The New Year brings the start of conference play in college basketball and updated title odds in the betting market. Don't get crazy prior to March Madness placing futures bets on teams outside the current top 10 choices.
Blue bloods Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, and Kansas stack the top of the futures odds board for the 2016-17 men's college basketball national championship entering the New Year. The Blue Devils, despite a host of issues surrounding the team to begin the season, are favorites at +500 odds at PaddyPower. The ACC powerhouse started the year with three of its highly touted freshman injured, including wonderkid Harry Giles, endured Grayson Allen's tripping troubles, and now must overcome a month without legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski due to back surgery. Still, oddsmakers believe the Blue Devils have all the pieces to win a sixth national title under Krzyzewski—if and when it all comes together.
UCLA is the second choice at +600 odds to conquer the season-ending tournament. The betting market considered the Bruins huge longshots at +10000 odds when futures were first released last May. Head coach Steve Alford is armed with possibly the best point guard in the nation in freshman Lonzo Ball. The talent started to shine through in the preseason with odds dipping to +8000 prior to the opener.
A 97-92 victory at Kentucky in early December, snapping the SEC school's 42-game home win streak at Rupp Arena, solidified the Bruins' threat to win it all. Odds plummeted thereafter until UCLA passed John Calipari's Wildcats on the odds board. Kentucky now sits third, listed at +700 odds; reigning champion Villanova and North Carolina round out the top five at +1000 each.
The Tar Heels experienced a dip in price following a 75-63 shock defeat at Georgia Tech as 17-point chalk to open conference play. Roy Williams' squad went from +2000 odds to +600 in early December following an impressive start to the season but has since equalized with three losses under their belt. Villanova, meanwhile, has remained steady in the +1200 range throughout the course of the season. Jay Wright's program is looking to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since Florida in 2006 and 2007.
Baylor (+1500), Oregon (+2000), Indiana (+2000), Gonzaga (+2000) and Wisconsin (+2200) make up the current top 10 offerings.
In the last decade, despite changes to the game increasing the level and range of competition, only one team has won the title with odds greater than +2200 on January 1. Connecticut was listed at +3500 at the New Year when it won it all in 2014. The Huskies were the 13th choice on the odds board at the time, the highest for any in this span. Villanova was 11th at +2200 odds last season. All others have come at a shorter price and position in the market. The closest Cinderella contenders this season include West Virginia (+2500), Louisville (+2500), Xavier (+2800), Virginia (+2800), and Creighton (+3300).