Placing early bets on Texas, Purdue and UCLA to win March Madness in 2022 – The Athletic

[ad_1]

With the NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline having come and gone, it’s already time for NCAA Tournament projection season. This means it’s time for NCAA championship futures season.

The offseason before the players return to their schools and start getting practice times with their teams is often one of the best times to place future bets for college hoops. Why? I think there is often legitimate value to be had as oddsmakers sort through returning players and recruits.

So who are the teams I’m looking at this year? So far, three teams stand out. As always, it’s worth shopping these numbers around with futures to get the best price.

All odds are from our partner BetMGM. New to sports betting? Sign up for BetMGM, receive a free three-month subscription to The Athletic and get a risk-free first bet up to $1,000.

Click here for full college basketball national championship odds

UCLA (+1400 at BetMGM)

I think the Bruins are a top-three team in college hoops next year getting priced as if they’re just a top-10 team. The current Torvik projections have them at No. 2 heading into the season. There just isn’t really anything they don’t have heading into the season.

First and foremost, the Bruins return all of their relevant, valuable players from last year’s Final Four run. Juzang is the big name here, but I actually think the team’s best player is Jaime Jaquez, an All-Defense team member in the Pac-12 who is also a monster shot-maker and leader that averaged 12 points and six rebounds on terrific percentages last year. He’s my favorite for the Pac-12 Player of the Year next year. On top of Juzang and Jaquez, the Bruins also add five-star recruit and top-10 overall prospect in the country Peyton Watson to the team. It’s tough to always bet on freshmen in these circumstances, but Watson fits exactly what Mick Cronin wants from his wings. He’s a terrific all-around player who is 6-7 with about a 7-foot wingspan. He’s a smart decision-maker and passer and really gives effort on the defensive end. Plus, he’s a legit scorer. He might end up being a bit overmatched physically as a freshman because he’s very skinny, but the Bruins won’t be forced to overextend him in his role because of the presence of Jaquez and Juzang. Watson is set up for success, and I think he’s going to be a lottery pick. No other team in the country can boast the fact that they have three wings on the roster who are likely to be on NBA teams in 2022-23. This is the best wing trio in the country.

On top of that, they have a tough, experienced lead guard in Tyger Campbell returning who gets everyone involved and consistently makes the right plays for his teammates. He was first-team All-Pac-12 last year, one of the few lead guards returning to college hoops who can boast high-major first-team honors. His backup will be David Singleton, another senior who has shown he can run the show at times and get hot from distance, plus defend at a high level at the one and two spots. Jules Bernard is another senior who will likely come off the bench at the two or three spots that would start at half of the other Pac-12 schools.

More importantly, though, they added a killer grad transfer in Myles Johnson inside. Backup center was a significant problem for UCLA last season. Cody Riley was really the team’s only option inside. When Riley was off the court last year, UCLA’s defense fell off of a cliff. They went from a 102.9 defensive rating with him on the court, to a 111.4 defensive rating when he was off, according to Pivot Analysis. Not only did UCLA shore up that hole this offseason, I think the team upgraded on Riley in the transfer portal. Johnson was one of the best defensive bigs in the Big Ten last year at Rutgers, and was the centerpiece of a top-20 defense in the country. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the starter at some point in the season. And regardless of who the starter is, the team now has 40 minutes of strong rim protection on the interior that it can rely on.

Basically, the Bruins have all of the pieces you’re looking for from a national champion. They have veteran college stars who double has killer shot-makers. They have steady, veteran, reliable lead guard play. They have an X-factor five-star freshman wing. They have rim protection on the interior. The team fits the mold of its head coach. They have NCAA Tournament experience. And they have the depth to be able to overcome injuries. This is the best value on the board right now, in my view. They should be closer to what Gonzaga is being priced at as the favorite right now, which is +600. At +1400 right now, you might be getting 1.75 value on what UCLA is in the preseason when the polls have them in the top-five.

