Let’s be frank, all college basketball handicappers and those making sports picks know the NCAA basketball tournament should be renamed to the – Kentucky Invitational – this season.
It is the Wildcats and the rest of the field, but let’s say four of their nine players all run into each other at practice between now and the start of tourney and two have sprained ankles and the other two have sprained knees. That would leave “only” five McDonald’s All-American’s for John Calipari to coach and might open the door for somebody to become national champions out of nowhere.
I know my story is far-fetched and the only type of team that is going to knock off Big Blue as 11/10 favorites at many sportsbooks to cut down the nets on April 6th is somebody who can make 10 or more shots behind the arc and play interior defense.
This season compared to last, the upper echelon appears quite separated from the rest of the pack. Here is a rundown of the current NCAA basketball betting odds, on futures wagers on who besides Kentucky could be the champions of college hoops. Let’s see who has the best value and worth considering to win six straight during March Madness.
Wisconsin (15-2 odds) – The Badgers have many qualities necessary to become the kings of college basketball. Wisconsin values each possession on offense and has the ability to go inside or outside with interchangeable players. Currently they rank 13th in the country in true field percentage. Their ‘pack line’ defense is difficult to solve. The Badgers have three NBA quality players in Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker and once Traevon Jackson returns, Bo Ryan’s defense will improve.
Duke (9-1) – If there is one team that has a real shot to beat Kentucky, it's Duke. The Blue Devils guards lack the size of the Wildcats, but Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones can fill it up from outside and score in the paint driving the ball. Jahlil Okafor is the best player in college basketball and has become a better passer after facing so many double teams in the last month. Definitely worth considering against the betting basketball odds.
Virginia (9-1) – The Cavaliers will have the best defensive concepts in the field and they are much more athletic than a year ago, but they still struggle to score and if they run into the wrong opponent who just happens to be hot, Virginia will go down.
Gonzaga (10-1) – Detractors will say the Zags have not played anyone, but they were less than two minutes from upsetting Arizona in Tucson in December before falling 66-63 in OT and could be the other undefeated team in the country. The Bulldogs have great college guards in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer will be on a NBA roster and 6’10 Domantas Sabonis (his dad was NBA player and Eruo legend) improves every week. If Kentucky were to fall, the Zags are great college basketball pick.
Arizona (14-1) – The Wildcats are fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency and 12th in adjusted offensive efficiency, proving what they are capable of. For college basketball futures, it is hard not to make an argument for Sean Miller’s club. What you have to concern yourself with in Arizona is mediocre free throw shooting (68.6%) which could haunt them.
Notre Dame (20-1) – Coach Mike Brey’s team is a group of winners. No deficit is seemingly too large and they are the most efficient offensive team among the major conferences. If you need a point guard to make a shot late or a perfect pass, Jerian Grant is the best in college basketball. However, grit and determination can only go so far and will not add up to six consecutive W’s in March and April.
Kansas (25-1) – If there is one team among all the top contenders who could improve the most by the middle of March it is the Jayhawks. You keep seeing signs of Bill Self’s team ready to take the next step and if Wayne Selden Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander collectively reach the next plateau, Kansas is a dangerous longer shot.
Utah and Villanova (25-1) – Both have the same odds and both teams have similar attributes. Each squad scores effectively, shares the ball exquisitely and is tenacious on defense. What both appear to lack is that one player that can carry a team like Connecticut has had in Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier in recent years. Could one or both make the Final Four with their attributes, certainly, but to win the title, unlikely.