Yesterday afternoon the Las Vegas based Westgate Superbook became the first sportsbook to post odds to win the 2016-17 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Even though they’ll be graduating several key players including NCAA Tournament MOP Ryan Arcidiacono, defending champion Villanova opened with the third best odds of winning the title at +800.
It’s interesting to note that North Carolina, who lost the title game in heart-breaking fashion, opened the season with the best odds (+800) of winning the national championship. That would have been particularly noteworthy since no school has gone wire to wire since the Tar Heels accomplished the feat back in 2009.
The table below displays the title odds for the past eight national champions, along with the odds for the pre-season favorite. (Information courtesy of SportsOddsHistory)
|2008-09||North Carolina||+450||North Carolina||+450|
You can see that Duke, North Carolina or Kentucky has been the pre-season favorite in eight of the past nine seasons with the 2012-13 Indiana Hoosiers providing the lone exception. That trend continued this season with Duke (+450) listed as the early front-runner.
On Wednesday morning, Bovada posted their own futures for the upcoming college basketball season and the odds were nearly identical to those posted by the Westgate. Some of the most notable discrepancies include North Carolina (+1500 at Westgate vs. +1200 at Bovada), Arizona (+2000 at Westgate vs. +2200 at Bovada), Wisconsin (+3000 at Westgate vs. +2500 at Bovada) and Maryland (+4000 at Westgate vs. +3300 at Bovada).
With two sportsbooks seemingly providing a consensus about the top teams in the nation, we wanted to see whether any college basketball experts shared the same opinions. Luckily, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan had already posted a way-too-early Top 25.
This year it’s particularly difficult to create accurate rankings since it is unclear which players will declare for the NBA Draft. For the first time, players can declare for the draft, speak with NBA front offices to gauge interest, compete in pre-draft workouts, and take part in the combine while maintaining their college eligibility — assuming they don’t hire an agent.
Duke’s Grayson Allen shocked many people by declaring that he will return to school for his junior season, but many key players have already opted to test the draft waters. SB Nation has posted the full list of players who have official declared, are likely to declare and will be returning to school next season.
Obviously any unexpected departures could have major ramifications, but the table below compares the oddsmaker rankings with Brennan’s pre-season Top 25.
|School||Bovada (4/6)||Oddsmaker Rank||ESPN Rank||Difference|
|St Mary's CA||20000||49||23||26|
|San Diego State||20000||49||N/A||N/A|
Based on these comparisons, Brennan appears to be sleeping on Michigan State. The Spartans (+1200) have the sixth best odds of winning the national championship, yet Brennan only ranks them as the 13th best team in the country. Although the Spartans will graduate their top three scorers (Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello), they will welcome the nation’s third-best recruiting class.
On the flip side, Brennan has Saint Mary’s (CA) sneaking into the Top 25 in his rankings while oddsmakers thoroughly disagree. At 200/1, the Gaels have just the 49th best odds of winning the national championship.
One potentially undervalued team is the Arizona Wildcats (+2200). Although they will graduate three of their top four scorers, they will retain tons of talent including two dynamic guards in Allonzo Trier and Kadeem Allen. After averaging 14.8 points per game as a freshman, Trier looks primed to take that next step towards stardom. Sean Miller will also welcome the sixth-best recruiting class which features a trio of five-star recruits.
Which teams to you believe are being undervalued? Can anybody stop Duke next year? Does Villanova have a chance to repeat? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.