Thank goodness for Kentucky this college basketball season. Without the story line of the Cats, it's otherwise been a rather forgettable year. With Selection Sunday just over a week away, let's examine current NCAA basketball futures at sportsbooks.
Will Kentucky Run Table?
Of course the last team to finish the entire season, including NCAA tournament, with an unbeaten record was Bobby Knight's 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers. That said, it hasn't been too long since we saw a team with zero losses entering the Big Dance. Wichita State did it last year before losing to Kentucky in a tremendous Round of 32 game.
No school has ever gone 40-0 and that's what Kentucky is aiming for after Tuesday's 72-64 win at a good Georgia team. UK (30-0) was down nine at one point in the second half -- the Cats' largest second-half deficit of the year -- and you could just feel TVs around the nation tuning into to see the end. All Kentucky did was rip off a 14-0 run. Twice this season, Coach John Calipari's team has trailed by as many as 11 points but both of those deficits were in the first half. UK is the fourth team in SEC history to win 30 straight games. Florida did it last year and was the NCAA Tournament betting favorite at sportsbooks but lost to Connecticut in the Final Four. Kentucky is the 13th team in Division I history to win its first 30 games. Only one of the previous six won the NCAA title, and that was the '75-76 Indiana team. The most memorable in my lifetime was the vaunted 1990-91 UNLV team that pretty much blew everyone out but was stunned by Duke in the Final Four.
That close call against Georgia took UK from a -120 favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis to even money on NCAA Basketball odds. Kentucky is +130 to finish the season at 40-0 and -165 not to. The Cats are -130 not to win the national title. How do you not take the field at that price? Kentucky wraps up the regular season Saturday at home against Florida, which is way down this season and will miss the NCAA Tournament barring an SEC Tournament title. The Gators gave Kentucky a good game on Feb. 7 in Gainesville, with the Wildcats winning 68-61.
Best of the Rest
Wisconsin, the class of the Big Ten, is listed as the +800 second-favorite to win the national title and I totally disagree with that. The Badgers have a fine, well-coached team, and Frank Kaminsky is an All-American and lock Big Ten Player of the Year. They just don't have the athletes to beat the cream of the crop. I think that showed in an 80-70 home loss to Duke on Dec. 3 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
In my mind, Arizona is the second-most talented team in the country and actually has the size and defensive acumen to hang with Kentucky. The Wildcats, the Pac-12 regular-season champions, are +1200 third-favorites to win the national title. Arizona handed Gonzaga one of its two losses and also beat an excellent Utah team twice. Unfortunately for Arizona, I think the Cats are either going to be a No. 1 or No. 2 in the West Region, and that would mean a Final Four matchup with lock Midwest Region No. 1 Kentucky instead of avoiding UK until possibly the national championship game.
Duke and Virginia are +1200 along with Arizona. The Blue Devils bring a 10-game winning streak in Saturday's regular-season finale at North Carolina, a game that I believe Duke loses. The Blue Devils do own a road win over No. 2 Virginia, 69-63 on Jan. 31. Those two seem likely to face off in the ACC Tournament title game, with the Cavaliers winning the regular-season crown for the second year in a row. I feel mostly about Virginia that I do about Wisconsin: Well-coached but the overall talent level isn't there. The good news is that one of UVA's best players, Justin Anderson, is likely to return from injury on Saturday against Louisville. He fractured his left pinky finger against Louisville on Feb. 7.
The non-Power 5 Conference team with the shortest odds, to no surprise, is Gonzaga at +1800. The Zags' odds rose following last Saturday's home upset loss to BYU (a very good team). That ended Gonzaga's 22-game winning streak overall and national-best 41 straight at home.