LAS VEGAS – A year ago, Zion Williamson was a newbie and the face of college basketball. When the calendar turned to March, Duke was the closest thing to a dominant team. Williamson jumped to the NBA and things have changed.
This isn't the season of the superstar in college basketball, and the road to the NCAA championship seems more open than ever.
"There is no super team out there," said Nick Bogdanovich, sports betting director at William Hill.
Kansas is the favorite with a 7/1 chance of winning, followed by Gonzaga (8/1) and Duke (9/1). When Bogdanovich was asked to compile a list of the teams he saw as a threat to national titles, he did not make a short list.
"I would say 20 teams and that's about twice as many teams as normal," he said. "Sometimes there are seven or eight or maybe ten teams. But I could be wrong on the 20th. Maybe it's more. "
On his list is San Diego State, the nation's last undefeated team, 26-0. The Aztecs are led by Malachi Flynn, who is far from a Zion-like superstar, and are rolling through a weak conference in the mountain west.
This could be the long shot season in college basketball. Three teams that ranked in the top 10 this week weren't even a slip on the radar last summer. William Hill opened the state of San Diego at 1,000 / 1 and the current Aztec odds are 18/1. The Westgate SuperBook opened Dayton at 1,000 / 1 and Baylor at 100/1.
“The state of San Diego would be our biggest loser [for the sportsbook] by far, ”said Bogdanovich. "I love history. I hope the Aztecs reach the last four. Of course I don't like our position, but I won't lose sleep. "
A year ago, Mike Krzyzewski Duke was unable to train to the final four, although three of the top 10 picks in the NBA draft were on his squad. Trainer K remains a serious competitor. The Blue Devils and Aztecs are the only teams that, according to Kenpom.com, are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive terms.
Where else can you find value on the futures board? Here are a handful of candidates (William Hill odds):
Penn State (30/1): The Nittany Lions (20-5) are second in the Big Ten, a game behind Maryland, and their leader is the older striker Lamar Stevens. Teams that win on the go in the conference game are more likely to win in the NCAA tournament, and Penn State has had significant victories recently in Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue.
Villanova (40/1): Always look for coaches who won in March and teams with experienced point guards. The Wildcats (19-6) match coach Jay Wright and Point Guard Collin Gillespie.
Oregon (50/1): It's another year for the Pac-12, but the Ducks (20-6) got a run last March and could do it again behind Payton Pritchard, arguably the nation's best point guard.
Texas Tech (50/1): Chris Beard coached the Red Raiders for last year's NCAA title game and had to rebuild newcomer Jahmi & # 39; us Ramsey, a top NBA candidate. Texas Tech (16-9) is battle-tested in the Big 12, where Baylor and Kansas are each in the top 5 in the nation.
"We know Beard can train and the Red Raiders have been on the up as some of their new parts are now part of a well oiled machine," said Bruce Marshall, editor of The Gold Sheet. "Ramsey is developing into a force."
Michigan (60/1): The Wolverines reached 4th place in the AP poll in early December after an 18-point victory over Gonzaga in the Bahamas. The team slumped while top scorer Isaiah Livers was injured but is back and Michigan (16-9) is 5-1 in their last six games.
"It looked like a top five team for the first month of the season," said Marshall. "The Wolverines are probably looking for a 6 or 7 seed, which is a good place to get at least the second weekend, and from there it will be an all-rounder."
Marquette (85/1): With a shooting star like Markus Howard, the Golden Eagles (17-7) have a shot.
Howard is the nation's leading scorer with 27.3 points per game. Marquette is fourth in the Big East, who seems to be a tougher league at the top than the Big Ten.
“Marquette has the best player in the country. So why not? Howard could get hot, ”said Bogdanovich. "There are all sorts of fringe teams that can get hot and run the table."
Some other "fringe teams" worth checking out are Houston (75/1), Wichita State (75/1) and Colorado (80/1). For longer strokes, defending champions Virginia (150/1), Florida (150/1) and Syracuse (300/1) can surprise.
"It's an open season," said Marshall, "and some of these teams could still show up and do a deep March run."