Whatever Kansas had appears to be contagious. No other legitimate title contender has dropped three in a row like the Jayhawks (whose streak of futility is finally over), but all — except Miami (FL) — are stockpiling digits in the loss column. Indiana lost to Illinois after a Herculean late-game collapse and it still held onto the top spot this week thanks to everyone behind it.
Someone, of course, has to win it all. So who’s it going to be? (Odds provided by Sportsbook.ag).
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Michigan (+400) – That half-court heave by Wisconsin was a joke. It is the reason why Michigan is not No. 1 in the country right now, but it did not — rightfully so — impact the Wolverines’ odds to win it all. A world-class backcourt is essential to Big Dance success, and UM has it in the form of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Florida (+500) – The Gators were arguably the frontrunner to ascend to the No. 1 ranking, but they promptly went out and suffered their first SEC setback at Arkansas. Still, Florida is 19-3 overall and widely considered to be the most complete team in NCAA hoops. It has no real superstars, but balance may be more than enough this season.
Indiana (+500) – It’s one thing to stay at No. 1 after a loss when you are already way out in front with far fewer setbacks than everyone else. It’s another thing when Indiana remained at the top spot despite falling to Illinois. Teams are losing left and right this season, but someone at some point is going to halt the trend. Indiana is as good a bet as any to get on track and stay on track.
Miami (FL) (+500) – This isn’t your grandfather’s University of Miami. Basketball players are suddenly the BMOC in South Beach, where the Hurricanes are 19-3 and a hard-to-believe 10-0 in the ACC. They have the best post-Christmas resume in basketball, although that won’t erase previous losses to none other than Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana State.
Northern Trust Open
Phil Mickelson (+1200) – The California swing continues this week at Riviera, where the players have four days (or two) to get their games in shape for next week’s match-play event. Mickelson did not set the world on fire at Pebble Beach, but he is less than two weeks removed from a dominant performance in Phoenix, and he is a two-time champion of this tournament.
Luke Donald (+1500) – Brandt Snedeker is not in the field this week, so everyone else will have a chance. Okay, that is going overboard just a little bit, but it really does improve the chances of guys like Donald. He is focused on the majors this season, but a win out in Cali would be good Masters preparation.
Dustin Johnson (+1200) – Johnson was off his game at his old stomping grounds of Pebble Beach, missing the third-day cut. He is still in decent form in general, but that recent performance does not bode well for Riviera.
Sergio Garcia (+1600) – Sergio finished tied for fourth last year in Riviera. He heated up at the end of 2012, so good things should be expected of the swashbuckling Spaniard this season.
National League Pennant
Los Angeles Dodgers (+375) – Pitchers and catchers have reported and football season is over, so it’s time to get into baseball mode. L.A. sports fans (well, at least those of the Lakers) are certainly doing so. The Dodgers’ offseason spending spree has them as co-favorites to win the National League.
Washington Nationals (+375) – Stephen Strasburg said on Monday that it will be a lot more fun participating in the playoffs this season than watching them from the dugout. Sounds like a guarantee of sorts…and why not? The Nationals pitching staff is absolutely loaded again.
Cincinnati Reds (+500) – After winning the first two games in San Francisco, Cincinnati imploded and got drop-kicked out of the postseason by the eventual World Series Champions. The Reds are rolling some dice in 2013 by moving flamethrower Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation.
San Francisco Giants (+600) – Dynasty, they are not. But the Giants have, in fact, won two of the last three World Series. These guys aren’t particularly flashy, but the bottom line is they know how to win. Betting against them is always unsafe. Period.
Slam Dunk Contest
James White (+160) – LeBron James tweeted “Dunk contest?” but was once again just toying with us. When someone named James White is the favorite to win something, you know the other “James” is not part of the competition.
Gerald Green (+400) – Green has more experience in this department than anyone else in the field. He won the thing in 2007 and finished runner-up to Nate Robinson in 2008. Does the high-flyer have any more tricks up his sleeve?
Terrence Ross (+400) – Like White, Ross is also making his first career appearance in the contest. Of course, that’s where the similarities end. White is 30; Ross is a 22-year-old rookie. Ross will attempt to come out of hibernation in Toronto and make a name for himself.
Eric Bledsoe (+450) – Bledsoe is by no means a second coming of Nate Robinson, but he may have some sentimental value standing at 6-foot-1 while the rest of the competition towers over him. Bledsoe’s leaping ability is well-documented, so he should not be discounted.
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