The college basketball season is just four weeks away from the NCAA Tournament and the question on everyone’s mind is, whether it’s Duke or someone else. The Blue Devils look like the team to beat and it’s not even close. Are they the best bet or is there another team that offers value?
Duke Blue Devils (+170) are a sizable favourite to win the NCAA Tournament. Led by Zion Williamson, a one-of-a-kind player in a one-of-a-kind body, the Blue Devils are once again loaded from a talent perspective. Zion will almost certainly be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. But there are two others – R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish – who will be lottery picks in the draft too. Barrett, who just registered the fourth triple-double in the long history of Duke basketball, is a star while Reddish can be great too, giving the Blue Devils another scoring threat. And don’t forget about point guard Tre Jones, who is a strong ballhandler for this team, one of the best defenders in the nation and is also expected to be a first-round pick. This group is loaded and no one would dispute that this is the favourite to go all the way.
Tennessee (+750) is the current second choice. The Vols will probably slide in the odds in the days to come, though, because they were blown out by Kentucky this past weekend. Tennessee is a veteran and balanced team with five players who can score and make big contributions. The challenge is that this is a team that is not used to going deep in March Madness. They’re mostly new being ranked this high and the pressure could overwhelm them.
Kentucky and Virginia (+800) are tied as the third team on the board. Kentucky’s big win over Tennessee will likely push the Wildcats to second on this list before too long. And if Kentucky beats Tennessee on the road on March 2, that No. 2 position behind Duke will be pretty firm heading into the NCAA Tournament. Virginia has been banged up somewhat, but the Cavaliers are in very good position for a No. 1 seed, which will keep their odds high. However, Virginia has had a recent track record of disappointing in the NCAA Tournament – including losing as a No. 1 in the 1-16 matchup last year.
Michigan and Gonzaga are tied for fifth (+850), according to the odds. The Wolverines do it with defence and Gonzaga does it with offence. Michigan just keeps shutting down the other top teams in the Big Ten and is in good shape for a No. 2 seed – if not a No. 1. Gonzaga outscored Duke in the Maui Invitational classic game back in November, so they know how to slay the dragon.
Michigan State (+1100) is seventh on the list and the only other team with odds better than +1800. Yet, the Spartans just learned that big man Nick Ward will be out for a few weeks with a hand injury. If everything goes well, he will be back in time for a March 9th game against Michigan, which could decide the Big Ten title. Nevertheless, that’s a huge blow for a team which has already lost Joshua Langford for the season due to an injury.