With football season wrapped up and Selection Sunday just about a month away, the college basketball action is set to take center stage. Whether you are checking in on the madness for the first time this year, or you are a diehard fan that has been following the action since November, we will be able to get you up to speed on what teams are offering the most value and warrant a play.
And not only I will breakdown which teams you should make a future’s bet on to win it all in 2019, but I’ll also show you which teams you will want to steer away from. Let’s get started!
Duke Blue Devils (22-2)
AP Poll: 2
Coaches Poll: 2
Any talk of winning the national title this season starts and ends with the Duke Blue Devils. Duke has more talent than any team in the country and should have three players in the lottery of next year’s NBA draft. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett seem to be near locks to go 1-2 in the draft, and when these guys are on their game, they are scary good. Throw in the fact that they have the best coach of all-time roaming their sidelines, and you can see why the Blue Devils are the heavy betting favorite.
We have seen what this team can do when they are playing at their best. Just ask Kentucky, a top-five team that got obliterated by this freshman led Duke squad on opening night to the tune of a 34-point beat down. Duke also has signature wins over Auburn, Indiana, Texas Tech, Clemson, Florida State, and Virginia twice. And we saw how this team reacts to getting down early in a game as they trailed by as many as twenty-three points before completing a furious comeback on the road against a very talented Louisville team.
The odds on Duke are awful, at less than 2-1. But I am going, to be honest, that number is only going to get worse as this team is going to continue winning games at a high rate. And the Blue Devils are deservingly the betting favorites, as they are the best team in the country. It is hard not to like a play on Duke at any price at this point, they are just that good. That being said, I would limit your action on Duke to a small bet as I think we can find more value further down the board.
The Play: A small bet on the Dukies
Tennessee Volunteers (23-1)
AP Poll: 1
Coaches Poll: 1
The Vols are the consensus top team in both major polls, and they deserve that distinction. The team is loaded with upperclassmen, and Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams are both absolute stars. While I think the Blue Devils are the better team, and the betting lines reflect that, the Vols deserve the top spot in the rankings right now as they haven’t lost a game since November.
Wins over Louisville and Gonzaga in the non-conference were both huge statements, and the Vols only loss came to Kansas in overtime, when the Jayhawks were ranked number two in the country. Most expected the SEC to be one of the better leagues in the land this year, and the Vols have walked through the best the league has to offer and has an undefeated record to show for it.
While I do like this line and think it does offer significant value, I am going to play the waiting game on Tennessee. When you take a quick look at the schedule the rest of the way out for Tennessee, they have road games at Kentucky, LSU, and Auburn still left. They also have losable home games against Kentucky and Mississippi State. As great as this team is, and make no mistake, they can win it all, I have a feeling they are going to lose one or two of those games.
Dropping a road game to Kentucky or LSU isn’t going to change the fact that this is an elite team, but it should bump this price to a slightly more attractive number. So, I will wait this one out a week or two and check back in on them in early March. If the Vols hit the tournament without losing another game the price on them will be way too low for a profitable play, and we could miss our window. But I guess that’s why they call it gambling!
The Play: The Play: Wait It Out
Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2)
AP Poll: 3
Coaches Poll: 3
This is the best team that Mark Few has ever had in Spokane. And that is saying a lot considering this team is just a couple of years removed from a trip to the Final Four. The Zags are deep and experienced and can get the job done on both sides of the floor. They lead the nation in points per game, field goal percentage, and assist to turnover ratio. Kenpom has them as the most efficient offensive team in the country.
The win over Duke at the Maui Invitational should stand up as one of, if not the biggest win, of any team in the nation this year. The Zags also hold nice wins over Washington, Arizona, and on the road at Creighton. Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke are both on the Wooden List top thirty, and both guys are playing at a very high level right now. If it weren’t for big man Killian Tillie going down with an injury, he will miss the rest of the regular season, this team would be rated even higher.
As far as teams that could realistically win the national title, Gonzaga needs to be in the conversation. Their only losses are to Tennessee and North Carolina, there is no shame in either of those losses, and this team can compete with anybody in the nation. I don’t love the price, but much like with Duke, this is only going to go down as March gets closer. The Zags have dominated the WCC, winning league games by an average of over thirty-points, and they are likely to run the table the rest of the way out. So, the time for a play on the Zags is now.
The Play: Bet On Gonzaga Now
Virginia Cavaliers (21-2)
AP Poll: 4
Coaches Poll: 4
Well, we have established that the Virginia Cavaliers can’t beat Duke, but not many people can as they are really good. And when you look at the Cavs record, the only thing between them and an undefeated record are the Duke Blue Devils. Virginia had nice non-conference wins over Wisconsin and Maryland, and outside of Duke, they are undefeated in ACC league play.
The big worry for me is head coach Tony Bennet. Bennett is right at the top of the list of best coaches to have never made a Final Four. He has led the Cavs to at least thirty wins in four out of the last five years and has been named ACC coach of the year three times. But he always seems to struggle in the tournament. Last year, Virginia was the first team to ever lose as a one seed to a sixteen seed in the first round of the tournament. That isn’t a distinction you want on your resume as a head coach.