Purdue (+2000 at BetMGM)

I’ve liked Purdue for a while, and was worried that their odds would drop from the 17-to-1 mark they were at heading into July as the offseason wore on. I was assuming that Jaden Ivey would break out a bit at the U19 World Cup and thus drive the Boilermakers’ price down a bit. However, while Ivey did break out, it seems like the oddsmakers pushed Purdue down the board and drove their price up when Michigan had DeVante Jones and Hunter Dickinson return to school. But at 20-to-1, I obviously see Purdue as a terrific value. The Torvik projections have them at No. 6 right now, and they’re being priced more like a top-16 team.

Ivey is the key reason why. I think he’s going to be the best point guard in all of college basketball next season. Over his final 10 games last season, he averaged nearly 16 points, four rebounds and two assists as a freshman. He’s carried that run over to this summer, where Ivey won All-Tournament honors at the U19 World Cup while helping lead Team USA to a gold medal and averaging 12 points in 16 minutes per game. But there is more to it than just Ivey. Above all, this Purdue team just seems tailor-made for the exact scheme that Matt Painter wants to run — arguably more so than any other team Painter has had at Purdue. And behind them freshman Caleb Furst profiles as a three-to-four year player who averages a double-double at some point in college hoops. Plus, fellow freshman Trey Kaufman-Renn looks like a terrific inside-out threat for multiple years. He should step in and provide some of the frontcourt athleticism that this team is missing (even if he’s not a great one by NBA standards, he’s a good one by college standards). If someone goes down, there are guys waiting in the wings.

The Boilermakers love to have driving guards who are pull-up threats, monster post-up bigs inside, and floor-spacing from the wings around them. Ivey is the engine that’ll make it work, but it’s hard to imagine a better interior scoring combination in college hoops next year than Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Edey is also coming off of an all-tournament performance in the U19, where he averaged 15 points and 14 rebounds per game. Williams is coming off of first-team All-Big Ten honors, and there’s a case he might not be the best true big on the roster with how strongly Edey looks like he’s progressing after a terrific freshman season. For those guys to have success, they need the spacers, though. Sasha Stefanovic will be a senior who hit 40 percent from 3 last season at the two. Brandon Newman hit 38 percent from 3 as a freshman. Mason Gillis hit 35 percent from 3, and Eric Hunter Jr. is a two-year starter who is comfortable taking them even if he struggled last year.

There are legitimate college stars in Ivey and Williams. They return just about everyone from a team that went 13-6 in the Big Ten last year. There is experience and veteran leadership. There are multiple players to expect leaps from internally, as well as two freshmen who can step up if they need them. There is strong role allocation within the program. But more than that, they fit exactly what the coaching staff wants to do. I’m in on Purdue this year, and I think I’d favor them ever so slightly to win the Big Ten over Michigan right now — although I do think those two teams are the clear 1A and 1B in the league heading into 2021-22.

Texas (+2000 at BetMGM)

Again, I think this is just a good number. Why? Because Chris Beard is one of the best coaches in college basketball, he has proven he can take a team on a deep NCAA Tournament run. And he’s never had a team this talented before in his tenure. Torvik has Texas at No. 7 right now, and they’re being priced more as a top-16 team like Purdue.

What is the calling card here for a team that is essentially brand new? Well, this is the deepest frontcourt in college hoops. Gonzaga’s combination of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren is probably the best frontcourt. But no other team in the country can quite match the sheer breadth of options here. And more importantly, this foursome all complements one another. To me, the two most talented guys here are Vanderbilt transfer Dylan Disu and Utah transfer Timmy Allen. Allen is just an absolute load to deal with as a scorer at the college level. He’s stronger than you as a combo forward, and he can get to his spots whenever he wants as a midrange shot-creating killer. He’s a multi-time 17-point-per-game scorer in the Pac-12 while surrounded by undermanned Utah rosters. Disu, on the other hand, is more of a bouncy, skilled hybrid big who can step away and shoot 3s, block some shots, and finish above the rim as a diving rim-runner. He’s the best NBA prospect of the group because of that. Behind them, Christian Bishop was something of a do-it-all swiss-army knife for Creighton. He’s wing-sized but can play up the lineup and finish well around the rim. He’s switchable defensively and can protect the rim a bit. I’d venture that these are your three starters at the three, four and five. But even more, behind them, the team also got first-team All-Atlantic-10 forward Tre Mitchell, one of the best post weapons in the country.

