The college basketball season is right around the corner, and before we know it we’ll be enjoying the madness of March. The journey to the men's tournament promises to be a fun ride, but it’s never to early to look ahead and maybe make some money.
While the sportsbooks love the chances of some of the game’s blue bloods to cut down the nets, it can take a hefty bankroll to make a bet on one of the favorites to be worthwhile. Plus, it’s always more fun to be able to brag about picking out a less-expected winner. So here we’ll identify five teams with a chance to win the title that could offer a more meaningful payout.
Nevada - Current odds: 12/1
You might find yourself saying a team with 12/1 odds that is currently ranked in the top 10 in both polls isn’t a particularly bold choice. But with all due respect, Nevada is about as far from the college basketball elite as you can get, and that lack of name recognition can work in your favor.
The Wolfpack, who fell two points shy of reaching the Elite 8 last season, return three players that tested the NBA waters in the spring. That trio is highlighted by the Martin twins – Caleb and Cody – and Jordan Caroline. That group accounted for 61.3 percent of Nevada’s offense a season ago. In addition, they add a respectable recruiting class led by 6’11” McDonald’s All-American Jordan Brown. The Wolfpack possess a potent mix of talent, depth and experience. Don’t sleep on them.
Villanova - Current odds: 15/1
Again, we have a team with respectable odds that happens to be the defending national champion and doesn’t appear to be a groundbreaking selection for this list.
But the Wildcats lost their four top scorers from last year’s title team, and as a result they are flying under the radar in terms of making serious noise in March. And that gives you an opportunity to take advantage of the uncertainty.
‘Nova still has Jay Wright, one of the best coaches in the game. It has Phil Booth, who has played a key role in both of Villanova’s recent national titles, and Eric Paschall, who torched Kansas in the national semifinal and was a rock for the Wildcats throughout the season. Both are primed for breakout seasons. In addition, the ‘Cats add a highly-touted recruiting class highlighted by five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly as well as grad transfer Joe Cremo.
There will likely be some bumps along the way, but if this team can gel by the end of the season it can be a player come March.
Tennessee - Current odds: 25/1
Another top 10 team, and another one that doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking about the elite of the college game, the Volunteers offer incredible value at 25/1.
They return their entire roster from a team that won the SEC regular season title and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Among the returnees are SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams and NBA prospect Admiral Schofield. All the pieces are in place for the Volunteers to be a national player.
LSU - Current odds: 100/1
Finally, we enter the truly bold choices.
Last year, freshman guard Tremont Waters was a revelation for the Tigers, averaging 15.9 points and six assists while leading the Tigers to 18 wins.
This year, things are expected to get even better as LSU adds the third-best recruiting class in the country according to Rivals. The class is headlined by a pair of five-star players in forward Emmitt Williams and center Naz Reid.
Relying on youth can be a risky proposition in college hoops, but the talent is there and if the young Tigers can pull it together, there could be a big payoff.
Marquette - Current odds: 100/1
Things haven’t gone as planned for head coach Steve Wojciechowski in four seasons at Marquette, but that is primed to change in 2018-19.
The Golden Eagles return four starters from a team that won 21 games a season ago, led by the electric Markus Howard and his 20.4 points per game. The Marquette offense has hummed with Howard at the helm, finishing 8th in offensive efficiency in 2017 and 12th last year according to KenPom. The problems have been at the other end of the court.
Marquette has ranked outside the top 165 in defensive efficiency each of the past two seasons, but there’s reason for hope this year. The progression of Howard and Sam Hauser should help, but the most encouraging development on the defensive end is the addition of transfers Joseph Chartouny and Ed Morrow.
An elite offense is already in place, and if the defense can catch up, Marquette could make noise in March.
Josh Naso aka The Silver Fox has a love for all things sports that borders on disorder. Here, he aims to share his thoughts on and passion for those sports with you.