When we last left college basketball, we had just been treated to one of the greatest championship games in sporting history (and the “Crying Jordan” meme avalanche that followed). Now that the NBA has rifled through the NCAA’s top talents and taken what they like, we’re ready for another great year of basketball.
If you’re worried about the loss of stars like Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield, and Denzel Valentine, fear not; like clockwork, there was another loaded recruiting class to replenish the talent pool. And heroes of old – like Villanova’s Kris Jenkins – will also be back to help the Wildcats defend their National Championship.
While some folks may only start caring about the college game when March rolls around, you and I know that the level of intensity and quality of play is great throughout the whole year. And with 351 schools vying for just 68 tournament seeds, every game matters. So which teams and players are worth watching this year? Well, Sascha (SP) and I have compiled a quick list of odds to help you tip off another season of college basketball binge-watching.
NCAA Basketball 2016-17 Odds
March Madness Odds
Odds of winning the NCAA Championship
- Duke: 11/2
- Kentucky: 9/1
- Kansas: 10/1
- North Carolina: 14/1
- Oregon: 14/1
- Villanova: 14/1
- Virginia: 18/1
- Wisconsin: 18/1
- Arizona: 25/1
- Syracuse: 25/1
- Michigan State: 25/1
- Indiana: 33/1
- Louisville: 33/1
- Purdue: 40/1
- Xavier: 40/1
- Gonzaga: 50/1
- NC State: 50/1
- UCLA: 60/1
- UConn: 60/1
- Texas: 70/1
Be honest, it’d be weird if you looked at the odds one year and the Duke Blue Devils weren’t around the top. They enter this season as the odds-on favorite, as a strong recruiting class of Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, and Marques Bolden will join a team that fell to Oregon in last year’s Sweet 16. Led by Player of the Year favorite Grayson Allen, Duke should finish at the top of college basketball’s toughest conference, holding off the likes of UNC, Virginia, Syracuse, and Louisville.
Reigning champions Villanova lost two key pieces from their title team, but have more than enough talent to make another run this year. As for Kentucky, they’ve once again retooled by landed outstanding recruits of their own, looking for yet another team of one-and-done wunderkinder to win a title for John Calipari.
Of all the exciting new blood, no droplet has more people talking than Kansas’ Josh Jackson. The forward joins a veteran-laden Jayhawks team that’s ready to win, as long as Jackson can fill the scoring void left by the departure of Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr.
Odds of reaching the Final Four
- Duke: 11/8
- Kentucky: 7/3
- Kansas: 9/4
- North Carolina: 7/2
- Villanova: 7/2
- Oregon: 9/2
- Wisconsin: 9/2
- Virginia: 5/1
- Arizona: 13/2
- Syracuse: 13/2
- Michigan State: 13/2
- Indiana: 9/1
- Louisville: 9/1
- Purdue: 11/1
- Xavier: 11/1
- Gonzaga: 25/2
- NC State: 25/2
- UCLA: 15/1
- UConn: 15/1
- Texas: 35/2
These odds largely mirror the odds to win the national title. But a few teams – like Oregon and Virginia – see their stocks fall. They have a track record of stumbling earlier in the tourney than their blue-blooded relatives. The experience and coaching on teams like UNC and Nova means they’re more likely to get through early-round play unscathed. – SP
Odds the National Champion comes from the …
- ACC: 13/8
- Big Ten: 21/4
- Pac-12: 7/1
- Big 12: 8/1
- SEC: 17/2
- FIELD: 7/1
There’s been a lot of conference re-shuffling over the past 15 or so years, but teams that now reside in the ACC have won ten national championships since 2001. No other “power conference” has more than one. The ACC’s short odds aren’t just a product of history, though. Four of the top-ten favorites this year are ACC teams. Shocking! – SP
Odds the top-four AP pre-season teams (Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova) all make the Final Four: 10,000/1
I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, that’s a big number! I thought these teams were supposed to be good! How are the odds possibly that long?”
They’re actually longer, in truth. This isn’t as simple as combining the odds for these four teams to reach the Final Four in isolation. (But that, alone, would be a massive longshot.) Each would also have to be in a different region of the bracket, so, in addition, you’d effectively have to win four straight rolls of a four-sided die just to set up the possibility of them all getting to Phoenix. You’re basically playing the lotto at that point. – SP
Odds a team enters the NCAA Tourney undefeated: 140/1
Nineteen teams have accomplished this incredible feat, but just two have slogged out a perfect record since 1992. A strong Wichita State program did it in 2013-14, albeit by largely picking on underwhelming Missouri Valley teams. Then there was that completely stacked Kentucky Wildcats team a year later, which ran its record to 38-0 before losing in the Final Four.
While there are talented teams heading into this season, no one is quite at Wildcat-level. Given how strong some of these conferences are, it’d be a shock to see anyone run the table.
Odds a #16 seed upsets a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney: 99/1
Still has yet to happen, but one day it will. Right? RIGHT!?
