College Basketball Preview: Which National Title Contenders Should You Avoid?
While perusing through the national title odds before the season, there are certain teams that jump out at you immediately. Some of them you cannot believe how much the sportsbook underrated them, so you are very interested in making a play on them.
On the other hand, each season there are teams that are expected to be good that, for one reason or another, end up disappointing or outright missing the NCAA Tournament. Last season, one set of odds gave Louisville the same chance to win the national championship as Villanova, and the Cardinals missed the tournament while the defending-champ Wildcats took it all.
Here, we are going to examine the teams that have good odds to win the national title, according to the FanDuel Sportsbook, but are likely to be this year's Louisville and let you down in a big way.
Oregon's 2017-18 season resulted in a trip to the NIT, and afterwards there was a lot of roster turnover. The Ducks welcome eight newcomers to the roster this season, mostly made up of ESPN's fourth-ranked recruiting class, which includes top center prospect Bol Bol.
Although the Pac 12 media voted Oregon to finish first in the conference, the pick against the Ducks is based on variance. They lost three starters and double-digit point scorers from a season ago, and while they have replaced them with some highly rated recruits, it is hard to tell how things will come together in Eugene.
Additionally, a down-trodden Pac 12 is not going to give Oregon many opportunities to claim big wins, so any growing pains in the non-conference slate is going to be hard to overcome as it pertains to building an NCAA Tournament resume. According to ESPN's Conference BPI, the Pac 12 ranks seventh in the nation.
Oregon is likely going to be in a tough spot when it comes to seeding in the NCAA Tournament even if it is able to deliver a Pac 12 title. KenPom.com currently has the Ducks ranked 26th in adjusted efficiency, which is even with teams that upwards of 50/1 odds, so 28/1 is a little too rich for a team of this caliber.
Last season's national runner-up is again in the mix for a national title, but the departure of three of their top four scorers from that team is leaving some question marks about just how quickly the Michigan Wolverines can get up to speed.
Without the likes of Mo Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman, and Duncan Robinson, Michigan will be moving on with juniors Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson, as well as sophomore Jordan Poole. Add that to ESPN's 16th-ranked recruiting class and Michigan is being picked second in the Big Ten media poll. There are high hopes that 6-7 freshman Ignas Brazdeikis can contribute immediately, but it is hard to expect he or either of the other two four-star recruits to jump in and form a national title contender this quickly.
Michigan ranks 23rd, which again lines up with teams that have far worse odds than what the Wolverines are getting now, so they do not present good value.
UCLA's First Four loss to St. Bonaventure marked the end of Aaron Holiday's and Thomas Welsh's time in Westwood, and it left the Bruins with some big holes to fill this season. Coach Steve Alford and his staff did well to bring in ESPN's third-ranked recruiting class, but asking these pieces to gel so quickly is a huge ask.
This may sound very similar to the case against Oregon, mostly because it is, but they are in a very similar position entering this season. UCLA is returning two starters and have to try to figure out which freshmen are going to make an immediate impact on the court. A class that featured a five-star recruit, center Moses Brown, also boasts four four-star recruits -- a group headlined by Shaquille O'Neal's son, Shareef, who will now miss the season due to heart surgery. Replacing Holiday's 20-plus points per game and leadership will be a lot for the Bruins to overcome.
KenPom has UCLA ranked 46th, mostly because of a sub-par defensive efficiency ranking. This puts the Bruins in the ballpark of teams that are around 120/1 and therefore make them fade-able at this price.
Wichita State Shockers
Wichita State's inaugural season in the AAC gave them the boost necessary to land a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and play more often on the national stage. Unfortunately for them, they ran into a sharp-shooting Marshall team and got bounced in the First Round.
Fast forward to this season, and the Shockers graduated six seniors, while also losing sophomore Landry Shamet to the NBA, and return only 11 percent of their minutes from a season ago. Wichita State was picked eighth in the AAC media poll, which is an unthinkable finish for a program that was a perennial powerhouse in the Missouri Valley Conference. The lone holdover, Markis McDuffie, only averaged 8.5 points per game last year while missing part of the season due to a foot injury. Coach Gregg Marshall will be tasked with getting this team up to speed quickly if the Shockers want to have a chance at a conference crown, let alone an NCAA title.
Wichita State ranks 71st in KenPom's adjusted efficiency, easily making them one of the worst values at 46/1. In comparison, Buffalo and Utah are 72nd and 73rd, respectively, and are 180/1 on FanDuel's Sportsbook.