College NCAAB Basketball Season Previews For 2017-2018
The 2016-2017 men’s basketball season had plenty of surprises for bettors and fans. Constructing a perfect bracket is an incredibly difficult task, and most brackets bust after the first round. Each year, there are a few sleeper teams that somehow make it through to the Elite Eight and even the Final Four. Last year saw some tournament upsets in Florida beating Wisconsin, South Carolina beating Baylor and Oregon beating Kansas. UNC barely escaped the semi-final with a 77-76 win over Oregon, meanwhile Gonzaga defeated South Carolina 77-73. UNC clinched their sixth NCAA Championship by beating Gonzaga in the final. It was a moment of redemption for the Tar Heels, who lost in 2016 by a Villanova buzzer-beater.
This season will surely be another exciting installment in college basketball history. You can expect tournament regulars like Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and Gonzaga to try and redeem themselves. There are also the dark horse teams that disrupt brackets and surprise all the college basketball analysts. Some off-the-court controversies could affect teams negatively and there could be injuries down the stretch of the regular season. If you are interested in betting on the NCAAB regular season and March Madness tournament play, you have come to the right place. Check out our breakdown of each individual conference and our predictions for who will make an impact in March.
Before we get into the teams we feel will make noise in March Madness and end up in the Final Four, let's first speak about the teams in their divisions and who will make it to the tournament.
The Divisions and Their Front-Runners
There are a lot of individual conferences and divisions within college basketball, but historically, only a certain few tend to produce winning teams of championship quality. Our review covers the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, PAC-12 and SEC—conferences with the most winners and teams worth betting on. Teams from other divisions can always provide an upset, but any seasoned bettor or analyst will tell you that teams with an actual shot at winning come from these conferences. So these are the teams we cover for NCAAB betting opportunities.
The ACC is comprised of some of the best teams in the entire league, including the defending champion UNC Tar Heels. However, the 2016-2017 season only saw 1 of 9 total ACC participants make it out of the first weekend of play. UNC and Duke, 2 notable teams, are facing significant changes to their rosters. Louisville is dealing with a huge scandal involving unethical recruitment that resulted in head coach Rick Pitino being let go. There is no way of knowing how this scandal will affect their play, but Louisville is currently the center of unwanted attention. The Virginia Cavaliers are expected to make a strong case for best in the ACC and could potentially make it far into March Madness. Duke is projected to finish second barring any unfortunate injuries to key players (something they dealt with last year). Of course, the Tar Heels will try and defend their title, but after losing several players to the NBA Draft, it is up to the next class of players. Look out for underdog teams like the Miami Hurricanes, Notre Dame and Florida State. The Fighting Irish have made 2 Elite Eight rounds in the past 3 years, so they are due up for some March Madness glory.
The Big 12
The Big 12 conference is loaded with powerful teams. The Kansas Jayhawks seem unstoppable each year and are the defending Big 12 champions, a record they have held since 2005. They lost 2 notable players in Josh Jackson and Frank Mason to the NBA, but they retained 4 of their top scorers and added a young talent in Billy Preston. Other Big 12 teams to look out for are West Virginia, TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State. It will be tough to dethrone the Jayhawks, so these teams might be better off focusing on March Madness instead of winning the conference.
The Big East
The Big East conference has been the deepest regarding talent and presence in recent years. Villanova won the March Madness tournament in 2016 via a buzzer-beater over UNC. They were unable to defend the title, but other Big East teams were in the running. The Big East has several contenders in Villanova, Xavier and Butler, not to mention sleeper teams like St. John’s, Marquette and Seton Hall. In fact, Seton Hall is considered to be a dark horse team this season (with potential Final Four implications), with 4 of its top scorers returning for another run. The team is full of experienced players that could pull off a few upsets. Villanova is predicted to win the conference, and this could very well happen, but that does not mean other teams can perform well in the tournament.
