If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ve been waiting somewhere between five and twenty years for the dragons to show up and ruin someone’s whole day. If you’re an NCAA basketball fan, you’ve been waiting somewhere between two and twenty-five years for some less fiery but equally inevitable payoffs to seemingly endless story arcs.
Is the 2017-18 season going to bring climactic resolutions? Depends what show you’re watching. If you’ve been waiting patiently for someone — anyone — to lay waste to Kansas in the Big 12, you’ll probably have to wait for Season 15 and hope Bob Huggins and Scott Drew form a fearsome, defense-first alliance with sketchy recruiting practices. If you’ve been waiting for Sean Miller to reach the Final Four, you might be in luck. His current roster is filled with more star power than Ocean’s Eleven and a Bob Geldof fundraiser, combined.
Onto the odds …
Somebody has to beat Kansas in the Big 12
The Big 12 is just a Kansas Jayhawks vehicle at this point. Bill Self has won the last 13 regular-season conference titles. When this streak started, we were welcoming in Pope Benedict XVI and the guy who built the DeLorean was still alive.
The best bet to end the streak this year is West Virginia, a team with lofty postseason ambitions of its own. They don’t recruit on Kansas’ level, they don’t attract star transfers like Kansas does, and there’s really nobody in the Big 12 that can claim to. One day somebody will get lucky recruiting a generational talent and upset the Jayhawks, but odds are good it won’t be this year.
Odds Kansas wins the Big 12 in 2018: 1/4
One-and-dones can’t go #1 forever
The last ten first-overall picks have been one-and-dones. It makes sense; the best players in America generally play as little amateur basketball as they can before going to the NBA draft. The last number one pick who wasn’t a one-and-done was Andrea Bargnani, an international player who went to the Raptors in 2006 and played in the NBA for ten pretty sad years.
The next could be fellow international Luka Doncic, whom some draft pundits have going #1 in 2018. The 6’7 guard has impressed scouts with his skills and professional experience. His game has a completeness that’s unusual for someone his age, and he doesn’t have any of the weaknesses you expect to address with young prospects.
Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges, who was pegged as a one-and-done, is another option. Predicted to go somewhere in the 2017 lottery, the 6’7 wing has the freak athleticism of a #1 pick. With a good season (and maybe a championship), he could certainly get up there in the conversation.
Unfortunately for the (relative) elders, the 2018 draft is deep with super-hyped soon-to-be freshman. Michael Porter Jr.’s first year at Missouri will certainly be his last, and the same goes for Mohamed Bamba at Texas and DeAndre Ayton at Arizona. Plus Marvin Bagley still might reclassify.
Odds a one-and-done is selected first overall: 3/7
All Goliaths are slain sooner or later, right?
Five teams (Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga, Wisconsin) have made the NCAA tournament every year since the movie Titanic came out (1997), and one of these unsinkable ships needs to hit an iceberg already. Kansas has made the tournament 28 straight times, Duke 22, Michigan State 20, and Gonzaga and Wisconsin have both made 19 in a row.
Wisconsin’s probably the weakest of the bunch, but as one of the better squads in a conference that sent three teams to the Sweet 16 last year, it’s hard to imagine them getting left out. All of these teams recruit at a high enough level that they should cruise to a tourney berth as long as they can get their players into the stadium on time. Just make sure everyone has socks and jerseys and you’re good, Kansas.
Odds one of Kansas, Duke, MSU, Gonzaga, Wisconsin doesn’t make the 2018 NCAA tournament: 15/1
Can Sean Miller make the Final Four?
Sean Miller’s never made the Final Four, not with Xavier, not with Arizona. He’s coached teams to the Elite Eight four times and is 0-4 in those games. Ouch. He suffered one of his worst tournament exits last year when his #2 Wildcats lost to his former team, #11 Xavier, in the Sweet 16.
If any Sean Miller team is going to do it, it’s this one. The Wildcats landed future lottery pick and transcendental power forward DeAndre Ayton and have seven other top-100 recruits joining Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, and Dusan Ristic. Experienced, deep, athletic: pick a glowing adjective and it applies to this team.
The Wildcats are listed at 8/1 to win the whole tournament. That yields pretty good odds to make the Final Four, so hopefully Miller can finally get this particular monkey off his back.
Odds Arizona makes the Final Four in 2018: 5/4
Is Grayson Allen going to kick someone again?
Yeah, of course. It’s his destiny. For some reason it feels like it’s his birthright. People expect Grayson Allen to kick someone; they hate him preemptively for it. He can’t stop them from doing that, so he kicks someone, and the cycle continues. Grayson Allen isn’t coming back to Duke to win an NCAA championship — he’s already done that — he’s coming back because, when you kick someone in the NBA, you get a flagrant foul and you lose your game-check and it’s a big hassle.
He could also go on a personal rehabilitation tour and use the 2017-18 season to prove to the world that he’s changed, that he’s grown up, and that he’s ready for the NBA. This is pretty likely. If he does this, however, he’s guaranteed to completely lose the thread and kick DeAndre Ayton when Duke is down ten points in the Final Four. #Destiny.
Odds Grayson Allen kicks someone in 2017-2018 season: 1/1
I’ve taken great pains to set the Grayson Allen odds with my head. But full disclosure, if I was setting them with my heart, they would be 0/1.