College Basketball Handicapping: NCAA Preseason Rankings vs. National Title Odds
by George Monroy - 11/6/2014
The college basketball season is set to begin on Nov. 14 with the Top 7 teams in the preseason rankings all hosting tune-up games to open the year. This season should be a year of parity as there are no real powerhouses that stand out. There may be 10 to 12 excellent teams, with a couple probably following into the "elite" category, but even Kentucky, with its annual greatest-freshmen-class-ever hype is probably not as good as the media and sportsbooks will make them out to be. The preseason rankings have already been released, so let's take a closer look at the AP Top 25 rankings and their accompanying odds from Sportsbook.ag.
Top 7 AP Rankings and Sportsbook.ag Odds
1) Kentucky +180 : The Wildcats are once again sitting atop the preseason rankings, and have already made headlines with coach John Calipari's plan to use two separate lineups that will exclusively play together. Calipari's biggest issue will be figuring out how to manage another excellent recruiting class while making sure that young talent, like the 6-foot-11 freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, matures into NBA-ready players.
2) Arizona +650 : Arizona believes that its core of junior players from last season's No.1-ranked team will be able to lead this year's group into the NCAA Tournament with a top seed once again. Brandon Ashley is set to return from injury and hopefully play a star role for the talented Wildcats squad.
3) Wisconsin +900 : The Badgers will be led by ESPN's top-ranked player in all of college basketball, Frank Kaminsky, and they are hoping for a return trip to the Final Four behind the senior forward's leadership and scoring ability. The seven-footer averaged 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds last year and is only expected to improve in 2014.
4) Duke +1200 : The Blue Devils will be trotting out the nation's top freshman recruit, who could also end up being the No. 1 pick in next summer's NBA Draft. Jahlil Okafor, the McDonald's All-American, is the latest high-profile player to join forces with coach Mike Krzyzewski and is ranked No. 3 in the nation by ESPN.
5) Kansas +1700 : Coach Bill Self lost his two best players from last season to the NBA, which happened to also be the No.1 and No.3 picks in the drafted, but he believes the Jayhawks have enough talent to capture their 11th straight Big 12 title. Last year forward Perry Ellis was overshadowed by the high profiles of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but still managed to average 13 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
6) North Carolina +1700 : The Tar Heels believe they have three game-changing players in Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Marcus Paige, who is the ACC player of the year favorite. Don't expect North Carolina to win the ACC, however, as Duke will probably capture that honor, but the team will be good enough to make an impact once the tournament rolls around.
7) Florida +1700 : Coach Billy Donovan has a roster of four Top 25 freshmen recruits and believes his squad can make another Final Four run, even if the young-and-inexperienced team has to struggle during the beginning of the season. Donovan has said in interviews that he is ready to experiment with lineups and be patient with his team.
The Rest of the AP Top 25
8) Louisville +3000
9) Virginia +3500
10) Texas +3000
11) Wichita State +3500
12) Villanova +3500
13) Gonzaga +2000
14) Iowa State +3500
15) Virginia Commonwealth +3500
16) San Diego State +5500
17) Connecticut +3000
18) Michigan State +5500
19) Oklahoma +6500
20) Ohio State +500
21) Nebraska +11500
22) Southern Methodist +6500
23) Syracuse +5500
24) Michigan +4500
25) Utah +8500
At the moment Kentucky is receiving all of the basketball hype, as is usually the case early in the year. However, producing a highly-touted freshmen class does not necessarily lead to an NCAA title. Experience, chemistry and poise under pressure are usually what helps teams navigate the minefield of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Most of the top-ranked schools are receiving value in there odds, but the big takeaway is that Kentucky is overvalued, and bettors who are looking to wager on the team's national title odds might want to until the lines are adjusted after a Wildcats few losses.
Read more articles by George Monroy
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