Kansas is once again the betting odds favorite to win the Big 12 Conference, and we're taking a look at the NCAA Basketball teams most likely to upset the odds and end the Jayhawks' streak.
Nobody should be surprised to see the Kansas Jayhawks as the heavy favorites to win the Big 12 Conference title in the upcoming 2014-15 basketball season. If it does shock you, then please do not make another wager on the college basketball odds until understanding why it shouldn't seem like a bolt from the blue.
Bill Self brings his Jayhawks into the campaign not only as the thickest chalk to win the Big 12, but among the top clubs on the NCAA basketball futures odds to cut down the nets with a national title. Kansas is listed around -250 on the conference front and checks in 15/1 to win it all, fifth in that column behind Kentucky (3/1) and a trio of others -- Arizona, Duke and Wisconsin -- at 8/1.
Kansas has won or shared 10-straight Big 12 regular season crowns, adding six conference tourney titles during that span. The Jayhawks also drag 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances into the season, dancing all the way to at least the Sweet Sixteen 17 times. Extending both of those streaks won't be easy after losing Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, a pair of one-&-done's who ended up 1-3 in June's NBA Draft. But like so many of the top programs, Self has found it relatively easy to reload when his best players depart.
This year's edition begins with Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, Jr., pair of rock-chalk holdovers. Frank Mason and Jamari Traylor also return, giving Self half of his primary 8-man rotation back. Expected to fill many of the lost minutes are Cliff Alexander, the top recruit of last year's high school class, and Kelly Oubre, Jr. who played with Alexander on the recent USA Junior National Select Team.
It's an assemblage of talent that seems destined to dominate the Big 12 and make it to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond, but we know that all streaks eventually come to an end. If the Jayhawks see their conference run end this time, who might take their place?
And The Survey Says...Texas!
Well, not really a survey, but the Texas Longhorns do show up behind the Jayhawks on the Big 12 chart's College Basketball odds. Texas is priced at +250 at several offshore sports books, and while Texas might lack a real marquee star on the roster, this could be the deepest group Rick Barnes has ever had in Austin.
Barnes has the luxury of seeing his top six players in minutes and scoring back at practice. Five are upperclassmen who have at least two seasons under their belts playing with each other, and that list includes big Jonathan Holmes. Bigger and better things are expected from guard Isaiah Taylor, who enjoyed a solid freshman campaign.
The biggest newcomer, both in name and size, is Myles Turner. The 7-foot behemoth was rated No. 2 in ESPN's top 100 from the Class of 2014, and will be a force to contend with by the time March Madness begins.
Cyclones Lead Next Group Of Big 12 Contenders
Iowa State proved itself last year with the conference tourney title, taking out Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor to enter the NCAA Tournament as a 3-seed. The Cyclones made it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to eventual national champ UConn, and Fred Hoiberg's bunch is the third team on the Big 12 futures odds chart at +500.
They did lose Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, their top two scorers, but have both George Niang and Dustin Hogue back, with capable Monte Morris on point following a solid frosh showing plus UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones to man the backcourt.
Don't go to sleep on Oklahoma, especially if Lon Kruger can squeeze some defense out of this year's crew. Top scorer Buddy Hield is back, as well as backcourt mate Isaiah Cousins and forward Ryan Spangler who led the team with 9.3 rebounds per game. If TaShawn Thomas, a 6-8 transfer from Houston, can play from the opening tip, the Sooners are a nice dark horse threat at +650.
Kansas State is the mystery team. I've seen the Wildcats anywhere from a top 20 squad to 80th in rankings and power ratings, and the NCAA futures odds have Bruce Weber's ballers as a potential NCAA Basketball pick at +1000 odds to win the Big 12. They had a very sour and disappointing end to 2013-14, and could be a sneaky team to keep an eye on with Marcus Foster back following an outstanding freshman campaign and joined by top recruit Malek Harris along with transfer Justin Edwards.