Don't bet money on who will win the college basketball championship.
That's the best advice I can give someone looking to lay down money on a college basketball futures bet. I don't like wagers on winning championships in any sport - the odds never reflect the actual degree of difficulty it takes to predict a champion. And trying to predict a college basketball national champion is even more ridiculous than trying to spot a title winner in any other sport, college or pro.
For starters, there are about three times as many teams to sift through as there are in any other major sports league. Secondly, it is tough to pick a champion in March when we know what the NCAA Tournament field looks like. Trying to do it in November? Give me a break. Third, repeating what I have already mentioned, the odds don't even come close to justifying the risk.
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But you guys are going to make these wagers any way. Even as you read this there is a line five-deep at the Westgate in Vegas right now, full of guys with cash in hand ready to buck the odds with what they think is a "smart" college basketball futures play. So if you're fool enough to take a shot, you might as well make it a well-educated one.
Below are my best bets to win the college basketball national championship. I've listed three top-tier teams that I think offer the best value and potential payout if they were to cut down the nets. And I've included three long-odds underdogs that could be worth a Hail Mary wager. Remember, it was yours truly that pegged a 100-to-1 longshot to win the title just two years ago .
Here you go:
Maryland (+900) - I really don't like these odds. Last February I had already tabbed the Terps as a great wager for 2015-16. But the word is out and everyone is all over Maryland. (For good reason.) The Terps are legitimately nine-deep, and they have one of the best players in the country, Melo Trimble, working the controls. Maryland has several NBA-caliber athletes (Trimble, Jake Layman, Diamond Stone, Robert Carter), and they are loaded on the perimeter and in the frontcourt. The only issue with this team is chemistry and cohesiveness. Three of their key players - Stone, Carter and transfer Rasheed Sulaimon - are new to the program. That puts the onus on Trimble and coach Mark Turgeon to pull it all together. If they do, there is more than enough talent to cut down the nets.
Kansas (+1400) - It is beyond my comprehension that Kansas has just one national title in the last 25 years and just two national titles in the last 60 years of college basketball. This hoops blueblood is about due for another banner, don't you think? The Jayhawks won the gold medal at the World University Games over the summer and offer a decent payout at these odds. Of course, so much of their success this year relies on the status of freshman phenom center Cheick Diallo, who is still waiting for clearance from the NCAA. But even without Diallo I have to think that Kansas is capable of securing a high seed and making its way to the Final Four. If they an find a way to get to Houston then you could lay off or hedge this wager and lock yourself in some profit. I think this team would beat Duke or Kentucky right now. (March is a different story.) And considering those teams offer about 50 percent less on the payout, that makes Kansas the smart value play.
Michigan State (+1800) - I know this much: you never want to bet AGAINST Tom Izzo in March. So why not take a shot on him in November? The Spartans are even better this season than the group that went to the Final Four last year. They lost Travis Trice, who I was never a big fan of, and Branden Dawson. But they added Eron Harris from West Virginia, and this guy is an absolute player. Top recruit Deyonta Davis can fill Dawson's shoes. The Spartans have an NBA-caliber go-to guy in Denzel Valentine and several players -Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling and Marvin Clark - will improve just by virtue of being a year older. These are great odds on a team that you know will be a tough out come March.
VIABLE LONG SHOTS
Connecticut (+2500) - I have said many times: you need NBA-caliber talent to even be considered as a national champion. Connecticut isn't even the best team in the AAC this year. SMU is the best, but the Mustangs have been screwed over by the NCAA and banned from the NCAA Tournament. Cincinnati will give the Huskies fits with their toughness and style. But the Huskies are led by several futures pros, including likely first-round pick Daniel Hamilton. Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs will play professionally overseas, and Phil Nolan, Steve Enoch and Amida Brimah are three 6-10 post players with pro bodies. They're big, they're skilled, and they are representing one of the most successful programs in the country. If there's going to be a "random" team from a lower seed (let's say No. 4 to No. 7) that wins it all it will be the Huskies.
Wichita State (+2800) - Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet make up one of the best backcourts that we've seen in college basketball in the past decade. Think that's hyperbole? Two years ago the Shockers entered the NCAA Tournament at 35-0 and lost in the final seconds to eventual national runner-up Kentucky. Last season the Shockers were 28-4 before rolling Indiana and Kansas in The Big Dance and then losing in the Sweet 16. Baker and VanVleet are awesome. Wichita State lost two starters from last year's squad. But they might have replaced Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter with two better players in transfers Connor Frankamp and Anton Grady. Wichita's starting five can beat anyone. But if the Shockers are going to make a leap forward they'll need one of three very physically gifted sophomores - Rashard Kelly, Zach Brown or Shaq Morris - to step forward. If that happens then watch out.
Indiana (+4000) - Look, I'm not a huge fan of this Indiana team. They lost 14 games last year. They are flaky, and they can't win on the road. The Hoosiers don't even pretend to play defense. But if you're looking for a team with top-end talent that has the capability to get hot and go on a six-game run, a la Connecticut in 2014 or 2011, then this is your team. Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon, Robert Johnson, Troy Williams and Thomas Bryant are all high-end athletes and future pros. If Bryant can stabilize the post and if this team can just find some toughness and heart then they could be in the mix. But at 40-to-1 they are a viable longshot. I think that Indiana is at least the equivalent of North Carolina right now. But the Hoosiers offer four times the payout. Indiana isn't winning the national title. But if we are talking strictly about value then these odds are as good as it gets.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has an unmatched streak of nine straight winning nonconference seasons and nine straight winning regular seasons. Robert's $100-per-Unit clients have banked $12,130 in profit with his sides and totals the last two years alone and he has raked in a remarkable $60,600 in the last nine years with his nonconference picks (November and December) alone. There is no better moneymaker in the nation and Robert is looking forward to another amazing season. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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