Duke is the chalkiest play on the college basketball futures among ACC teams, but three conference rivals are anxious to keep the Blue Devils backers from cashing those wagers.
On the list of boring things in life are vanilla ice cream, khaki slacks and 25-year-old baristas with lumberjack beards. Somewhere on that list is Duke basketball, the Blue Devils seemingly favorites on NCAA basketball futures year in, year out.
Mike Krzyzewski's crew sits in that position once again entering the 2016-17 college hoops season as the team to beat. The Blue Devils were priced around 4/1 earlier this fall to cut down the nets in Phoenix next April, those odds now closer to 3/1. They are also the prohibitive favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference, currently around even money to win their first conference tourney since 2011.
Not only has it been six seasons since Duke won the ACC Tournament, seven seasons have passed since the Blue Devils last won the regular season crown, so it stands to reason other teams have more value for college basketball bettors to consider.
Can Heels Repeat Double-Title From Last Year?
At the top of that list is Duke's longtime Tobacco Road rival, North Carolina. Bookmaker has the Tar Heels 21/1 to win their sixth national title, Roy Williams bunch 5/2 to win the ACC. Remember that this team won the conference regular season and tourney titles last season before going to the NCAA championship game and bowing to Villanova on a buzzer beater.
Brice Johnson, UNC's leading scorer last year, and Marcus Paige are both gone, leaving a couple of big holes to fill. Returning are point guard Joel Berry II plus forwards Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks. Expect to see soph guard Kenny Williams more, as well as three very talented freshmen the Hells brought in -- 5-star center Tony Bradley and shooting guards Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods.
Cavs & Cards Lurking Behind Big 2
The team North Carolina beat in the ACC Tournament was Virginia, the Tar Heels coming away with a 61-57 decision as 2½ point favorites on the NCAA basketball odds. The Cavaliers were runner-ups to UNC in the regular season as well, eventually going to the Elite 8, and are priced about the same on the NCAA futures odds as the Heels this time (22/1) but further back on the conference odds (8/1).
Tony Bennett's squad lost ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, the top two scorers, plus the versatile Mike Tobey. Senior point guard London Perrantes is expected to lead the offense with junior forward Isaiah Wilkins taking a big step forward. The Cavs will also have the services of Memphis transfer Austin Nichols who sat out last season, assuming Nichols can stay out of trouble. Kyle Guy was Bennett's top recruiting snag, and should be a key contributor early.
Assuming Louisville's self-imposed 1-year postseason ban satisfies the NCAA, the Cardinals could be a team to watch. Rick Pitino and the school are still not in the clear yet and the Cards did lose their top three scorers, but there is reason for optimism with some thinking they will give a conference title run for its money. Louisville lags slightly behind the Tar Heels and Cavaliers on the NCAA futures (25/1).
Junior Quentin Snider should lead a very talented backcourt that is deep with Donovan Mitchell and former Penn transfer Tony Hicks. There could be some growing pains down low unless Mangok Mathiang can stay healthy and prove himself a force. VJ King was the only big-name recruit Pitino captured, but he was one of the country's top high schoolers and should get minutes on the floor from the opening tip.
Could some other team sneak in and take the conference crown? Sure, Syracuse is always a threat with Boeheim working his magic, plus teams like Miami, Pittsburgh and Florida State will also try to upset the norm. Keep checking back all season for free college basketball picks, and good luck with your plays.