The Louisville Cardinals came away with this past Monday’s 82-76 championship triumph over the Michigan Wolverines, surviving as the tourney’s No. 1 overall seed. Most online sportsbooks have already posted odds on next year’s winner, listing Louisville and Michigan at 8/1 and 25/1, respectively, while making John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats as a 3/1 favorite
Who looks best to back with our NCAA Basketball picks as next year’s squads face changes?
Kentucky leads off top choices
Kentucky comes off a disappointing season, failing to enter “The Big Dance” and dropping its NIT opener to Robert Morris. Freshman Archie Goodwin topped his squad’s scoring this year with 14.1 PPG and is expected to leave the Wildcats for the NBA. Calipari expects to more than fill the void with a reloaded lineup of top recruits such as Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison to name just two.
Louisville looks to defend this year’s title without the help of junior Russ Smith, slated to leave Rick Pitino’s troops behind for professional ball. The squad’s top scorer (18.7 PPG) shot 80.4 percent from the foul line and 32.8 percent beyond the arc. Pitino has signed recruits Terry Rozier and Anton Gill for the backcourt, while expecting to add Omaha’s Akoy Agau at forward.
The Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels look to finish as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top two rivals next year, both listed at 8/1. Duke was eliminated in this year’s “Elite Eight” by Louisville, hoping recruit Jabari Parker’s commitment to join the Blue Devils adds to the team’s depth to get them further in 2014.
North Carolina finished two games behind Duke in the ACC’s standings, while reaching the finals of the conference tournament in a loss to the Miami Hurricanes. UNC looks for the addition of “Tar Heel State” natives Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks to give the team a scoring and rebounding surge.
Ohio State rounds out sports books’ top five choices for next year, also at NCAA Basketball betting odds of 8/1. The Buckeyes found themselves in a loaded Big Ten this year, while now losing their top scorer and rebounder Deshaun Thomas (19.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) to the NBA draft.
Michigan, Florida listed as long shots
The Florida Gators and Syracuse Orange are listed at 20/1, while the Michigan Wolverines return as 25/1 long shots. Florida has five-star recruits Kasey Hill and Chris Walker signed, while Syracuse changes its surroundings in leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Michigan expects to lose some of its standouts to the NBA, including Trey Burke (18.6 PPG, 6.7 APG) and possibly the second-generation duo of Tim Hardway, Jr. (14.5 PPG) and Glenn Robinson III (10.9 PPG). The Wolverines reload with forward Zak Irvin and guard Derrick Walton, both ranked as four-star recruits.
The Indiana Hoosiers and Gonzaga Bulldogs came into the “Big Dance” as No. 1 seeds, but are faced with long odds of 30/1 and 50/1, respectively, to win next year’s title.
Indiana has Cody Zeller (16.5 PPG, 8 RPG) and Victor Oladipo (59.9 percent field shooter) are expected to bolt for the NBA’s hardwood, while five-star forward Noah Vonleh has been signed as a top recruit. Gonzaga loses two of its starting five to graduation, while a lackluster incoming class has hopes dropping compared to the promise this season had.