NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Odds and Free Pick
by Alan Matthews - 3/14/2012
Last season when Bovada (then still Bodog) released the pre-NCAA Tournament odds, Kansas wasn’t the No. 1 overall seed but the favorites to cut down the nets. Thus, it was no surprise that Jayhawks star Marcus Morris, the Big 12 Player of the Year, was the opening favorite to win the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player award. You aren’t going to win this award if your team isn’t playing for a National Championship, it’s as simple as that (it’s really the Final Four MOP award).
Kansas was knocked out by VCU a season ago in the regional final, so needless to say Morris didn’t win the MOP award. Instead it went to UConn point guard Kemba Walker, who had one of the best NCAA Tournaments runs ever in leading the Huskies to the title. Walker, who also led UConn from the NCAA bubble to the Big East Tournament crown, was the easy choice – when the MOP odds were re-released before the Final Four Walker was the co-2/1 favorite with Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight.
So when looking at the 2012 MOP odds at Bovada, only consider players on teams that can win it all. The last player to win the award despite not being on the championship team was Houston center Akeem Olajuwon in 1983.
Kentucky is the presumptive favorite this season and the No. 1 overall seed. Thus, National Player of the Year candidate and lock 2012 No. 1 NBA Draft overall pick Anthony Davis is the 11/2 favorite. Davis has already been named the National Freshman of the Year, along with SEC Freshman of the Year, Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Davis made an amazing 64.2 percent of his shots (no one else in the SEC made more than 55 percent) and had 4.6 blocks per game, easily the tops in the nation. He was also eighth in scoring (14.3 points a game) and second in rebounding (10.0) in the SEC. If the Cats win their first national title since 1998 and Coach John Calipari’s first anywhere, Davis no doubt will be the MOP.
My worry with Davis is he could be matched up against an incredibly dangerous UConn team – and another stud freshman big man in Andre Drummond – in the Round of 32. If the seeding holds, UK would face Duke in the South Region final.
I really like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger at 15/2 to win this award. I liked him before and I do a ton more now that Syracuse lost star center Fab Melo on Tuesday for the tournament after he was ruled ineligible. The Orange are the No. 1 seed in the East, with Ohio State at No. 2 – the Buckeyes’ path to New Orleans just got significantly easier in my opinion. The Orange didn’t have Melo, the heart of their 2-3 zone defense, for three regular-season games and SU lost one and well could have lost the other two. Melo is a devastating loss.
At times Sullinger wasn’t his dominating self this season, especially in a three-game stretch from Feb. 18-26 when OSU lost two of three and he totaled only 31 points in those games. But OSU has won four of five since then and Sullinger’s play has risen – the Buckeyes’ only loss in that stretch was a close one to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. OSU has a potentially beast of a game vs. Florida State in the Sweet 16, but with Melo out I can see an easier path to New Orleans for the Buckeyes now.
Here are the next few favorites and a comment on each, along with one longer shot worth taking a flier on.
Doron Lamb, Kentucky (10/1): I’m not sure why Lamb has shorter odds than teammates Terrence Jones (18/1) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (22/1). I would prefer either of those two options.
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (12/1) and Tyler Zeller, UNC (15/1): I love both these guys if teammate John Henson is healthy. The junior, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, missed UNC’s final two ACC Tournament games with a wrist injury and it showed as the Heels squeaked by NC State and lost to FSU. If Henson is healthy, the Heels, I believe, win it all. Coach Roy Williams said the team likely wouldn’t know Henson’s status until Thursday “at the earliest.” The Heels won’t need him in the 1-16 game on Friday but will on Sunday vs. the Creighton/Alabama winner. I might lean toward Zeller, the ACC Player of the Year, over Barnes just purely out of value.
Draymond Green, Michigan State (14/1): Green beat out Sullinger for Big Ten Player of the Year honors and is the heart and soul of the Spartans. Green led the Big Ten in rebounding at 10.3 per game. He also ranked among the top 10 in the conference in scoring, assists and steals. If MSU goes anywhere, it will be on Green’s back. But other teams know that.
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt (50/1): The sharpshooter was named the SEC Tournament MVP after leading the Commodores to the shocking championship over Kentucky. Jenkins led the conference in scoring during the regular season for the second year in a row. He is averaging 19.9 points per game and he's shooting nearly 45 percent from beyond the three-point arc. The Commodores are a veteran-laden team built to win now. They could be the first big beneficiaries of Melo’s absence as Vandy would get Syracuse in the Sweet 16 if both win their first two games (I can’t see Vandy losing to Harvard or Wisconsin/Montana before that).
So here’s what I am leaning toward: If Henson is healthy, Zeller is my guy. If not, then I am betting on both Sullinger and Jenkins to win MOP because I believe either OSU or Vandy gets to the Final Four from the East Region – the East Region winner would theoretically play North Carolina in the Final Four.
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