As I write this we are still less than 24 hours away from that truly awful NCAA Tournament Championship Game, Both teams conspired with the refs to make it mostly unwatchable - and not just because my team lost. I don't want to spend any more time than I absolutely have to thinking back to that game - or the rest of what was a pretty flat tournament overall, really. Instead, this is a good time to look forward - and to hope that next year's tournament offers a better finale and a better overall event.
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No time at all passed after the game before futures were available for next year's tournament. The Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook was the first to put them out, as they often are. Here's a look at the 12 lowest prices on the board:
Kentucky (10/1): The story is familiar here. The Wildcats will lose the core of their team to the draft, but they have the top recruiting class in the country coming in and a couple of players hanging around who have promise that has not yet been realized. They are going to be dangerous because they always are. My biggest concern is that I can't shake the feeling that John Calipari wants one more shot at the NBA, and this year could be the time for it.
Louisville (10/1): The postseason didn't go as planned, but this is a very good defensive team, and almost all of the core will be back for another year. On top of that they have a pretty good recruiting class joining them as well. The disappointment of how this year ended won't sit well with Rick Pitino, and this team should be fired up and ready.
Duke (10/1): This last year was a bit of a mess for the Blue Devils - at least by the very high standards they are held to. They have some very nice youngsters joining next year, though, and aren't losing as many guys to the draft as seems possible. My gut says this is a bit too low of a price, but that's a given since they are such a public team. They will again be a factor.
Kansas (12/1): This team loses their two best players, but they have won 13 straight Big 12 titles, and there is no reason to think they can't keep adding to that. They have another strong group of youngsters joining the team. And who in the conference is going to knock them off?
North Carolina (12/1): The defending champs are sure to lose three core players and will likely lose a fourth, but that shouldn't be the death of their run as a current powerhouse. They still have some key players sticking around - likely and most notably Joel Berry II - and they have some nice recruits coming, too. This price might be a bit optimistic, but they will definitely be a factor.
Villanova (12/1): Life without Josh Hart is going to be rough, but this squad has built up the depth to deal with the losses after this year - and it's not like they had no key losses after the 2016 championship season or anything. I'm hesitant to bet this price mostly because the Jay Wright that we saw in the tournament this year is more realistic in my eyes than the one who won it all last year. Good team, though.
Gonzaga (12/1): They could be short of star big men as Przemek Karnowski is gone, and freshman Zach Collins could head to the draft. Nigel Williams-Goss should be back, though, and so is much of the rest of this team. In sum, they shouldn't be much less talented than they were last year - and perhaps even more talented. I like this price.
Arizona (20/1): Lauri Markkanen will be gone, and that's a big blow. They will lose at least two guys off the wing, too. In place of Markkanen, though, they have the top center recruit in the country incoming, so there will be no shortage of talent. They should be the strength of the Pac-12 next year - for what that's worth.
Michigan (20/1): It's hard to judge this team since both D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner are fringe first-rounders who haven't made a draft decision yet. With Derrick Walton Jr. already gone, the team would be in trouble losing those two. If they both return, though, and if former 5-star recruit and transfer from Kentucky Charles Matthews shines, this could be a strong team again. If they return the two sophomores then this price is attractive.
Indiana (20/1): This is ridiculously optimistic. I love the new coaching hire and all, but there is a lot of work to do to get this team back to the highest levels. The price just makes no sense.
Wichita State (20/1): The Shockers were the most ridiculously seeded team in the tournament this year, and it hurt them - they didn't deserve Kentucky in the second round. They return basically everyone this year and should be even better - potentially much better - than the 31-win team from last year. This is a very nice price. I'd call these guys the next Gonzaga if Gonzaga wasn't still Gonzaga.
Florida (20/1): Mike White is in his third year with the program, so things should be running as he wants them. He returns the important players from a team that went on a nice run this year, and he adds a Top-10 recruiting class and a couple of nice transfers. I'm not convinced they'll be better than Kentucky, but they are easily the second-best team in the SEC. There is some value here.
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