Now that the calendar has turned the page to 2019, the NCAAM schedule is heating up with tons of competitive matchups on a daily basis. We can expect some separation between the pretenders and contenders over the next few weeks, and that opens up some intriguing possibilities for futures bettors.
While there is a clear-cut favorite to win it all come March Madness time, coronations don’t take place in January. For confirmation, look no further than what happened in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Monday night. Alabama was christened as king numerous times in 2019, but they wound up getting smoked by a Clemson team that matches up really well with them.
We’re not going to sit here and tell you that’s the ultimate destiny for Duke at this time, but we will say that there’s some interesting value being provided by oddsmakers for the Men’s national championship. Let’s take a look at the odds for the top teams and some interesting sleepers to keep in mind.
*Betting odds provided by: Sportsbetting.ag
Duke Blue Devils
Top 25: 1
The Blue Devils are the unquestioned favorites to win it all, and it’s not too tough to understand why. Outside of a 2-point loss to Gonzaga, Duke is perfect on the year and steamrolling many who enter their path.
The roster is unbelievably loaded, with freshman sensation Zion Williamson leading the charge. It wouldn’t be all that shocking to see the Blue Devils cutting some nets down when all is said and done, but the NCAAM basketball tournament isn’t decided on potential alone.
Top 25: 2
Fifteen wins and counting, and the Wolverines have only truly been tested once. Northwestern put a scare into them, but Michigan walked off the court with a 62-60 victory. The team’s recent four-game run has been particularly impressive, as the lowest margin of victory is 11 points over that span.
Head coach John Beilein has himself a well-oiled machine, with freshman Ignas Brazdeikis leading the charge. The #2 team in the nation is a legitimate threat to win it all, but some interesting tests are on the horizon, including a pair versus rival Michigan State.
Top 25: 4
The #4 team in the nation has an unblemished mark, and their top highlight of the season came on New Year’s Eve. The Cavaliers smoked visiting Marshall to the tune of 100-64. The last four wins have featured margins of victory of 13 points or more.
Virginia should be tested more in the coming days. Road games at Boston College and Clemson will be followed by a home date with Virginia Tech. After that three-game stretch, a showdown with Duke on January 19 looms large. If the record is still unblemished at that point, we can expect the oddsmakers to adjust accordingly.
Top 25: 5
The Bulldogs have rebounded from back-to-back losses to Tennessee and North Carolina by winning five in a row. Those two losses seem to have sparked something big in Gonzaga, as they have crushed each of their last five opponents.
The team should be able to handsomely pad its record in conference play, and they will likely have a stellar final record to show for it. Gonzaga should snag a lofty seed in the tournament as a result, and they make for an intriguing top contender to keep an eye on.
The Next Tier
Top 25: 3
The Volunteers have just one loss on their resume, an 87-81 defeat at the hands of Kentucky, the then #2 team in the country. Since that time, Tennessee has ripped off nine wins in a row, and they have looked every bit the part of one of the nation’s top teams while doing so.
The tag-team duo of junior Grant Williams and senior Admiral Schofield are averaging 18.8 and 18 points per game respectively. This is a balanced and deep squad that’s built to remain in contention, but the closing stretch looks tough: a pair with Kentucky and games versus Mississippi State and Auburn.
Top 25: 7
The Jayhawks have hit a rough patch while going 2-2 over their last four. A four-point loss to Arizona State was followed by two straight wins, but they were taken to the woodshed last time out by Iowa State by a final score of 77-60.
Kansas has a chance to exact some revenge on the Cyclones on January 21, and they’ll be facing off with three teams currently ranked in the Top 25 before January comes to a close. The Jayhawks remain the favorites in the Big 12, but it won’t be easy sledding.
Michigan State Spartans
Top 25: 6
Outside of an opening game defeat to Kansas and a hiccup versus Louisville, the Spartans have been cruising through the regular season. The team has a five-game winning streak in its pocket, and they are currently in the midst of a nine-game run of victories.
