The ticker tape has hardly even been cleaned up from that crazy, brilliant Championship Game of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Neither team can likely yet fully process how it ended, though the emotions they face when thinking about 'the shot' will be very different. It was a brilliant end to an inconsistent but often very good tournament. My instinct is to sit back and savor what we saw for a while. There is no time for that, though. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has become among the first books to release ridiculously early future odds for next year's championship game - beaming into your living room on April 3, 2017. It would, of course, be ridiculous to bet these odds in any serious way now - there is just too much uncertainty. That doesn't make it any less fun to look at them and speculate, though.
Duke Blue Devils (9/2): It's going to be a young and loaded team for the Blue Devils next year. Grayson Allen will be back next year to lead the way offensively. He'll be joined by two guys who are the bluest of blue chips - Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are the two highest-rated recruits in the country. They are also bringing in Frank Jackson, who is a very elite prospect in his own right. There would have been a time not long ago that Coach K dealing with a squad of young divas wouldn't have inspired a lot of faith. He won a title two years ago, though, and that was with a young team perhaps not as talented as this one. Duke is a fitting favorite, and barring a major development they are all but a lock to start the season as the No. 1 team.
Kentucky Wildcats (6/1): We don't yet know who Kentucky will lose, but it will be significant. It's Kentucky, though, so they are obviously going to add another round of impressive young stars. Chemistry has been lacking for the last couple of years with this team, but if they can get on the same page they will again be dangerous. Of course, all bets will be off if this is the year that an NBA team lures John Calipari back to the pros. Even if he sticks around, though, I don't like much about this price.
Villanova Wildcats (8/1): It seems like the defending champs were a veteran squad. The truth is, though, that they only lose two seniors. Those two are both big pieces - Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. Everyone else is back, though, and that means that this team is going to be very dangerous again - and very seasoned. We don't often see a team win and have this much talent return these days, so it's tough to evaluate their chances of repeating. The good news, though, is that we don't need to be as worried about a first-round collapse as we had been up until this year.
Louisville Cardinals (10/1): This price is ridiculous - a wild gamble at this point. For starters, we have no way of knowing right now whether their self imposed postseason ban will be enough to appease the NCAA after they got caught hiring strippers for recruits or if they will face more sanctions that impede their title run next year. That makes it tough to trust them Then we don't even know for sure what they will look like because Chinanu Onuaku, their most important player in my eyes, is flirting with the NBA draft without an agent, so he may or may not be back. No value here.
Kansas Jayhawks (10/1): I don't like this bet at all, either. Perry Ellis is gone after one of those careers in which it feels like he has been playing for a dozen years. Wayne Selden Jr. is entering the draft and won't be back. Cheick Diallo doesn't have an agent but is trying out the draft, too. Losing two or three of those guys just guts this team, and they aren't reloading quite like Duke or Kentucky. At this point I would be more attracted to the team in 2018 than next year.
Michigan State Spartans (12/1): Avenging their embarrassment from this year could be a huge motivator. Last year Villanova was eliminated early and in humiliating fashion. This year they won it all. The Spartans handled the first half of that championship equation this year. I don't like their chances of getting the second half, though. Denzel Valentine is gone, and as many as three other starters could be leaving early. That's a lot of turnover and a lot of veteran leadership gone for a team that relies on that more than most. They have a strong recruiting class coming in - third best behind Duke and Kentucky in most rankings - but I still don't trust them. They don't have the history of youngster-driven success that other programs have.
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