Key Signing has Drastic Effect on 2013 National Championship Odds

One key college basketball signing has thrust a traditional national power into the 2013 National Championship discussion.

On Wednesday, Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad — the number one and two ranked high school basketball prospects in the country, respectively — announced their college choice as part of ESPN’s “Signing Day Special.” Noel, a 6’10″ center, committed to Kentucky giving coach Calipari the interior presence needed to replace Anthony Davis. While many analysts anticipated that Muhammad would join Noel on the Wildcats, the All-American shooting guard opted to stay closer to home by committing to UCLA.

Kentucky proved last season that you can win a national title with a roster filled with underclassman, providing added significance to the commitment of these top recruits. But how does their decision affect future odds? The table below displays the odds for the top 25 teams in the country from BetOnline’s futures page from April 2nd and then again on April 13th following these major commitments.

Most striking is that UCLA did not appear in the top 25 less than two weeks ago but, at +700 currently, the Bruins have the third best odds of winning the national championship. Muhammad’s addition to a freshman class that already included top 50 recruits Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams has made UCLA the favorite to win the Pac-12 and a legitimate title contender. How have other commitments and early betting affected future odds? Just take a look at the following table:

Team Odds on 4/2 Odds on 4/13
Kentucky 600 600
Baylor 900 2000
Louisville 925 925
Ohio State 1000 1000
North Carolina 1000 1000
Indiana 1000 650
Syracuse 1100 1400
Michigan 1200 1500
Wisconsin 1400 1400
NC State 1500 1500
Duke 1500 1700
Kansas 1750 1800
San Diego State 1800 1800
Michigan State 2000 1600
Memphis 2000 1800
Kansas State 2500 5000
Florida State 3000 3000
Creighton 3000 2800
Texas 3000 2500
Maryland 3000 3000
Florida 3500 1800
Notre Dame 3500 2800
Saint Mary’s 3500 4000
Marquette 3800 4500
Gonzaga 4000 5100

* Odds in table represent current futures at BetOnline.

While UCLA’s ascent is the most striking difference between these two odds, there are many fascinating changes. Oddsmakers have moved Baylor from +900 to +2000, and we can only speculate that they anticipated Perry Jones (who lead the team in rebounds while ranking second in scoring) would return to school rather than declaring for the NBA draft. This movement could also be due to self-imposed penalties by both the men and women’s basketball teams due to recruiting violations.

It’s also worth noting Indiana’s ascent in the rankings. With Cody Zeller and Christian Watford returning to school and the addition of a top 10 recruiting class, the Hoosiers will look to improve on their sweet 16 finish last season.

The biggest drop-off occurred for Kansas State. Although Frank Martin recently chose to leave K-State for the head coaching position at South Carolina, this news was already known when the April 2nd odds were released. This makes the Wildcats drop from +2500 to +5000 quite puzzling. Jamar Samuels, who averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds per game, is the lone graduation of note and nobody from this team opted to leave school early for the NBA. One factor may be the de-commitment of 7-foot center Robert Upshaw. Ranked by ESPN as the number 55 recruit in the country, Upshaw re-opened his recruitment after coach Martin announced his departure leaving the Wildcats without a true post presence.

Some fans may be confused by Kentucky’s lack of movement. The Wildcats landed the number one recruit in the nation — giving them the nations top recruiting class for the fourth straight year — yet they remain at +600 favorites to win it all. This would indicate that oddsmakers had already assumed coach Calipari would land either Noel or Muhammad on National Signing Day.

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