Michigan State is currently in first place in Big Ten, but the conference looks especially tough this year. The rival Wolverines are undefeated and right behind them in the standings, but they’ll be able to decide things on the court with a pair of late season tilts still to come.
Top 25: 18
Three losses have led to the Wildcats taking a tumble in the Top 25 rankings, but make no mistake about it: this team is a contender, as evidenced by the respect oddsmakers continue to show for them. That said, an unexpected two-point loss to Alabama two games back has tempered some expectations.
That could open up some value for futures bettors who are banking on Kentucky kicking it into overdrive before too long. A three-game stretch versus ranked teams is on the near-term horizon, so the Wildcats can soar back up the charts with a run of success.
Nevada Wolf Pack
Top 25: 10
The Mountain West may run through Nevada this year. A 14-1 overall mark demonstrates the strength of this squad, but they did lose last time out to a middling New Mexico team. It wasn’t close either, as the Wolf Pack found themselves on the wrong side of a 85-58 decision.
We’ll assume that will serve as a wake-up call for a team that has little troubling putting points on the board. Nevada is averaging 80.4 points per contest, tied for 54th in the nation. A number of winnable game are up ahead, so we’ll see how the Wolf Pack respond to the setback.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Top 25: 12
The Tar Heels are back on the rise, jumping three spots in this week’s Top 25 poll. A four-game winning streak has stemmed the tide for a team which started out an unexpected 7-3, and they took down #15 NC State last time out to boot.
As per usual, the ACC is loaded and tough, but North Carolina absolutely deserves to be in the conversation of best team in the conference not named Duke. They should have a lot to say come tournament time as well, so the Tar Heels make for an intriguing value play to keep in mind.
Top 25: 11
The Tigers are also climbing the ranks with an overall mark of 11-2, as they jumped up one spot in this week’s rankings. Conference play is set to kick in for Auburn, a team that will face off with a pair of other Top 25 teams before the month is through.
We should have a better idea if Auburn is for real or not once the month comes to a close. The SEC looks deep this year, but this balanced squad with solid play on both sides of the court can certainly make some noise in 2019.
Kansas State Wildcats
Top 25: NA
The Wildcats are nowhere to be found in the Top 25, but they are still receiving love from the oddsmakers. That opens up one of the more intriguing questions for futures bettors at this point: Are the odds pointing out something that the record doesn’t indicate, or is this squad simply being overvalued?
A pair of two-game losing streaks points to the latter being a possibility, but we’ll patiently wait and see how the team responds to an 0-2 mark in conference play. A brutal four-game stretch versus ranked teams is coming up quick, so we’ll have answers soon on the real value of this team.
Sleepers to Keep an Eye On
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Top 25: 8
One of the week’s biggest risers is the Red Raiders, who have risen three spots off a four-game winning streak. Victories over Kansas State and Oklahoma have vaulted them into the conversation in the Big 12, where they currently have a perfect 3-0 mark. This is one of the more intriguing teams to get a better read on in the coming weeks.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Top 25: 9
The Hokies are off to a solid start, but oddsmakers are tempering expectations for now. Residence in the loaded ACC is likely causing them to take a wait and see approach, but pollsters have deemed this squad the #9 team in the nation. We should find out who is right over the next few weeks, as games with Virginia and North Carolina are on the docket.
Florida State Seminoles
Top 25: 13
A 13-point loss to Virginia led to the Seminoles being one of the week’s biggest fallers in the poll, dropping four spots to #13. That came on the heels of a seven-game winning streak, so we can’t take it as a sign that the sky is falling in. That said, a game with Duke is on the horizon in the coming days, so we’ll see if Florida State can keep it closer against another top team.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Top 25: 14
The Bulldogs had a nine-game winning streak snapped by South Carolina last time out, so they could be dropping some the next time pollster opinion is tallied. They can right the ship quickly with games versus Florida and Vanderbilt coming up, but they will also be facing off with two ranked teams before the month is through. The jury is out on Mississippi State for the time being.