Odds a #15 seed upsets a #2 seed in the NCAA tourney: 16/1
Middle Tennessee’s shocker of pre-tournament darling Michigan State may have seemed inconceivable last year, but it was actually the fourth win by a #15 seed over a #2 seed since 2012. This current surge has doubled the number of all time wins by #15 seeds to eight. It’s unclear whether this represents a narrowing of the talent gap between major schools and the “lesser conferences,” or whether it’s just an anomaly. But either way, #2 seeds better be on the lookout this year.
Naismith College Player of the Year Odds
- Grayson Allen (Duke): 7/2
- Josh Hart (Villanova): 5/1
- Ivan Rabb (California): 8/1
- Josh Jackson (Kansas): 10/1
- Dillon Brooks (Oregon): 10/1
- Alonzo Trier (Arizona): 12/1
- Markelle Fultz (Washington): 14/1
- Melo Trimble (Maryland): 14/1
- Field: 7/1
Of the 10 semi-finalists for last year’s Naismith Award, Allen is the only one returning this season. An elite level scorer who has followed in the footsteps of Duke legends Christian Laettner and J.J. Redick by becoming nationally despised, Allen also has a good chance to follow their lead to a National Player of the Year award.
Competition will come from freshman and more experienced players alike, but Allen’s number one concern should be Nova’s Josh Hart. The senior led the Wildcats in scoring during their championship season last year, and he’s one of the top two players on the wing, which should help separate him from these other capable scorers.
Odds freshmen declare for 2017 NBA draft
- Josh Jackson (Kansas): 1/40
- Jayson Tatum (Duke): 1/30
- Markelle Fultz (Washington): 1/30
- Dennis Smith (NC State):1/20
- De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky): 1/20
- Harry Giles (Duke): 1/12
- Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (Kentucky): 1/9
- Marques Bolden (Duke): 1/7
Going pro is just too enticing for these young kids now. Even if they spend an entire year only damaging their draft stock like Skal Labissiere, most will opt for the immediate payday. NBA teams don’t exactly disincentivize that behavior, either, opting to take young players high based solely on their potential.
Odds of being the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft
- Josh Jackson (Kansas): 2/1
- Markelle Fultz (Washington): 5/2
- Harry Giles (Duke): 4/1
- Dennis Smith (NC State): 8/1
- Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (Kentucky): 14/1
- Ivan Rabb (California): 16/1
- Frank Ntilikina (International): 20/1
Jackson, the Kansas freshman, excites a ton of scouts with ridiculous athleticism and an ability to guard just about anyone on the perimeter. The big man Giles is viewed as having the most potential, but comes with an injury history that is sure to worry teams. Outside of Rabb, the top of the 2017 draft is projected to be a lot of freshman and young international talent.
Odds coaches return to their current schools in 2017-18
- Steve Alford (UCLA): 4/9
- Bruce Weber (Kansas State): 1/1
- John Groce (Illinois): 3/2
- Richard Pitino (Minnesota): 5/1
- Johnny Jones (LSU): 8/1
The seat scalds for the coaches of these middling programs, and for most, only a tournament appearance can save them. Jones wasted a season with top prospect Ben Simmons last year, going 19-14 and missing the tournament; he’ll be in tough to win back fans after that. Groce and Pitino haven’t led their programs into March Madness in the last three years, while Weber’s been absent for two.
Alford’s hot seat seems unjust, having taken UCLA to the Sweet 16 in 2014 and 2015. Then again, the Bruins and their 11 National Championship trophies have loftier expectations than most programs.
Odds coaches move to the NBA in 2017-18
- Shaka Smart (Texas): 7/2
- Bill Self (Kansas): 7/1
- Jay Wright (Villanova): 15/1
- Tom Izzo (Michigan State): 50/1
- John Calipari (Kentucky): 100/1
Every offseason, at least five NBA head coaching gigs seem to open up. And while a trend of hiring former players seems to be the new norm, there will always be the question of whether any of college’s best will make the jump. Mainstays like Izzo and Calipari seem unlikely; Calipari has said he’ll stay at Kentucky until his son graduates. But some other hot names like Smart, Self, and Wright should hear intriguing offers next summer.
Odds Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hits a game-winning buzzer beater this season: 133/1
Finals hero Kris Jenkins may have earned overnight stardom for his buzzer-beater over UNC, but if you’re expecting a repeat of those heroics this season, don’t hold your breath. Playing in the watered down Big East, Villanova hasn’t faced a ton of nail-biters in recent years. Outside of the title-game shot heard round the world, Nova’s only had two other legitimate “buzzer beater” attempts over the last two seasons.
Odds Villanova’s Kris Jenkins misses a game-winning buzzer beater this season: 72/1
To rain on the buzzer beater parade even more, most don’t fall, clutch-gene or otherwise.
Feature photo credit: Max Goldberg (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].