The Big Ten
The Big 10 conference has been quiet. They did not have any top-seeded teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament and any present teams were knocked out by the Elite Eight round. However, there are some talented programs that could make noise this year. Wisconsin advanced the farthest last year and could be the best team out of this entire group again. However, the Michigan State Spartans are the most favored to win the conference. Purdue and Minnesota are the 2 underdog teams in the conference, with the latter being considered as a team that may slip through most brackets and somehow land in the later rounds of the tournament.
The Pac 12
The PAC-12 conference had some surprises for analysts and fans last season with teams like Oregon and Arizona making waves. Arizona is projected to be the strongest team in the conference with USC and UCLA following behind. UCLA has to deal with the attention and controversy of the Ball family, but their reliance on a relatively young squad this year could be their downfall. Oregon could have another deep run into March Madness, so be sure to consider them throughout the season for betting. Their Final Four appearance in last year’s tournament cemented them as legitimate contenders.
The SEC is poised to be one of the more exciting conferences this year. Kentucky is always the favorite, but they are a young team this season and the Florida Gators will be looking to capitalize. Still, Kentucky is always a solid team. The Gators finished in the Elite Eight last season, but lost to conference rivals USC. USC would be in contention if not for losing their top scorers to the NBA Draft. It is unlikely they will reach the Elite Eight round again. Other SEC teams to look out for are Texas A&M, Alabama and Vanderbilt.
March Madness and Our Final Four
Predicting the Final Four is a very difficult task. No one has successfully predicted a bracket to be 100% true—it’s part of what makes college basketball so exciting. That being said, there are several teams that are routinely picked for Final Four berths because of their talent, coaching and historical place in the tournament. Below are our picks for the Final Four based on the NCAAB betting odds currently listed in online sportsbooks: Most of the legal USA basketball betting sites we endorse all offer future betting odds with incredible odds for teams to not only make it to the tournament, but to win the championship.
These teams are:
1) Duke Blue Devels
2) Michigan State Spartans
3) Arizona Wildcats
4) Kentucky Wildcats
The Duke Blue Devils
Duke will be led by senior Grayson Allen, a phenomenal player who should be their top performer if he can stay out of trouble and uninjured. Allen has some controversy attached to him for being a dirty player. The Blue Devils recruited some intriguing players that give the squad much needed depth. Not to mention, they possess arguably the best coach in college basketball. Duke is listed at +500 to win the 2018 National Championship.
Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State possesses one of the best players in NCAA basketball in Miles Bridges. He is touted as a possible Naismith winner. Nick Ward is another offensive weapon that will help them along the way. Ward’s defense was his biggest liability, but the sophomore has taken great strides in perfecting his game over the course of the offseason. Michigan State may not be a favorite amongst casual fans, but sportsbooks have them at +650 to win it all.
Arizona is expected to be the best team in the PAC-12 conference. The Wildcats retained Allonzo Trier, an experienced guard with enough talent to carry the team. They also boast DeAndre Ayton at center, the best at that position in his recruiting class. Arizona could be a major threat deep into the tournament if their freshmen can find their bearings. They are listed at +800 to win.
Kentucky is the epitome of the “one-and-done” phenomenon in college basketball. Most players will advance to the NBA after a successful season under coach John Calipari. Each year they seem to counter losing key players via recruiting new ones. They are a younger team, but that is not always a bad thing, especially when they are all considered 4 and 5-star recruits. Some analysts have them out of the tournament early on, but there seems to be something brewing in Lexington. Players like Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, Kevin Knox, P.J. Washington and Sacha Killeya-Jones make this team lethal, not to mention the amount of talent on their bench. The Wildcats are listed at +1000 to win the title.
A Duke-Kentucky final would be very exciting, and more plausible given these predictions. College basketball is unpredictable, and Michigan State or Arizona could pull off an upset. There is also room for other teams like Gonzaga, UNC and Kansas to make an impact.