January 29, 2016
By Kyle Hunter
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College Basketball is starting to get more attention as football ends, especially as we edge closer to March Madness. We're still more than two months from crowning a champion in college basketball, but it's obvious to everyone who pays close attention that this is the year of parity.
Who will win the 2016 College Basketball Championship?
Quite honestly, it's very hard to say.
Does that mean there is no value to be found? Absolutely not.
Remember, when you’re looking for value in futures, you don't necessarily need the team you pick to cut down the nets in the end. If you take a team with long odds, you can still make a good profit by hedging out of your bet. This season, I believe some of the best values will be on teams that aren't likely to win it all, but have a real shot at a Final Four run.
Listed below are my top five college basketball futures value plays.
1) Wichita State (45/1)
This is my favorite play on the board. Wichita State was in my Top 10 before the season started. The Shockers had some serious injury issues earlier this year, which led to them losing several games they otherwise wouldn't have lost. The team is healthy again now, and they have been absolutely thumping everyone in their way in the Missouri Valley Conference.
In the NCAA Tournament, having good guards is an absolutely necessity for making a deep run. Wichita State is led by Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker. You could make an argument that this is the best guard combination in the country.
Obviously, Wichita State won't get the high seed you would hope to have in the NCAA Tournament, but this team is capable of beating anyone in the country. I believe it's very likely that we'll see at least a couple teams that are rated low by the committee advance deep into this year's tournament. At 45/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $4,500), there is significant value on the Shockers.
2) Oklahoma (8/1)
I'm not going far out on a limb here, but Oklahoma deserves to be on the favorites going into the NCAA Tournament. I like to look for teams that have proven over the course of the year that they can win away from home. Oklahoma blasted Villanova on a neutral floor, and they have played very well on the road. The close overtime loss at Kansas showed the heart of this team plus they also picked up a nice win at Baylor.
Buddy Hield has been the most consistent star in the country this year. He plays his heart out every game, and he is shooting 52.3 percent from downtown. Hield's numbers are truly absurd, and at this point he is the clear favorite to win the Naismith Player of the Year award. Late in the tournament, when there are a bunch of close games, it's always very beneficial to have a clear star to turn to in the clutch.
3) Xavier (20/1)
The Xavier Musketeers have a long history of success in the NCAA Tournament. They have surprised people and made it a lot further than expected many times, and I believe they could do the same again this season. Xavier has played a difficult schedule, and they have certainly impressed. The Musketeers road win at Michigan told me a lot about this team earlier in the season.
Additionally, you can learn a lot about a team by seeing how they respond to adversity. Xavier has lost two games this year. They lost to Villanova and followed that up with a nice win over a good Butler team. Recently, they were upset by Georgetown, but they bounced back by winning on the road against a good Providence team.
Xavier has shown the ability to win both high-scoring games and defensive battles. The Musketeers will be dangerous in March.
4) North Carolina (7/1)
North Carolina probably has the highest upside of any team in the country. The Tar Heels haven't totally put it together this year, and they are still 18-2. Guard Marcus Paige missed time early in the year, and that put the team a little bit behind. Paige's shooting numbers are subpar so far this year, but he has proven to be a clutch player in the past.
Brice Johnson has turned into a superstar, and that has made this North Carolina frontcourt one of the best in the country. The Tar Heels dominate on the glass, and they have plenty of shot blockers to deter opponents from coming into the paint as well.
North Carolina has a nice mix of experience and youth, and the Tar Heels are primed for a big run in the NCAA Tournament.
5) Iowa (16/1)
What has Iowa done wrong?
All Iowa has done so far this year is take care of business, and yet the oddsmakers seem to be slow to give this team any respect. Iowa has played one of the ten toughest schedules in the country, and they still have a 16-4 record. They have won at Purdue and at Michigan State, and those are two very tough places to win. Plus, they barely came up short at Maryland this past week.
The Hawkeyes have two stars in Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok. The six-foot-nine Uthoff is shooting 48.3 percent from long range, and he has a tremendous array of moves that keep defenders guessing at all times. Adam Woodbury gives the team a good center and he’s shown that he can slow down opposing big men.
Iowa virtually never turns the ball over, and late in the season that is something that becomes even more important. This Hawkeyes team is being underrated by most and head coach Fran McCaffery will have them read in March.