2019-19 NCAA BK Betting Preview
November 6, 2018
By Tony Mejia
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Kentucky and Duke square off to start the season, so they can settle who the No. 1 team should be going forward on the floor. As for the preseason stance, here is VI’s Top 25.
While they open in Indianapolis as the nightcap of a doubleheader featuring Kansas and Michigan State, every team in the country wants to end up in Minneapolis when all is said and done.
The following is a list of the top candidates to do so, complete with early line movement courtesy of futures odds via the Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook.
In forecasting March Madness, you have to adjust for a little crazy. Where’s the wacky coming from? Who will follow Sister Jean’s act into prominence? How’s her beloved school looking? I’ll list my Final Four at the bottom but have given myself a requirement to select two favorites, one longshot and one super longshot. I reserve the right to change my mind once games are played, but the fun in November college basketball is seeing where teams if teams pick up where they left off.
Favorites (Odds to win title)
Duke (4/1): The Blue Devils were at 9-to-2 to win it all last week and will probably catch a better return somewhere along the line. Maybe they'll have a slight skid come ACC play. Still, this is the preferred choice. The task to pick a favorite freshman will be a daunting one. R.J. Barrett is the most talented, Zion Williamson has the Shawn Kemp-type appeal and Cam Reddish may be the most fun to watch. They're all delightful. This is your national champion.
Gonzaga (10/1): The odds are juicier than the 7-to-1 they were at a few weeks ago since power forward Killian Tillie will miss two months with a stress fracture in his foot. As long as he's around to help Rui Hachimura come February and March, the Zags will be a threat to win it all. Consider North Dakota grad transfer Geno Crandall the x-factor. He's got some special to him and can really take some of the pressure off backcout mate Josh Perkins.
Kansas (6/1): The Jayhawks were at 8-to-1 before the AP poll came out and voters placed the No. 1 tag on them, but they've got a lot of moving parts and probably shouldn't have been burdened with the top ranking. The Lawson twins come over from Memphis, star freshmen make up the backcourt. Stud wing LaGerald Vick and 7-footer Udonna Azubuike are shooting to impress NBA scouts while showing the others the ropes. If everything clicks, they can be tremendous.
Kentucky (7/1): Five 'Cats from last year's group are currently on NBA rosters, but with Stanford transfer Reid Travis joining P.J. Washington and Nick Richards up front, John Calipari's squad should be fiercely physical. Quade Green hopes to show significant improvement, while freshmen Keldon Johnson, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Tyler Herro can all fill in as impressive glue guys. Hagans will alter big games with his defense.
Nevada (12/1): Eric Musselman returns the bulk of last year's group, led by the Martin twins and wing Jordan Caroline. The Wolf Pack added Old Dominion transfer Trey Porter and Top-20 recruit Jordan Brown, both 6-foot-11, to bring an element they lacked last year, so don't write this team off as some flash-in-the-pan mid-major. They're going to be loaded.
North Carolina (8/1): It feels like Luke Maye has been at UNC forever and he'll have Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson around in addition to senior Kenny Williams to offer veteran help, so this group will be tough to beat. Roy Williams brought in a pair of potentially special freshmen in blur of a point guard Coby White and athletic wing Nassir Little, so there will be significant depth.
Longshots (Odds to win title)
Auburn (40/1): We'll finally get to see 7-footer Austin Wiley play, but it won't be right away. He's out with a foot injury and may be brought along slowly. Forward Danjel Purifoy also had to sit last season and will be sidelined for the first nine games, but adding two fantastic frontcourt pieces to the group Bruce Pearl led to 26 wins last season will make for a formidable group.
Indiana (30/1): The Hoosiers went from 200-to-1 to 40-to-1 and are now down even further due to all the talent Archie Miller has assembled on the roster. Freshman forward Romeo Langford has the best shot at becoming a household name and should be a one-and-done. It remains to be seen whether fellow freshman Robert Phenisee eventually takes over the point full-time but will start out sharing time with junior Devonte Green.
Kansas State (40/1): Bruce Weber got the Wildcats to the Elite Eight last March and returns all five starters, so rivalry games against KU will be must-see TV this season. Dean Wade, who wasn't part of the tourney run due to injury, puts the Wildcats over the top. This is a legitmate Top 10 team.
Michigan (30/1): After head coach John Beilein got heavily involved in the Pistons' hiring process, things could have looked a lot different than they do today. Veraatile bigs Mo Wagner and Duncan Robinson are on NBA rosters, so there's more change on the way. Charles Matthews will have to improve on free-throws or he'll cost the Wolverines games in Big Ten play.
Michigan State (30/1): The Spartans lost Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, Jr. to the pros but will remain formidable so long as Cassius Winston is at the controls. He'll have freshman Michigan Mr. Basketball Foster Loyer to mentor and play alongside, while Nick Ward will get the bulk of the touches inside.
