Devils have done so almost entirely without any of their highly recruited freshmen. Both Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden didn’t play until the eighth game while star recruit Harry Giles likely won’t play until the conference schedule starts.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of December 12 at Bovada

  • Duke +450
  • Kentucky +650
  • UNC +750
  • UCLA +800
  • Kansas +900
  • Villanova +1400
  • Indiana +1600
  • Syracuse +2200
  • Wisconsin +2200
  • Baylor +2200
  • Oregon +2500
  • Virginia +2800
  • Gonzaga +3300
  • Xavier +3300
  • Michigan State +3300
  • Louisville +3300
  • Creighton +3300
  • Arizona +5000
  • NC State +5000
  • Wichita State +5000
  • West Virginia +5000
  • Purdue +6600
  • Michigan +6600
  • St. Mary's +6600
  • South Carolina +7500
  • Rhode Island +7500
  • Butler +10000
  • Iowa State +10000
  • Florida +10000
  • Notre Dame +10000
  • Ohio State +10000
  • Florida State +12500
  • Connecticut +12500
  • Washington +12500
  • Georgetown +15000
  • Seton Hall +15000
  • Oklahoma +15000
  • Cincinnati +15000
  • Maryland +15000
  • Texas A&M +15000
  • California +15000
  • Oklahoma State +15000
  • Texas +20000
  • Miami +20000
  • Virginia Tech +20000
  • Colorado +20000
  • Clemson +20000
  • SMU +20000
  • USC +20000
  • San Diego State +20000
  • BYU +25000
  • VCU +25000
  • Auburn +25000
  • Vanderbilt +25000
  • Marquette +30000
  • Kansas State +30000
  • Dayton +30000
  • UNLV +30000
  • Temple +30000
  • Pittsburgh +50000
  • Nebraska +50000
  • Iowa +50000
  • Alabama +50000
  • Illinois +50000

-------------------------------

Despite dropping from first to fifth in the rankings, the Duke Blue Devils remain the favorites to win the NCAA tournament. The biggest reason Duke fell was due to a tough 77-75 loss to Kansas on a final-second jumper from Frank Mason. If you remove that loss, the Blue Devils are outscoring opponents by 25.0 points per game, which includes a 10-point victory over a ranked Rhode Island squad.

Duke now sits at +500 to win the Madness per Bovada, but Kentucky (+600), Kansas (+700) and UNC (+700) are all close behind.

Kentucky vaulted to the top of the rankings thanks to a perfect 4-0 record, which includes a 69-48 victory over then 13th-ranked Michigan State. The freshman duo of Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox has been the best in the nation, with the tandem averaging 31.1 points per game.

Kansas opened the season with a tough overtime loss to Indiana, but has since gone undefeated, including the previously mentioned victory over Duke. Many expected Mason to be the key piece of the Jayhawks offense, but nobody expected the guard to average 21.6 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field.

UNC has basically steamrolled its opposition and has yet to face a real challenge. The Tar Heels have an average scoring margin of plus-29.3 points. But the easy wins are likely over, as they face Wisconsin and Indiana in their next two games and a date with Kentucky is just around the corner.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of November 23 at Bovada

  • Duke +500
  • Kentucky +600
  • Kansas +700
  • North Carolina +700
  • Syracuse +1200
  • Villanova +1400
  • Indiana +1800
  • Wisconsin +1800
  • Oregon +2000
  • Virginia +2500
  • Arizona +2800
  • Michigan State +3300
  • Xavier +3300
  • Louisville +3300
  • UCLA +4000
  • NC State +4000
  • Purdue +4000
  • Texas +5000
  • Connecticut +5000
  • Gonzaga +5000
  • Maryland +7500
  • West Virginia +7500
  • St. Mary’s +7500
  • Creighton +7500
  • California +10000
  • Iowa State +10000
  • Michigan +10000
  • Florida +10000
  • Baylor +10000
  • Washington +10000
  • SMU +10000
  • Rhode Island +10000
  • Georgetown +10000
  • Miami (FL) +15000
  • Oklahoma +15000
  • Texas A&M +15000
  • Iowa +15000
  • Seton Hall +15000
  • Florida State +15000
  • USC +15000
  • Wichita State +15000
  • Butler +15000
  • Cincinnati +20000
  • Ohio State +20000
  • Arizona State +20000
  • Notre Dame +20000
  • Vanderbilt +20000
  • VCU +20000
  • San Diego State +20000
  • South Carolina +20000
  • Tennessee +20000
  • Kansas State +20000
  • Marquette +20000
  • Pittsburgh +20000
  • Mississippi State +20000
  • Arkansas +25000
  • Dayton +30000
  • UNLV +30000
  • Colorado +30000
  • Alabama +30000
  • Georgia +30000
  • Georgia Tech +30000
  • Illinois +30000
  • Memphis +30000
  • Minnesota +30000
  • Mississippi +30000
  • Oklahoma State +30000
  • Nebraska +30000
  • St. John’s +30000
  • Virginia Tech +30000
  • Wake Forest +30000
  • Auburn +30000
  • LSU +50000
  • BYU +50000
  • Boise State +50000
  • Clemson +50000
  • Colorado State +50000
  • Oregon State +50000
  • Missouri +50000
  • Stanford +50000
  • Massachusetts +50000
  • Penn State +50000
  • St. Joseph’s +50000
  • Temple +50000
  • Boston College +50000
  • TCU +50000
  • Washington State +50000
  • Valparaiso +50000

-------------------------------

We all know about the Dukes and UNCs of the world – the powerhouse programs that will always recruit the top talent and be a legitimate threat to cut down the nets at the end of the season.  But what about the less heralded programs?

