Is this the season that the Big Ten ends its basketball national title drought? Could a school from a non-Power 5 Conference pull a shocker (no)? Here we look at which power conference might house the 2015 champion and Bovada NCAA basketball odds.
Atlantic Coast Conference
The record for the number of teams in one conference to reach the NCAA Tournament is 11 by the Big East in 2011 -- back when it was a major conference. Only one Big East team reached the Final Four that year and that was UConn, which won it all. The Huskies are no longer a Big East team.
The ACC could potentially match that in 2014 with the addition of Louisville to an already stacked conference that includes Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and NC State. Those eight schools seem a good bet to make the Big Dance. Thus it's up to the likes of Florida State, Miami, Clemson, etc., to raise their games to get to 11 teams. Not saying it's likely, but it's possible.
The Blue Devils have the shortest NCAA basketball odds to win it all at Bovada at +1200, which seems rather a high number. North Carolina is +1200 as well, followed by Louisville (+2500), Syracuse (+4000) and Virginia (+4000). Still, I believe all five of those clubs could cut down the nets next April. Can any other conference say that?
Big Ten Conference
No Big Ten team has won it all since Michigan State in 2000. Wisconsin was a Final Four team last year but lost an epic game against Kentucky in the national semifinals. The Badgers bring back four starters, including preseason All-American big man Frank Kaminsky. Thus they are the clear Big Ten favorites and +900 at sportsbooks to win UW's first national title since 1941.
Then you have quite a drop off to Michigan and Michigan State, both +3300 at sportsbooks. The Spartans were one of the national championship favorites entering last season's tournament but were beaten in the Elite Eight. They lost four starters so it may be a pseudo-rebuilding season in East Lansing, although you know Tom Izzo's club probably will overachieve. The Wolverines lost Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary (who barely played in 2013-14) but have three very good players in Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. Once again, not a lot of size for Michigan. Ohio State (+5000) could be a Big Ten contender but is likely too young to make much noise in the Big Dance.
Big 12 Conference
There are realistically only two teams that will compete for the Big 12 title and a national championship. Kansas has won at least a share of the conference regular-season title every season since 2004-05, which is amazing in this day and age. The Jayhawks are +1600 at sportsbooks to win their first national crown since 2008. Those are pretty short odds considering KU lost superstar freshmen Andrew Wiggins (No. 1 overall pick) and Joel Embiid (No. 3 overall) to the NBA Draft. Coach Bill Self has plenty of talent returning and two highly touted freshmen in Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre.
Not much was expected of a very young Texas team last year following a 16-18 mark in 2012-13. But the Horns finished 24-11 and won an NCAA Tournament game, likely saving Coach Rick Barnes' job. Now all those kids have a year of experience and UT welcomes a beast recruit in Myles Turner, who might be the best freshman in the country if Duke's Jahlil Okafor isn't. The Horns are +2500 on NCAA basketball odds to win their first national title.
The Pac-12 has been reborn in football but has grown rather weak in college basketball with its last national champion being Arizona in 1997. The Wildcats are the clear cream of the crop this season at +900 on NCAA basketball odds to win it all. They bring in by most accounts the No. 2 recruiting class in the country -- led by Stanley Johnson -- and have returning studs in center Kaleb Tarczewski, forward Brandon Ashley, swingman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and guard T.J. McConnell. The team did lose Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson to the NBA but should roll through the Pac-12 and get a No. 1 seed in the West for the NCAA Tournament. UCLA is next on the NCAA basketball odds but way down at +6600. This is a one-team conference in terms of winning it all.
In terms of overall depth, the SEC is probably the weakest of the Power 5 leagues, but it's really strong at the top with national championship favorite Kentucky -- +350 at sportsbooks -- and Florida (+2000). What more can you say about the Cats? This looks like John Calipari's deepest team ever. Pretty much every member of UK's second five would start anywhere else. There are 10 guys on this team who will be drafted by the NBA. The Gators were the No. 1 team in the nation and on a 26-game winning streak entering last season's Big Dance as the betting favorites. They were knocked out in the Final Four by champion UConn. Four senior starters are gone. For your NCAA Basketball picks keep in mind UF still will finish second in the conference.
Free NCAAB pick: When this prop is posted at sportsbooks, go with the ACC. You get the best value there with five legitimate contenders.