Michigan State returns three of its top four scorers from last season's Final Four club, has a Hall of Fame coach in Tom Izzo and features the potential preseason favorite to win national player of the year: Cassius Winston. So it should come as no surprise that the Spartans are the favorite to win it all in 2019-20
The Spartans have the depth, talent and momentum to pick up where they left off last season in Minneapolis, and updated betting odds from the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook have them (Kentucky at 8-1, Kansas at 8-1, Duke at 10-1 and North Carolina at 10-1. A host of other programs enter the picture between 14-1 and 25-1.) as the outright favorite to win the title next April in Atlanta at 6-1 odds. Trailing closely behind them is
While the best odds suggest they are accompanied by the best teams, not all happen to be the best bets. So let's take a spin at some teams I like -- and some I don't followed by the latest odds on each team from Westgate.
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Why to bet the Wildcats: Kentucky is No. 3 in the Ashton Hagans and is set to pair him with a lottery talent in Tyrese Maxey, who is going to put up massive numbers as a true freshman. UK should be considered the SEC favorite and a bona fide top-3 club entering the season., but No. 1 on our best bets list. The Wildcats bring back defensive stalwart
Why to bet the Tigers: This is theft! Memphis' incoming recruiting class is No. 1 in the country. If Duke was bringing in this class, they'd be title favorites. But at 14-1, Memphis is nearly categorized for me as a sleeper bet. While the Tigers' youth is a question, No. 1 recruit James Wiseman and a host of four-star freshmen should bring back the electricity to FedExForum as Penny Hardaway looks to make a second-year splash. This team will be long and athletic; if they can find some shooters, they'll prove the 14-1 odds here are a joke.
Why to bet the Gators: Florida already had juice as an SEC contender with Noah Locke and Andrew Nembhard returning. But the addition of five-star freshmen Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann in addition to graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear is absolutely jarring. The Gators will push Kentucky as an SEC contender, and I think they have the most upside of any team on this list if the pieces fall in place as I expect.
Why to bet the Cardinals: Two words: Jordan Nwora. He put the NBA on hold so he could improve his draft stock as a junior. The unintended benefit was that he made Louisville a legitimate contender in the process. The Cardinals return six of their top seven scorers from last year, they add a grad transfer in Lamarr Kimble, and they have a star-studded recruiting class that absolutely, positively looks ready to contribute right away.
Why to bet the Red Raiders: In Chris Beard's first season coaching at Tech, the Red Raiders missed the Big Dance. In his second, they made the Elite Eight. In his third, they made the national championship game. It's only natural that for his fourth act, Texas Tech is winning the whole thing. (OK, maybe not. But Tech added a few key graduate transfers and has a nice recruiting class incoming. They'll be ranked all season and should peak in March.)
Why to avoid the Blue Devils: I'm subscribed to the idea that Tre Jones is going to make a big leap as a sophomore. I'm just not sold on the supporting cast around him holding up. Its top-5 recruiting class is littered with talent and dispersed across key positions, but none of the rookies are on the same level as Zion or RJ was last year. Value here at 10-1 just isn't great.
Why to avoid the Terrapins: Chol Marial's addition gives Maryland depth behind second-year star Jalen Smith, and Anthony Cowan provides a steady-handed vet. But the positions in between are still largely a question mark. I think the Terps will be among the most talented in the Big Ten, but that so far hasn't translated to winning big in College Park for Mark Turgeon. He's only accumulated three NCAA Tournament wins since taking over in 2011.
Why to avoid the Wildcats: UC Irvine graduate transfer Max Hazzard solidifies a loaded incoming haul of newcomers led by a top-5 recruiting class. And five-stars Nico Mannion and Josh Green, on paper, should be awesome. But the cloud of related to the FBI probe hanging over the program would be disconcerting for anyone -- especially for Miller, who has been under fire since the scandal's inception. It seems Arizona's season has a higher chance of going awry than just about any other team in the country.
Why to avoid the Volunteers: Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone -- the team's leading scorers from last year -- are all gone. Rick Barnes has his work cut out for him. I think incoming freshman Josiah-Jordan James could be one of the best guards in college basketball next season, but the sheer amount of production to be replaced doesn't inspire confidence that they'll be anywhere near a title contender. The Vols' odds have slipped from 30-1 to 80-1 since lines first opened back in April, and that's about the same trendline as my confidence in this team.
Why to avoid the Tigers: The top three scorers from Auburn's Final Four team are gone: Bryce Brown, Jared Harper and Chuma Okeke. The talent is in place for the Tigers to still be a tourney team -- Samir Doughty, Austin Wiley, Andernee McLemore are among the notable returning players -- but title contention at 60-1 is way too rich for my blood. I wouldn't even take those odds for SEC title contention, let alone the whole thing!
Why to take a chance on the Rams: VCU won the Atlantic 10 by a healthy margin last season, and it brings back all but two players from last season's 25-win team. Most importantly, though, this Rams team is loaded with experience. Their top three returning scorers will be seniors in 2019, fitting the mold of a lethal mid-major team that could make a serious charge in March.
Why to take a chance on the Bulldogs: Georgia underwent a major roster reconstruction this offseason. and who knows how it will go for Tom Crean and Co. They should be better, but improving off an 11-win season shouldn't be all that challenging. The reason this one's worth considering is Anthony Edwards -- UGA's prized recruit who will be a freshman. If he's able to dominate, he could take the Dawgs to a new level.
Why to take a chance on the Cyclones: Yes, it's possible that Iowa State lost a quartet of starters to the NBA -- Lindell Wigginton, Marial Shayok, Talen Horton-Tucker, Nick Weiler-Babb -- and actually got better. The reason: Tyrese Haliburton is ready. After showing some major flashes as a lanky freshman last season, he has a chance to be one of the Big 12's most efficient guards in a lead role.
Why to take a chance on the Sooners: Brady Manek -- better known by some as Larry from the Prairie -- returns for the Sooners, providing them with a foundational junior. And coach Lon Kruger has a talented stable of youngsters incoming, headlined by top-50 point guard De'Vion Harmon, one of the most underrated guards in the 2019 class. Kruger has a lot of moving pieces with seven newcomers, but talent won't be an issue.
Why to take a chance: Utah State won 28 games last season, and it returns big man star Neemias Queta, a lumbering 6-foot-11 center who could potentially have been a first-round pick. Queta's shadow casts huge expectations for Utah State as they should win the Mountain West and field enough returning players -- Sam Merrill, Diogo Brito, among others -- to fit the mold of a sleeper. I like the 200-1 odds I'm getting here.
2020 NCAA championship odds
-- Odds via Westgate Superbook
April 8, 2019
September 16, 2019
|New Mexico State||300-1||300-1|
|San Diego State||500-1||500-1|
|East Tennessee State||2000-1||2000-1|
|Long Beach State||2000-1||2000-1|
|South Dakota State||2000-1||2000-1|
|William & Mary||2000-1||5000-1|