NCAAB Bracketology Trends

NCAA Basketball Trophy

Jay Pryce

Monday, July 11, 2016 9:34 PM GMT

Need help separating the 2017 Final Four contenders from pretenders? Here are a few trends worth considering when placing your futures wagers for the upcoming college basketball season.

Odds for the 2017 Men’s NCAA Division I basketball championship are in full bloom. The summer months can be a great time to zero in on a futures bet, before talking heads, preseason polls, and media outlets begin rallying support for select teams, potentially lowering their odds. Here are a few strategies and trends to help you uncover some valuable NCAA basketball picks.

The scope of college basketball is undoubtedly changing, as bettors have seen the likes of mid-major teams such as Davidson, George Mason, VCU, and Butler make it to the Final Four in recent years. The NBA’s “one-and-done” draft eligibility rules established in 2005, the growth of the internet incurring changes in recruiting, and a slew of conference realignments altering the landscape have somewhat closed the gap between the top and bottom programs. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, it is still teams from the traditional powerhouse conferences ruling the day—for now. Teams representing the power six (Big East, SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10) have won 35 of the last 38 national titles, and two of the spoilers were by basketball-rich Louisville representing the Metro conference in 1980 and 1986. The 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels out of the Big West were the other victors.

When searching for teams with a legitimate shot to win the title, one should start with the NCAA basketball odds. In the last decade, outside of UConn’s two titles (2010, 2013), the eventual champion ranked tied for sixth or higher on the board prior to the season’s tip-off in November. This includes reigning champion Villanova (T-6, +2000), Duke twice (3rd, +1000 in 2014; 3rd, +800 in 2009), Louisville (T-2, +800), Kentucky (2nd, +500), UNC (T-6, +450), Kansas (3rd, +500) and Florida (1st, +500). If the season were to start today, the top six betting choices on the futures board are Duke (+300), Kentucky (+700), Kansas (+950), Villanova (+1200), Michigan State (+1600) and Oregon (+1800) in odds offered by Bovada.

Average scoring margin from year’s past is also a great tool to use when placing NCAA basketball futures bet. For one, it can pinpoint strength and consistency in a program. Although bettors see fabulous NBA-bound freshman come on the scene and put their teams into contention almost instantaneously, the talented, upperclass-ladened programs showing maturity and teamwork usually claim the title.

When ferreting out potential winners, total up the average points differential over the last two years as a generic measurement encapsulating this blend of skill and other intangibles. Over the last decade, each Final Four winner outside of the 2013 UConn squad (8.9) has tallied a plus-17.4 margin or better. This figure isolates 20 teams or so in any given season, and if you weed out those outside of the power six, the number drops to roughly 15 contenders. Only Oregon (13.2) falls below this mark outside of the top six betting choices listed above.

There are several other key benchmarks we look for when fine-tuning our selections, and a few of those revolve around the 3-point shot. Like the NBA, the arc is revolutionizing the college game, and those who shoot and defend the line well typically rise to the top. We are particularly interested in the latter. All but one title winner in the last 10 years (Duke 2009) held opponents to a 32.6 success rate or less from the area the prior season. Good defense is a team skill that can take more than a season to master. Kansas (32.5), Kentucky (32.6), and Michigan State (31.0) fit the bill here. We will target these three with our bets, and at most double our money if either trims the nets in Phoenix come April.