Eli’s College Basketball Futures: 2 Picks From National Title Odds To Consider
With NCAA basketball odds available and the season approaching, it’s a great time to assess March Madness odds. Our readers, podcast listeners, and the like cashed in on my UConn wager last November, with Adama Sanogo & Co. eventually cutting down the nets. However, there’s no secret sauce — nor does a winner arise from my portfolio each year. Whether bettors pinpoint the eventual champ in the preseason or otherwise, buy-low opportunities for this market come at dissimilar junctures. Below are my two national title futures bets on 2023-24 college basketball odds.
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College Basketball Odds Appraisal
According to KenPom, one of the sport’s most well-respected analytics services, the adjusted efficiency margin (AdjEM) among the top-10 programs is the smallest opening range and lowest standard deviation since 2011-12. For context, this metric is the difference between a team’s adjusted offensive (AdjO) and defensive efficiency (AdjD). Last season’s projection ranked in the middle of the pack over that span.
How does this notion translate to the futures market? Since college basketball betting will have plenty of parity, more value could be lower on the odds board. Remember to subscribe to TheLines.com’s sports betting Discord channel to get an instant alert to your mobile device if and when I place an in-season futures bet. It’s free. Head to the #roles server to enroll in the push notifications.
Moreover, bettors will discover handy information in my weekly college basketball power rankings. The first edition is already live. Without further ado, here are my preseason picks.
Creighton Blue Jays:
After the Bluejays came up seconds short of their first Final Four berth, they’re positioned behind the defending champion UConn Huskies and the Marquette at most sportsbooks. The Golden Eagles won the Big East’s regular-season title and conference tournament last year. Nevertheless, my power ratings showcase Creighton as the league’s best team. It’s also stationed No. 3 overall across college basketball.
The Jays’ best returnees are center Ryan Kalkbrenner and combo guard Trey Alexander. When Kalkbrenner missed three games in non-conference play last year, the Bluejays’ AdjO ranked in the 52nd percentile. Their AdjD was equivalent to a borderline top-75 standing. Don’t correlate their inefficiencies to a small sample size. Kalkbrenner’s impact around the rim — at both ends — propelled Creighton to a top-10 unit through the remainder of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Alexander will inherit additional ball-handling responsibilities with Ryan Nembhard off to Gonzaga. Remember that the now-junior was forced into this role when Nembhard suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Feb. 2022. This experience, along with producing 0.93 PPP as the primary playmaker in pick-and-roll situations last year (per Synergy), helps supply him with an ultra-high ceiling in Greg McDermott’s uptempo offense. Alexander’s 1.19 PPP in spot-up opportunities is the icing on the cake.
Then, there’s Steven Ashworth, the Utah State transfer. Unlike Nembhard, he’s ripe for the taking when defending pick-and-roll sets. His 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame isn’t physical by any stretch. Baylor Schierman’s ever-improving off-ball coverage lessens the downgrade, though. Plus, Ashworth is an elite shooter (42.9%), along with his first-class distributing. The Jays may very well possess the best 1-through-3 trio across D-I.
What’s Left In Omaha?
Creighton’s depth is my lone concern. But Virginia transfer Issac Traudt has the upside of a poor man’s version of Arthur Kaluma, who departed for Kansas State. Despite his floor-spacing prowess, whether the 6-foot-10 Traudt becomes a serviceable positional defender is the biggest question. If he answers the bell, Greg McDermott has a sturdier roster than 2022-23, with wing Mason Miller, guard Francisco Farabello, and Memphis transfer Johnathan Lawson at his disposal.
In early September, a few shops hung 40-1 on Creighton. If you’re already a part of our aforementioned Discord, you would have seen my ticket at that price. As of this publishing, the Bluejays are still as high as 35-1. The high-variance Jays, a definite factor in March, are worth backing at this number.
The premise of a wide-open national title race is correlated with the new-look transfer portal. Nembhard and Kaluma are prime examples of that. This pick may surprise some because the Terrapins didn’t reel in a notable name from another program. But as I mentioned in my power ratings, Kevin Willard’s squad makes for a genuine long-term investment in this market.
On the surface, veterans Jahmir Young, Julian Reese, and Donta Scott are all back in the fold. Kevin Willard’s first season in College Park delivered a top-40 efficiency at each end. Maryland pressed at the 18th-highest rate, and its transition offense ranked in the 94th percentile. The additions of highly-touted freshmen Deshawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser should only bolster their tenacity in that regard.
This level of havoc is extremely difficult to prep for, especially in a tournament setting. It made Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” teams such an arduous opponent in the Big Dance. The versatility of Reese and Scott allows Willard to switch or trap ball screens at will. Yet, like Creighton, depth is essential for this style of play. Tacking on Indiana transfer Jordan Geronimo, a multi-dimensional role player, certainly helps.
Leaps And Bounds
Individually, Young’s offensive rating and usage splits improved immensely from the New Year onward. For reference, Young shot 35.8% against conference opponents after initially struggling to make the high-major jump. Since the refinement came against the gauntlet of the tougher Big Ten schedule, it’s unlikely it was a product of variance. While Michigan State and Purdue each possess guards with a case to become the league’s best, don’t be surprised if Young is the top dog at season’s end.
There’s another positive in a similar vein. Reese also underwent a substantial second-half spike, becoming a top-10 player in the country (per Hoop-Explorer). He was a few months behind in his development due to the odd circumstances of his freshman campaign (i.e. Mark Turgeon’s midseason firing). Besides his proficient post-up touches, Reese’s efficiency as a cutter and roll-man stood out the most.
At 80-1 or better, the Terps are my longshot pick among college basketball odds. If you believe in their Big Ten prospects, even with the Boilermakers and Spartans widely projected to battle for the top spot, their odds to win the conference regular season title are . They will find themselves in the hunt if they don’t receive as much negative luck away from the XFINITY Center, with six of their losses by five points or less.
Wooden Award Odds: College Basketball National Player of the Year
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