The college basketball season is slowly but surely get underway. It will be a while before people start paying a lot of attention, but it's never too soon to start making some college basketball predictions. College basketball culminates in the single best spectacle in sports, but there is a lot of excitement and intrigue between now and the madness of March. As things get fired up, here is my random collection of college basketball predictions to get you thinking about the season ahead of us (all odds are from Bodog):
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College Basketball Predictions: The Favorites
North Carolina - The Tar Heels are the obvious and overwhelming No. 1 team. They are 2/1 to win it all. UCLA is second best at 9/1. The question is whether you buy into the hype and look at who might finish No. 2, or whether you want to avoid drinking the Kool-Aid. I'm going to fade the Tar Heels, though. Just purely on the basis of logic and value it makes sense - the Tar Heels would have to win it once every three times to pay off, but I'm not willing to accept that. There is too much that could go wrong - it's a long season, Tyler Hansbrough isn't healthy right now, too many players could be playing for themselves to secure draft status, and everyone is going to be out to get them. They are unquestionably the favorite to win it all, and I won't at all be surprised to see Roy Williams cutting down a net, but this price just doesn't make sense.
Duke (12/1) - There's a lot more hype around this team now than there has been in recent years. They are better than they have been, and they have some impressive young talent. There are a few questions, though - can all the talent play together, and who is going to pull down rebounds? They will be better than they were last year, but I still don't think they are ready to take Coach K back to the promised land. Maybe they would if the coach would figure out how to recruit a big man.
Louisville (12/1) - I've been down on two teams so far, so now it's time to be positive. I love the Cardinals this year. Rick Pitino is as good as it gets as a coach, and he has his best collection of players he has had in years. Earl Clark is going to emerge into a mega-star this year. Samardo Samuels has the potential to be an all-world freshman. Point guard isn't a strength, but if they find a workable solution then this team can go deep.
UConn (10/1) - With Thabeet and Adrien, this team is going to be ferocious in the interior. I don't trust them, though. Their scoring could be an issue, and there are all sorts of character issues that could explode before the end of the year. Jim Calhoun has a huge task ahead of him, and I'm not convinced that the legend is up to the challenge this year. I won't be on them.
UCLA (9/1) - This is one of those teams that got better through subtraction -- Westbrook and Love were both great players, but not good enough in the system to go deep. Fresh blood plus good veteran presence in Collison and Shipp has the potential to raise this team up a notch or two. Jrue Holiday and J'Mison Morgan are two very impressive freshmen. I'd like this price to be a bit higher, but I'm certainly not going to overlook this team.
Other Teams I Like At Their Price
Michigan State (15/1) - This team will be better without Drew Neitzel. That's not often the case with a star player, but the rest of the team was too tentative when Neitzel took it upon himself to make things happen.
Purdue (20/1) - This team had a great year last year to build upon. Robbie Hummel is going to be a star.
Syracuse (35/1) - This is obviously a bit of a longshot, but I love this team at this price. They will be seasoned by playing in a ridiculously tough conference. Losing Donte Green means they have one less selfish player to cope with. Jonny Flynn is going to be recognized as one of the two or three best point guards in the country. This team is going to surprise, and do some damage.
Siena - You always have to throw in a mid-major. I'll take the Saints over Davidson solely because the loss of Jason Richards moves Stephen Curry to point guard. That will cost him some effectiveness.
USC (35/1) - O.J. Mayo was a distraction for this team. He also never really meshed with Daniel Hackett. DeMar DeRozan is a freak of a freshman, though, and he will be able to thrive under much less scrutiny than last year. This is a dangerous team, and they will be well positioned coming out of a relatively weak conference.
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Teams I Don't Like At Any Price
Tennessee (16/1) - This team lost a ton in the offseason, and I don't see how they have replaced it. No value at this price.
Kansas (25/1) - Kansas has some good talent in place, but they lost too much last year. Florida had a real adjustment period after the champion stars left, and I expect the same thing in Kansas. The season will be far from a disaster, but there will be no repeat.
Georgetown (25/1) - There are just too many good teams in the Big East, so some are inevitably going to struggle. The Hoyas are one of the teams I pick to do so.