Oregon (20/1): Bol Bol looks like a beast, which is why the Ducks could win it all despite being relatively young. Dana Altman was fortunate to land Corpus Christi transfer Ehab Amin and Georgetown import Paul White to help add experience in the mix. Point guard Payton Pritchard will be the proverbial straw that stirs the drink and should flourish at a brisk pace. He's a winner.
Purdue (50/1): Top scorer Carsen Edwards returns, but the majority of last year's loaded group has graduated from the program. Edwards should lead the Big Ten in scoring as a result but needs to get help from Dartmouth transfer Evan Boudreaux and 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms up front to keep defenses from keying solely on him.
Syracuse (40/1): The Orange have moved from 50-to-1 and return last season's entire starting lineup thanks to Tyus Battle's last-minute decision to return for his junior year in order to improve his draft stock. The determined wing could make himself some bucks by improving his jumper and taking 'Cuse on a run deep into March.
Tennessee (25/1): With Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield leading the way, Rick Barnes has grown men in positions of power, which could swing the SEC his way and out of the grasp of usual suspects Kentucky and Florida.
Villanova (30/1): The top four Wildcats gone from last year's great group are already in the rotation of four separate NBA teams, so Jay Wright's team will be nowhere near as talented this season. The cupboard isn't entirely bare with Eric Paschall and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree back up front and Phil Booth set to lead the team's backcourt efforts alongside Albany transfer Joe Cremo. Freshman Jahvon Quinerly will be the x-factor and could ultimately determine this team's ceiling.
Virginia (20/1): How does one overcome becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 in the NCAA Tournament? We're about to find out. The loss of Deandre Hunter to a broken hand contributed to UVa's demise at the hands of UMBC, but he'll be back on the wing alongside guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. Expect a bounce-back season.
West Virginia (30/1): Although the loss of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, Jr. hurts, wings James Bolden and Esa Ahmad have the opportunity to step up. It's on whoever is playing point to defend the way Carter did and establish an identity night after night. That's easier written than done.
Super Longshots (Odds to win title)
Florida (100/1): Mike White has topped 20 wins in each of his three seasons leading the Gators and has seniors Jalen Hudson, Kevaughn Allen and Kevarrius Hayes to lead the way. Canadian freshman x-factor Andrew Nembhard will step right into the starting lineup and could produce immediately.
Florida State (60/1): Although they'll have to overcome Leonard Hamilton's often brutal in-game coaching, the 'Noles return a number of key cogs from last year's Elite Eight squad. 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje could be a game-changer come this year's Big Dance, forming an excellent veteran frontcourt alongside seniors Terance Mann and Phil Cofer.
Loyola-Chicago (300/1): How can the Ramblers follow up a 32-win season and Final Four trip? Winning the Horizon League seems like the most realistic expectations given the departure of a few key regulars, but head coach Porter Moser returns point guard Clayton Custer and big man Cameron Krutwig, so they may not take too large a step backward.
Mississippi State (100/1): Ben Howland's Bulldogs have four starters back and will be paced by junior point guard Lamar Peters, the Weatherspoon brothers and senior big man Aric Holman.
Texas Tech (60/1): Head coach Chris Beard simply finds ways to win, but he's got a massive undertaking ahead of him in attempting to replace Keenan Evans, Zhaire Smith and Zach Smith. Transfers Tariq Owens (St. John's) and Matt Mooney (South Dakota) will team with sophomore wing Jarrett Curlver and freshman guard Kyler Edwards to try to keep the success going in Lubbock.
Texas (80/1): Shaka Smart couldn't win big with the likes of Mo Bamba and couldn't feel worse about it. He's got versatile big man Dylan Osetowski available to lead this year's group but will have to do the coaching job of his career to be a significan tourney threat come March.
UCLA (100/1): The Bruins opened at 30/1 but have taken a hit with forward Cody Riley sidelined three weeks after running into 7-foot freshman Moses Brown. We'll see if the backcourt of Jaylen Hands and Prince Ali can be effective without first-round pick Aaron Holiday leading the charge.
UCF (200/1): Head coach Johnny Dawkins has his son Aubrey in the mix after an injured shoulder ended his season prematurely last year. 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall is also back and will try to improve enough to land an NBA deal. He'll serve as the backbone of a UCF squad that should win the American.
USC (200/1): This is Bennie Boatwright's team, for better or worse. An ill-timed knee injury that required surgery is the lone reason he didn't leave for the pros, so Andy Enfield has to help Boatwright remain focused on making the best of a setback. The Trojans added a few key transfers to help the team become competitive.
Virginia Tech (60/1): Buzz Williams has a deep team at his disposal, but did lose a top scorer and go-to guy who must be replaced. Fortunately, the Hokies are deep and talented, which should assist them in pushing tempo and identifying the backbone for this group.
Wichita State (100/1): The Shockers were at 40-to-1 but had their odds adjusted and will likely struggle with Landry Shamet off playing for the 76ers and other key cogs done with their eligibility. Gregg Marshall doesn't lose often, so look for him to figure out the right way to play around transfer forward Markis McDuffie.
Final Four: Duke, Nevada, Auburn, Florida
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at email@example.com
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