The college basketball betting season is just a few weeks away, and we're taking a look at three teams that pique our interest on the NCAA futures odds.
Talk about a shotgun start. The 2014-15 college basketball season tips about a month from now with more than 150 games scheduled Nov. 14. Of that 308-team field, 274 schools in action on that first day are from the Division I level, including the top five teams on the current NCAA basketball futures odds.
A good argument can be made for each of the quintet making it all the way to Indianapolis next April to cut down the final nets at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kentucky leads the way at 3/1, and this just might be the most talented team John Calipari has ever assembled. The Wildcats have been victims of the one-&-done malady in recent years, but that's not the case as UK returns the bulk of a team that made it to the title game last April before falling to Connecticut.
A trio of schools sit behind Kentucky at 8/1 on the college basketball futures odds. Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are always dangerous, and Sean Miller has pushed the Arizona Wildcats into perennial contention after earning a No. 1 seed last March. The third in the group is Wisconsin, another member of last year's Final Four, and lurking outside that quartet are Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks, a rock-chalk 15/1 to win it all despite their two biggest stars, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, going 1-3 in the latest NBA Draft.
But it's two teams in the next tier on the NCAA futures odds that have caught my eye, and a third that I'm looking to have the potential to pull off an early upset or two and be worth following all the way into the March Madness Field of 68.
Pitino Takes The Ville Into The ACC
One-&-done generally applies to talented freshman players who leave the college ranks for the pros after their freshman season, but it also applies to the entire Louisville Cardinals team after spending just one season in the American Athletic Conference. Rick Pitino's troops are now headed for the Atlantic Coast Conference, their third different conference in three years and fourth in less than 10 seasons.
The Cardinals are 25/1 to win a fourth overall NCAA Championship -- in a third different conference, no less -- and 5/2 to earn the ACC title, which would be their third consecutive conference crown after winning the Big East in 2013 and AAC last season.
It certainly won't be easy to win ACC honors, and you can bet Louisville is going in with a target on its back. But Pitino isn't going to be intimidated after leading the Cardinals to conference titles in the Big East, and he's got a nice group of players led by the return of Montrezl Harris. The biggest challenge is finding a new floor leader and the offense that went with Russ Smith.
Can Gonzaga Finally Win It All?
Coming off a 29-7 campaign that ended with a 2nd-round loss in the NCAA's to Arizona, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are fetching a 40/1 return on the college basketball futures. There's very little question that Mark Few can take the 'Zags dancing for a 17th-straight season, but can they finally take that next step into the Final Four and win the whole enchilada?
Just getting back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009 would end some of the recent frustration the Bulldogs have provided for their fans and backers, and I like their chances.
Few has the luxury of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. in the backcourt for their senior seasons, and has great size down low in Prsemek Karnoski and Kyle Wiltjer, the latter sitting out last season following his transfer from Kentucky. With the potential incoming frosh Damontas Sabonis brings, it could be one of the best frontcourts in college basketball.
La Tech A Team To Watch Early
Part of the field on the current NCAA basketball futures odds, Louisiana Tech is not going to be there at the end next April, but the Bulldogs should be on every bettors' watch list. Michael White brings La Tech off a 29-win season, and another like it could put him on the new-hire list at a bigger school.
Louisiana Tech did lose several key players, Chris Anderson topping that list, but White is going to have most of his 8-man rotation back from a year ago, including top scorer Alex Hamilton and point guard Kenneth Smith. The Bulldogs will begin the season on the road at Temple and they'll also make trips to Syracuse and North Carolina State. Plus, mark Dec. 10 on your calendars and make sure to see La Tech's matchup with the Ragin' Cajuns in Lafayette, a battle between the top two college teams in Louisiana this season.