Basically, they’re going to be able to mix-and-match these four players — all of whom are darn near high-major all-conference level performers — into whatever situation they need. Need to play switchable, athletic defenders? Disu and Bishop fit. Need athletic weak-side rim protectors? Again, that’s Disu and Bishop. Need to punish someone inside? Mitchell can step up. Or guard a big post? Yeah, that’s Mitchell again. Have a situation where you need the ultimate mismatch threat against smaller guards and wings? Allen will go get his buckets. It’s a group of players that just fit together in terms of skill level.

The backcourt isn’t a joke, either. Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey return as older, multi-year starters from last season’s Big 12 Tournament champion. Jones was second-team All-Big 12, and Ramey was third team. They’ve already brought in Devin Askew as well, who had a rough freshman year at Kentucky but still profiles as a long-term high-major starter. He just got to Kentucky a year before he was ready after reclassifying. I’d expect he’ll be better as a sophomore.

But the bigger news is what could be to come. Former Minnesota point guard Marcus Carr is down to a final five teams in his recruitment for his final year of college basketball. Texas is on that list, along with Kentucky, Kansas, Auburn, and Louisville. Carr also made third-team All-Big Ten last year, but I think he’s better than either Jones or Ramey. Coaches around the league rave about how creative Carr is off the bounce both as a distributor and scorer, which is a complementary skillset to both Ramey and Jones. He’d step in and be the leader at the lead guard spot that Texas could really use to finalize its roster. Right now, he’s the best transfer available on the market.

And if we’re looking through it, Texas makes the most sense for Carr. Kentucky’s backcourt has Sahvir Wheeler, Kellan Grady, Davion Mintz, C.J. Fredrick, and incoming freshman TyTy Washington. Kansas just got Remy Martin and Ochai Agbaji back from the NBA Draft process, plus recruited Joseph Yesufu, Bobby Pettiford, and Jalen Coleman-Lands this summer. Auburn also recruited a three-point guard in the transfer portal this summer in K.D. Johnson, Zep Jasper and Wendell Green. Louisville makes the most sense out of the other teams on that list, but they still also brought in El Ellis and Jarrod West as options and don’t project to be as good as these other teams. Transfers make decisions that often aren’t necessarily the most logical choice to help their careers, but Carr’s best choice in that regard seems to be to head to Texas among the teams he’s considering.

If they got Carr, I don’t think there would be a case against Texas as a top-five team in college basketball heading into next season. They’d have elite veteran guard depth in Carr, Jones and Ramey, all of whom are high-major all-league players. They’d have the deepest frontcourt in the country. They’d have a couple of good, older rotational wings in Jase Febres and Brock Cunningham. But more than that, they’d have seven guys who could have a legitimate all-conference case at different spots in high-major leagues, and all of them provide differing skillsets that the team can mix and match with depending on what it needs on a given night. On top of it, they have someone I consider to be a top-five coach in the country in Beard. Heck, even if they don’t get Carr, the team is still loaded.

Maybe the integration of too many new pieces will prove too difficult. Maybe there will be too many mouths to feed. Those are real concerns here with a team this talented. Role allocation could end up being an issue. But in terms of pure talent, this is undeniably a top-five team in the country. And again, it’s being priced only at a top-16 level. Basically, a Texas bet is a bet on Chris Beard to be able to figure out how to make a roster work. Personally, that’s something I’m more than comfortable with doing, given what we’ve already seen from him in his career.

(Photo of Johnny Juzang: Jamie Squire / Getty Images; The Athletic may receive an affiliate commission if you open an account with BetMGM through links contained in the above article.)

Get all-access to exclusive stories.

Subscribe to The Athletic for ad-free, in-depth coverage of your favorite players, teams, leagues and clubs. Try a week on us.

START FREE TRIAL



[ad_2]

Source link

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap