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Sharps Fading Perennial Powerhouses in 2021 NCAA Tournament

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Updated Apr 18, 2020 · 8:53 AM PDT

Tom Izzo
Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans have seen their title odds fade for the upcoming season. Photo by David Danals (United States Navy).
  • While the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 NCAA Tournament, sharps are fading a trio of perennial powers in 2021 tourney futures
  • Kansas, Michigan State and Louisville have all seen dramatic declines over the last month
  • See below to find out which of these teams we think you should be placing your wager on

Kansas, Michigan State and Louisville all had very realistic national championship aspirations heading into March Madness this past season. But due to the coronavirus outbreak, the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled. Along with it were the hopes of the Jayhawks, Spartans and Cardinals from claiming another title. And while all three programs had relatively short future odds for the 2021 tourney a month ago, that has changed dramatically. Meantime, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for June’s NBA Draft is April 26.

2021 NCAA Tournament Odds

Team Odds
Gonzaga +950
Virginia +1025
Kentucky +1200
Kansas +1350
Baylor +1450
Creighton +1450
Villanova +1467
Duke +1475
Michigan State +1650
Florida State +2000
North Carolina +2150
Michigan +2200
Wisconsin +2275
West Virginia +2350
Texas Tech +2725

Odds taken April 17th

The Jayhawks went from +1000 to +1350 between March 19 — when the 2020 NCAA Tournament was scheduled to have started in earnest — and April 17. Despite the big drop, KU is still among the top-5 favorites in the 2021 March Madness odds. The same cannot be said for Sparty. Tom Izzo’s club made an even bigger drop in that same timeframe, moving from a virtual co-favorite with Gonzaga and Kansas at +1000 to +1650. And UL fell the furthest out of the perennial powers. Chris Mack’s team plummeted from +2500 to +3250. So, why are sharps treating these Cadillac programs like lemons? Is there something beyond player departures investment bettors should know about? Let’s investigate further.

Rockin’ the Chalk

Bill Self’s Kansas team was poised to make a run toward a fourth national championship last month. The Jayhawks were among the top four teams — joining Gonzaga, Baylor and Kentucky — in the final 2020 March Madness odds taken April 5. Alas, COVID-19 concerns ultimately closed down the Big Dance.  Now, the focus is on next season — which KU will play without Devon Dotson.

The sophomore point guard, along with fellow former Wooden Award candidate Udoka Azubuike (Dayton’s Obi Toppin ultimately won the coveted hardware for best college basketball player), leave Lawrence wondering what could’ve been. But are their losses enough to fade KU and literally rock the chalk’s chances of cutting down the nets in 2021?

I say no. After all, Self brings back Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year award winner Marcus Garrett, along with the likes of David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji. McCormack, a former McDonald’s All-American, stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 265 pounds. That big load may not replace Azubuike, but it will go a long way.

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The only question mark is Self himself. Will the NCAA punish the longtime coach following a notice of allegations against him and the program in the wake of the FBI’s investigation of college basketball? We simply don’t know. One thing we do know: Kansas seems poised to address unfinished business in 2021.

In Izzo We Trust

If Tom Izzo isn’t the best coach in college basketball this side of Mike Krzyzewski, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer is in the conversation. After all, he coached the 2020 Michigan State Spartans to a title.

Oh wait. That didn’t happen. Virtual basketball aside, Izzo has big shoes to fill next season. Cassius Winston is gone. And Izzo’s involvement in a 2017 criminal investigation of a former player’s alleged criminal sexual conduct is unsavory at the least. But should those factors drop MSU from +1000 to +1650 for 2021 title odds? Perhaps.

Highly-touted Marquette transfer Joey Hauser is waiting in the wings. Izzo said that Hauser was already the second-best 3-point shooter on last year’s team, behind only Winston.

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But there might be too much uncertainty surrounding the Spartans at this point to make a wager.

Return of the Mack

Finally, there’s Louisville. So many teams were heartbroken by not being able to play in this year’s tourney (Dayton, San Diego State and Gonzaga immediately come to mind). Chris Mack’s ballclub has to be on that list.

Seniors like Steven Enoch, Dwayne Sutton and Ryan McMahon all bid adieu. As does the team’s leading scorer, junior Jordan Nwora, who declared for June’s draft. They’ll all be missed, especially Nwora.

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But don’t count Louisville out. The Cardinals return center Malik Williams, who seems poised for a productive senior year, And they welcome a pair of grad transfers with solid resumes. Reigning Big South Player of the Year Carlik Jones, formerly of Radford, and erstwhile San Francisco All-WCC Second Teamer Charles Minlend, should be nice additions. Between the two, they are bringing 34.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game to the Cardinal program. And don’t sleep on incoming freshman JJ Traynor. The Cardinals’ cupboard is most certainly not bare.

And moving from +2500 to +3250? That’s far too steep a decline in odds with all that incoming talent to an ultra-competitive ACC.

So while Michigan State may have some work to do to impress oddsmakers, Kansas and Louisville should be just fine.

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