College Basketball Odds: Five Teams Looking to Surprise in 2015-16

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 4:52 PM GMT

When I looked at five NCAA basketball teams likely to fall a bit this coming season, they were all national powers still locks to make the NCAA Tournament. Bit of a different list for five teams probably on the rise for 2015-16 with 5Dimes odds.

Maryland Terrapins (+1000 to win national title)
Again, this has to be taken in context. Maryland is a very good program and finished 28-7 last season, the school's first year in the Big Ten. The Terps won their NCAA Tournament opener against Valparaiso -- barely -- but were upset by West Virginia 69-59 in the Round of 32. The Terps haven't won more than one game in the Big Dance since 2003 and haven't won more than two since their surprising run to the 2002 national title under former coach Gary Williams. Of course Mark Turgeon is the current coach and there's a chance that Maryland opens the season as the No. 1 team in the polls. Turgeon caught a huge break when Melo Trimble, one of the nation's best freshman in 2014-15, and Jake Layman both opted against declaring for the NBA draft. Maryland also welcomes two very good transfers in former Georgia Tech forward Robert Carter and ex-Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Turgeon lured five-star center recruit Diamond Stone. Anything short of the program's third Final Four appearance would be a disappointment. And circle Dec. 1 on the NCAA basketball schedule. Maryland visits former rival North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and that could be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

 

LSU Tigers (+5000)
LSU hasn't really been relevant in college basketball since a surprise run to the Final Four in 2006 when the Tigers lost to UCLA. And that was an outlier. Frankly, the program hasn't been a national player since Dale Brown's days there. That could all change this year under Coach Johnny Jones. The Tigers did make the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2009 but lost a heartbreaker to NC State, 66-65. The bad news is the two best players off that team, Jarell Martin and Jordan Mackey, both declared early for the draft -- Mickey clearly shouldn't have since he wasn't a first-round pick. But the good news is that Jones welcomes perhaps the best recruiting class to Baton Rouge since Brown signed a big kid named Shaquille O'Neal. LSU's class is ranked No. 3 overall, led by the top player in the country and potential No. 1 overall pick in 2016, power forward Ben Simmons. LSU will be Kentucky's top challenger in the SEC.

Don't miss our NCAA Basketball picks & updates!

California Golden Bears (+2500)
Cal hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2013 and hasn't won multiple games in the Big Dance since 1997. But second-year Coach Cuonzo Martin has this program headed on the right track. The Bears finished 18-15 last season and bring back guards Tyrone Wallace and Jordan Matthews. Wallace was the only player in the Pac-12 to rank in the top five in scoring (17.1), rebounding (7.1) and assists (4.0) last season. Matthews led the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage (44.3). But really this is all about two Top-10 freshmen: Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. They are easily the best recruits to sign with the program in years. Both might be one-and-done so Cal has to capitalize while they are on campus.

 

UConn Huskies (+5500)
Connecticut wasn't given a chance to defend its 2014 national championship last year. The Huskies nearly made the Big Dance as they reached the American Athletic Conference Championship Game but fell 62-54 to favored SMU. UConn became the sixth team to miss the NCAAs after winning the title the previous year since the field expanded to 64 in 1985. The Huskies have lost arguably their best player in guard Ryan Boatright. But the next best three, Hamilton, Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis, are back. Coach Kevin Ollie adds a touted freshman point guard in Jalen Adams as well as  Seton Hall graduate transfer Sterling Gibbs (16.3 PPG) and Cornell graduate transfer Shonn Miller (16.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG). The Huskies will battle SMU again for the AAC title and will get back to the Big Dance.

 

Northwestern Wildcats (+100000)
Look, Northwestern isn't a threat to win the NCAA Tournament or even the Big Ten. But the Wildcats are the only current Power 5 Conference team to never make the Big Dance. That could change this season under Coach Chris Collins. Northwestern finished 15-17 last year but did have a stretch where it won five of six Big Ten games. It also had a handful of close losses, including by five to Illinois, two to Michigan, two to Ohio State and one at Maryland. Collins brings back his top four scorers in  Tre Demps, Alex Olah, Bryant McIntosh and Vic Law. And arriving is Virginia Tech transfer Joey van Zegeren and talented four-star freshman forward Aaron Falzon.