College Basketball National Championship Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 11/27/2013
The college basketball season is still ridiculously young. We still don’t really know anything about what will happen in March, but we have seen enough to get a first sense of where teams are at and what might be expected. That means that it’s a good time to check in for value in college basketball National Championship futures and offer up some predictions (all odds are from Sportsbook.ag):
Kentucky (+500): What do we know about Kentucky so far? Julius Randle is at least as good as advertised. Other young talent is advancing quickly. When they are on their game they are dangerous. Unfortunately for them, though, we also know that they can be vulnerable — as shown by a loss to Michigan State and a second near loss. They can’t shoot three pointers if their lives depend on it right now, and they are vulnerable when opposing defenses double or triple team Randle — which they are prone to do because it is the best way to challenge the Wildcats. This team is very likely to improve with seasoning and grown confidence. Until we see that happen, though, it’s tough to justify betting them as the favorite to win it all. As we have seen with Calipari, his ridiculously-talented young teams can go all the way, or they can disappoint and go home far too early.
Michigan State (+500): On a personal level, it kills me to admit it, but there is little doubt in my mind that at this moment Michigan State is the best team in the country. They are deep and experienced, and Gary Harris has taken a big step forward this year — and he was already a great player. They came to play against Kentucky, they cruised through their preseason tournament, and they have looked fierce and determined. Big Ten play will be brutal this year as always, but that will only season them. I have no problem justifying this price, and they would be my pick at this point.
Kansas (+525): Andrew Wiggins is off to a good start, and he commanded the team in the second half of their win against Duke. They already play very good defense, and that will only get better as Wiggins and fellow freshman Joel Embiid develop. They play a high-paced offense that is efficient as well as relentless. I want to wait and see that this team can perform at a high level with the youth they are playing with — Jeff Withey is missed right now — but they are the second-best team in the country in my eyes, and have the potential to go further than last year.
Louisville (+600): I want to believe, but right now I’m not convinced. They lost to North Carolina, and they just haven’t looked sharp. They have a month of easier games before facing Kentucky in what will be a massive measuring stick for both teams. This team has the potential to repeat, but they require a whole lot of patience, and at this point there is no value in this price.
Duke (+700): Jabari Parker has been spectacular. Very impressive. His first half against Kansas was the best half any player has played this year. The problem facing this team, though, is that although they are a truly elite offense, they just don’t play defense at all. Not even sort of. They just try to outrun teams, but that didn’t work against Kansas thanks to foul issues, and it almost failed against Kansas. Coach K just doesn’t coach bad defense like this, so it should improve going forward. It has to, or there will be issues.
Oklahoma State (+800): Marcus Smart has been the best player in the country so far. He is playing at an amazing level. In the team’s only real test they absolutely crushed a very good Memphis team. It wasn’t close. The question, though, is if he has the depth and experience around him to challenge the loaded teams he has to beat to win it all. I’m not sure of that. There is lots of talent, but not another elite player. Every other team on this list has more than one. I want to believe, and at +1200 or so I probably would. I don’t see any value here, though.
USC (+200000): You have to have a longshot to cheer for, and the Trojans are certainly one. They are short on depth, but they had a surprisingly good summer of recruiting. Most importantly, they made a very good coaching hire when they brought in NCAA Tournament-hero Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast. He’s absolutely fearless, and he will have his team inspired and performing at their best. There are plenty of issues, but at this price that goes without saying. If nothing else, Enfield is going to make things fun at USC — something that hasn’t been the case for a long time.
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