There are always a few teams that shock the college basketball world and make a Cinderella run during March Madness. If you can identify these programs early, then you can find yourself some ridiculously good value. So I took on the endeavor of finding you those teams before anyone else.

First, I needed to define what constitutes a ‘long shot.’ For these purposes, any team with odds of +5000 or more is getting consideration, though there is preference given to teams with even longer odds than that.

So without further ado, here are the best long-shot value bets for the upcoming NCAAB season.

UCLA Bruins - +5000

Both Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford return for UCLA – a backcourt combo that combined for 32.9 points, 8.5 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game while shooting over 43 percent from the field in 2015.

In addition to the backcourt – and the bulk of the lineup in general – UCLA had one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. The Bruins recruited Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu – all Top 25 recruits in the country, but it’s Ball who could be special. He is a tremendous point guard who excels as a passer and defender. If his weird-looking jumper can correct itself, UCLA could have the scariest backcourt in the nation.

Florida State Seminoles - +15,000

Dwayne Bacon was one of the best freshmen in the country in 2015, as the FSU guard averaged 15.8 points and 5.8 assists while shooting .447 from the field. If he can rectify his issues from beyond the arc and bond with Xavier Rathan-Mayes the way he did with Malik Beasley, then Bacon will continue to be dominant.

The biggest issue for the Seminoles the past several seasons has been their defense, but they recruited one of their best defensive players in recent memory. Jonathan Isaac, who was the No. 8 recruit in the country, is a talented face-up defender who has the natural ability to play against the big power forwards in the ACC.

Virginia Tech Hokies - +30,000

Six of the top seven scorers from 2015 are returning this season, as the only notable loss was Jalen Hudson. Zach LeDay has a standout junior year, as he played 30.8 minutes per game while averaging 15.5 points and 7.9 rebounds. The backcourt is also in good shape with Seth Allen and Justin Bibbs running the show.

Virginia Tech also sees its roster bolstered by the return of Ahmed Hill and the addition of JUCO transfer Ty Outlaw. Hill averaged 8.7 points while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc in his freshman year before missing last season due to a knee surgery. Outlaw averaged 21.8 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field two years ago with Lee College before transferring.

2017 NCAA Tournament Champion

Odds as of November 3 at Bovada

  • Duke +350
  • Kansas +900
  • Kentucky +900
  • Arizona +1400
  • Oregon +1400
  • North Carolina +1600
  • Wisconsin +1600
  • Villanova +2000
  • Michigan State +2000
  • Syracuse +2000
  • Indiana +3300
  • Virginia +3300
  • Louisville +3300
  • Xavier +4000
  • Connecticut +4000
  • Texas +4000
  • Purdue +5000
  • UCLA +5000
  • Gonzaga +5000
  • West Virginia +6600
  • Maryland +6600
  • Iowa State +6600
  • California +6600
  • NC State +6600
  • Miami (FL) +7500
  • Oklahoma +7500
  • Texas A&M +10000
  • Florida +10000
  • Iowa +10000
  • Michigan +10000
  • Seton Hall +15000
  • Baylor +15000
  • Wichita State +15000
  • Butler +15000
  • Cincinnati +15000
  • Georgetown +15000
  • Ohio State +15000
  • Florida State +15000
  • USC +15000
  • Arizona State +20000
  • Notre Dame +20000
  • Vanderbilt +20000
  • Dayton +20000
  • Virginia Commonwealth +20000
  • San Diego State +20000
  • South Carolina +20000
  • St. Mary's +20000
  • Tennessee +20000
  • Washington +20000
  • SMU +25000
  • Kansas State +25000
  • Marquette +25000
  • Pittsburgh +25000
  • Mississippi State +25000
  • Arkansas +25000
  • UNLV +30000
  • Colorado +30000
  • Alabama +30000
  • Georgia +30000
  • Georgia Tech +30000
  • Illinois +30000
  • Memphis +30000
  • Minnesota +30000
  • Mississippi +30000
  • Oklahoma State +30000
  • Nebraska +30000
  • St. John's +30000
  • Virginia Tech +30000
  • Wake Forest +30000
  • LSU +50000
  • BYU +50000
  • Auburn +50000
  • Boise State +50000
  • Clemson +50000
  • Colorado State +50000
  • Oregon State +50000
  • Missouri +50000
  • Stanford +50000
  • Massachusetts +50000
  • Penn State +50000
  • St. Joseph's +50000
  • Temple +50000
  • Boston College +50000
  • TCU +50000
  • Washington State +50000
  • Valparaiso +50000
2017 National Championship Game Odds
TeamSpreadMoneylineTotal
UNC-2 (-105)-130OVER 155 (-105)
Gonzaga+2 (-115)+110UNDER 155 (-115)
2017 National Championship Game Odds
TeamSpreadMoneylineTotal
UNC-2 (-105)-130OVER 155 (-105)
Gonzaga+2 (-115)+110UNDER 155 (-115)
2017 National Championship Game Odds
TeamSpreadMoneylineTotal
UNC-2 (-105)-130OVER 155 (-105)
Gonzaga+2 (-115)+110UNDER 155 (-115)

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