College Basketball Betting: Conference Futures
by Trevor Whenham - 12/03/2008
Conference play is still about a month away in college basketball. We have already been able to get a good sense of where teams are at if we have been watching closely, though. That makes this a perfect time to look for value in conference championship futures. We're not shooting in the dark right now because we have some knowledge, but value could still exist because the public largely isn't paying attention to college basketball yet. Here's a look at a team in each of the six major conferences that could provide some value at their current future prices (all odds are from Bodog):
The obvious choice here is North Carolina. They haven't done anything even remotely wrong, and they will only get better as their freshmen get experience and Tyler Hansbrough gets healthy. The problem, though, is that they are at a ridiculous price in the futures market - 100/333. There is no way I would tie my money up at that future price The good news, though, is that a favorite that is ridiculously overbet naturally inflates the rest of the prices in the conference. North Carolina won't be easy to beat, but I don't ever like to count out Coach K. Duke has their best roster in a few years, and they have been playing well so far. It has been a frustrating run for a couple of years, and the Blue Devils will be hungry to regain their dominance. I certainly like their chances to come out ahead more than the 13/4 price indicates I should. That makes them a good betting value.
For once, the value is with the favorite here. Blake Griffin has been an absolute beast so far for Oklahoma - probably the best player in the country up to this point. He has led his team to big wins over Davidson and Purdue. He has been helped out by his brother, Taylor, and by the very impressive early play of stud freshman Willie Warren. The Big 12 is far from the strongest basketball conference in the country. Texas will be a challenge, but few other teams will even be able to make it close against the Sooners. That makes them solid value at 5/2.
This conference is ridiculously strong - they became the first league to ever have eight ranked teams this week, and none are there undeservedly. To try to find value in this dogfight I'll take two approaches. First, Pittsburgh. They are off to a good start, and are up to No. 3 in the rankings. Their future odds haven't caught up to their price yet, though. At a juicy 7/1 they are only the fifth lowest priced team in the conference, and they are behind a Marquette team that I don't see as nearly as good as the Panthers. The other team I like is Syracuse. They are exciting to watch, and Jonny Flynn is a fantastic player. They also have the benefit of exceptional coaching. At 10/1 they are worth a look.
There is a pretty solid option here. There are two solid favorites, but both have reasons to doubt them. Purdue is a very exciting team, but they are young and unproven, and clearly the target of overexcitement at 3/2. They are going to be strong, but their chances aren't nearly as good as their price indicates. Michigan State is next at 3/1. The Spartans are talented, but their bad loss to Maryland raised some real concerns - about to raise doubts about their 3/1 price. Instead of those two I will look elsewhere for a better price. Ohio State has the look of a team that is going to have to grow in to themselves this year, but they are more attractive at 11/2 than the other two teams. Sophomore Evan Turner is off to a very solid start, and B.J. Mullens has a good shot at being the third straight star freshman center for the team once he gets more comfortable.
The Pac-10 is similar to the ACC - the Bruins, at 20/31, are a runaway favorite, so the only chance of value is to find a team that could beat the Bruins and is at enough of a price to take a risk. For me, that team is Arizona. They are the fourth choice in the conference at 7/1, but that doesn't entirely reflect reality. Their large number of defections and the whole Lute Olson mess disguises the fact that this is a pretty solid team. They are far from a lock, but the risk is nicely reflected in the price. Chase Budinger has returned, and his game has clearly found new dimensions.
The SEC doesn't provide the value that the other divisions do. The most likely I can find is that Tennessee will win the SEC East.