The University of Connecticut women's basketball team is at -560 to win the women's Final Four with more than a month to go before the Final Four. Just take a step back and think about that for a second. There will be 68 teams in the tournament, but you would have to bet $560 for a shot at a $100 profit if they win it all. Insane. What's even crazier, though, is that you can't really argue with the odds.
They are ridiculously dominant in a way that no team in the men's game has been since John Wooden turned in his whistle. They have won the last three national championships, and five since 2009. They have been one of the last four standing each year since 2008. If they can close out a perfect season, it would be the fourth time they have gone through a whole year without a loss since 2008. They have won 64 straight games - and that's still 26 shy of their best run in the last decade. This team is profoundly ridiculous. So, while I could, of course, never justify suggesting that you should invest any money at such a low price when it would have to be locked in for so long, there are at least four good reasons why they are deserving of at least as much respect from oddsmakers as they are getting:
The domination: It's not just that this team is winning every game they are playing - it's how they are doing it that is so impressive. They are scoring an average of 88.6 points per game - a point and a half better than any team in the men's game. They are allowing just 48 points per game. That means that they are outscoring opponents by an average of 40.6 points per game. North Carolina has the highest scoring offense of any major contender in the men's game and they are only outscoring opponents by 13.5 on average. They have won by more than 50 points eight different times. The closest they came to a loss was to Maryland at Madison Square Garden, and they still won by 10 points. They also won by just 10 against Notre Dame, but that wasn't quite as close. It's hardly even fair - and certainly doesn't seem like it has been tough for them. And here's the thing - UConn teams have traditionally shown an extra gear or two in the postseason, so these girls aren't even playing as well as they are capable of yet.
The competition: When you see a schedule this dominant you can't help but question the strength of the schedule. We talked endlessly about the weak SEC when Kentucky almost ran the table a couple of years back. What's scary, though, is that the Huskies have played the best teams in the country. The five teams ranked behind UConn in the rankings are, in order, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Baylor, Ohio State and Maryland. Baylor, remarkably, is the only team the Huskies haven't faced during the regular season. They beat Notre Dame by 10 at home and South Carolina by 12 on the road. They humiliated Ohio State in the season opener, winning by 44 in Columbus. And they beat Maryland by 10 on a neutral court. So, that is four of the top six teams in the country, and the Huskies have beaten them by an average of 19 points. That shouldn't be possible.
The depth: Breanna Stewart gets the most attention on this team, and that is fully deserved. She's amazing. What stands out, though, is just how deep the team is. WNBA draft projections have Stewart going first overall, but two teammates should be joining her in the top five - and they have only three seniors. They have six players averaging nine points a game or better. They have nine players who have started a game - and all average at least 15 minutes a game. This isn't just a case of one or two superstars carrying the team, so they are not prone to slumps and they are very tough to isolate and slow down. It's not like it is going to get any easier for opponent's in coming years, either - two of the top eight scorers are freshmen who were among the very best recruits in the country last year and will only get better.
The coach: Every few months I hear someone else ask whether Geno Auriemma could cut it as a men's coach. I don't know whether to laugh or be insulted on his behalf. Of course he could - this kind of success isn't accidental. He is in his 30th year at UConn. He has won 10 national titles in the previous 19 years and has won 20 conference tournaments. This will all but certainly be his 20th year with at least 30 wins. And he has coached national teams to two Olympic golds and two world championship golds as well. He is a master motivator and tactician and would succeed wherever he chose to coach. Do you think he has suddenly forgotten how to shine when it matters most? Is there anyone in the game even close to his level? No, and no, so he's clearly an asset to this bet.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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