NCAA Basketball Picks: Predicting Conference Champions

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, January 22, 2015 8:22 PM GMT

Now is a perfect time for sports bettors to focus on college basketball odds. Here are updates on the Power 5 Conferences and contenders' futures odds to win a national title.

ACC
Virginia is now the +800 second-favorite at sportsbooks to win the national title in April in Indianapolis, just surpassing Duke (+900). The Cavaliers, who are the No. 2 team in the nation behind fellow unbeaten Kentucky, entered Thursday's home game against Georgia Tech off to the school's best start since Ralph Sampson's 1980-81 club started 23-0. Of course Sampson, despite being one of the best college players ever, wasn't able to ever bring UVa a national championship. Presuming the Cavs beat the Yellow Jackets on Thursday they will again be sizable favorites on NCAA basketball odds Sunday at Virginia Tech. Next after that: Super Bowl Saturday at home against the Blue Devils.

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski attempts to become the first coach with 1,000 career wins when the Blue Devils host St. John's on Sunday. The Blue Devils bring a two-game winning streak into that one after puzzling back-to-back losses. Duke's 11-point win at No. 6 Louisville last Saturday was the team's best win of the year. I liked Louisville to win the ACC before that one. No longer.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Virginia repeats as ACC champion.

 

Big Ten
Not much has changed in the Big Ten the past week as Wisconsin remains the clear-cut conference favorite, and the Badgers have the shortest national title odds at +1600 at sportsbooks. However, Wisconsin has two tough games upcoming: this Saturday at Michigan and next Saturday at No. 25 Iowa. The Wolverines' long-shot chances of winning the Big Ten, as well as their chances of making the NCAA Tournament, took a big blow last week when leading scorer Caris LeVert was lost for the season with a broken foot. He averaged 14.9 points per game along with 4.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists. LeVert was considered a potential first-round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but this injury might force him to return to Ann Arbor next season.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Maryland wins Big Ten title in its first season in the conference; the Terps don't have to visit Wisconsin, already swept Michigan State, and host the Badgers Feb. 24. Maryland is +5000 to win the national title.

 

Big 12
Heavy preseason conference favorite Kansas has dropped all the way down to +3300 to win the national title following a loss last week at Iowa State. Those two schools are now tied atop the Big 12, but obviously ISU holds an early tiebreaker. The No. 9 Cyclones are +3300 along with Kansas. I don't expect Iowa State (14-3, 1-1) to suffer a loss before it visits Kansas on Feb. 2. Iowa State visits Texas Tech on Saturday, which is followed by home games against Texas and TCU. Kansas could lose this Saturday at No. 17 Texas and see its title odds rise further.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: This looks like a two-team race now between Kansas and Iowa State. I liked West Virginia as a possible surprise last week, but the Mountaineers were crushed at Texas last Saturday so they are off my board. Instead I'll place my NCAA Basketball pick on Iowa State to win the Big 12 now.

 

Pac-12
Last Thursday the Pac-12 had its first matchup of Top-10 teams in seven years and No. 7 Arizona proved why it's the heavy conference favorite with a 69-51 win over No. 8 Utah. It was the Wildcats' 32nd straight home win, which is No. 2 in the nation behind Gonzaga. A whopping 27 of those 32 wins have been by at least double digits. Utah and Arizona are the only two ranked teams in the Pac-12 so this looks to be a two-team race, although Stanford could make it three with an upset of Arizona on Thursday night. Arizona is +1200 at SportsInteraction to win the national title on NCAA basketball odds and Utah +3300.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Arizona wins the Pac-12 and gets a No. 1 seed in the West for the NCAA Tournament.

 

SEC
Unbeaten and No. 1 Kentucky remains the even-money favorite to win the national championship at sportsbooks, and the SEC is the +125 favorite to be the conference that cuts down the nets in April -- I don't like that bet at all because you are putting it all on Kentucky. No other SEC team is close to Final Four caliber. UK had no trouble in a potentially tough road game at Alabama last Saturday, routing the Tide by 22. Kentucky's next two are away from Lexington, beginning Saturday at South Carolina. The Gamecocks did have an upset of Iowa State earlier this season and they beat Kentucky in Columbia last season. So an upset is possible.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Kentucky wins the SEC by at least four games, especially with presumed top challenger Florida really scuffling.