This team plays ferocious defense, something we have come to expect under Bennet, but so did his last five teams he took to the tournament, and none of them went deep either. I hate to say it, because Bennett is a fantastic coach, but until he gets the monkey off of his back of never having made the third weekend of the tournament, I can’t justify betting on the Cavs to win it all.
The Play: Stay Away
Michigan Wolverines (22-3)
AP Poll: 6
Coaches Poll: 7
If I would have written this article two weeks ago, I would have loved a play on Michigan. They play elite defense, second in the country according to kenpom, and they almost never turn the ball over. That is generally a great recipe for postseason success. But as the season starts to wind to a close, the Wolverines look just a little bit fatigued. After starting the year out 17-0, including huge wins over North Carolina, Purdue, and Villanova, this team looked like a national title favorite.
But they are just 5-3 in their last eight, dropping road games to Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State. The lost to Penn State was especially concerning as the Nittany Lions were just 1-11 in Big 10 play before upsetting Big Blue. Winning on the road in league play is always tough, but when you are trying to justify a play on them to win a national title at odds like 8-1, I need to know you can beat Penn State.
The Play: Stay Away
Highly Ranked Teams To Stay Away From
In this next section, I am going to highlight a couple of teams that are ranked very highly, and have aggressive odds set on them, where I think you should stay away.
Much like the Michigan Wolverines, my love for Kentucky has dropped recently. They had a great run going that saw them win ten straight games, and they have had a strange up and down season that makes it hard to know just how good this team is. They started out significantly over-rated, they entered the season as the number two team in America. Then they ended up being significantly under-rated as they fell off many people’s national title radars after a couple of early season losses. And then now with this recent hot streak, they are right back into the top ten and likely a little over-rated again. I don’t hate on this team, they are very talented, but I can’t justify a play at only 10-1.
When the Spartans announced in late January that star guard and team captain, Joshua Langford was going to miss the rest of the season with an injury, it was a major gut punch for Tom Izzo’s team. The Spartans lost three straight games after the announcement, including a brutal loss to cellar-dwelling Illinois. They have rebounded a bit in their last two games with wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin, but without Langford, this team just doesn’t have the firepower to win it all.
The Tar Heels are another team that has been bitten by the injury bug recently. They lost super freshman, Nassir Little, a projected lottery pick, to an injury after just two minutes of play last week against Virginia. Cam Johnson also missed time in that game with an injury, and updates on both guys health have been scarce. If this team manages to get healthy quick, they are going to be a tough out in March. But right now, there are just too many question marks to justify action at this price.
In this last section, we will take a look at a couple of long shots that have a chance to be the next Loyola-Chicago and make a run to the Final Four. The value on these plays is more about the hedge value in the tournament than their actual chances of winning a national title.
Kansas Jayhawks (19-6)
It is hard to call a blue blood program like Kansas a true longshot, but at the current price of 30-1, they are indeed priced well. The Jayhawks have played the toughest schedule in the country this year, so I am going to try and not let their mediocre record scare me away from backing them. Remember, this team beat Michigan State, Villanova, Texas Tech, and hold the nation’s only win over top-ranked Tennessee. When you can beat teams that talented, you deserve a long hard look at a price this steep.
Houston Cougars (23-1)
The fact that we can get a top ten ranked team that has an elite record like 23-1, at a price like this is truly surprising. I know, they play in a down conference this year, but the wins over UCF and Cincinnati were real ones, and this team could very well hit the tournament with thirty wins. Winning teams win, and this team is doing it at an elite rate. They can also play the nobody believes in us underdog role, and they are liable to sneak up on teams in March. I love me some action on Houston.
Buffalo Bulls (21-3)
The minute that Buffalo Bulls guard C.J Massinburg decided to return to Buffalo for his senior season, these guys instantly became a Final Four threat. They play well on both sides of the ball, they are ranked in the top thirty in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per kenpom. You gotta remember, this team blew out Arizona last year in the NCAA tournament, a team that featured eventual number one overall pick DeAndre Ayton, so we know they can win big games under the national spotlight. At this price the Bulls are worth a flyer.
Murray State Racers (19-4)
This last pick is a true lottery ticket at +50000. If you haven’t seen Murray State superstar, Ja Morant play yet this year you truly are missing out. This kid has a shot to lead the nation in both scoring and assists and is the most explosive player in the country not named Zion. This kid reminds me a little bit of Steph Curry at Davidson.
While he doesn’t have the elite three-point stroke that Curry had, he has the explosiveness of a Russell Westbrook and can take over games single-handedly. That is a nice thing to have come March. At +50000 with a guy as talented as Morant on the floor, I say why not take a shot.
And here they are folks, my suggestions for who I think deserves a play for a future’s bet to win the 2019 NCAA Men’s National Championship. Year in and year out, March Madness is the most exciting sporting event in the world, don’t miss out on all the action and excitement and make your bets now!