NCAA title odds: Oklahoma, UCLA among five best under-the-radar bets for 2017-18

College hoops season is months away, but now is a good a time to start separating preseason contenders from pretenders before the season sneaks up -- when we have our heads turned, paying attention to the NFL and college football.

Last season, we laid out several teams sporting preseason odds longer than 60-to-1 with a realistic shot of competing for a national title -- and two of them, UCLA and Michigan -- made runs in the NCAA Tournament.

So if you're looking to wager a little cheddar before the preseason hype mars your betting vision or waters down the odds, now is as good as time as any. Here are five to watch, and worth considering a bet on today (odds courtesy of Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas).

Wichita State | National title odds: 25/1

There's excellent value in Wichita State at 20/1. The Shockers find themselves in a new conference -- the American Athletic -- after leaving the smaller Missouri Valley. They'll go from facing Illinois State and Drake to Cincinnati, SMU and Tulsa -- and that only will strengthen the profile. As the saying goes: "To be the best, you have to beat the best." The Shockers will have more opportunities vs. quality foes in conference play, and consequently increase their chances at a potential top seed come Selection Sunday.

Led by Landry Shamet and Shaq Morris, Gregg Marshall returns all five starters from a 31-5 team that just missed another Sweet 16. If they can dodge the same bracket as Kentucky for the umpteenth time, there's a real possibility for a big run in the Big Dance. Jump on the Shockers' bandwagon while good seats are still available.

UCLA | Odds: 40/1

OK, OK, the detractors are groaning -- and it's totally understandable. Lonzo Ball's gone, as is leading scorer T.J. Leaf. The run-and-fun Bruins offense could be a shell of the the 2016-17 club. But there's plenty of reason to think that will not be the case.

This time last year, no one really what Ball would do. And a year from now, we may talk about the rise of incoming freshman Jaylen Hands in a similar way. He's a five-star point guard who may be a tad more athletic than Ball. The 6-foot-2 playmaker isn't a pass-first guard like Ball, but he has a knack for attacking the rim and making winning plays. 

With Hands and Aaron Holiday out front, the Bruins also are adding five-star small forward Kris Wilkes, UCLA again will be young, fun and fast in 2017. There is enough talent for Steve Alford's team to play itself into Pac-12 title contention a second straight season.

Xavier | Odds: 60/1

A six-game skid just before the Big East conference tournament seemed to doom Xavier last season. But Chris Mack and the Musketeers marched on, beating DePaul and Butler in the Big East tourney -- doing enough to draw a first-round NCAA pairing with Maryland -- then promptly stomping all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to Gonzaga.

Next season, Xavier should pick up where it left off. Mack returns potential All-American candidate Trevon Bluiett, playmaking guard J.P. Macura and point man Quentin Goodin, who got extended run as a starter after Edmond Sumner was lost to injury. Xavier may not be the best team in the Big East, but with Bluiett, Macura and Mack, the Muskateers have a decent shot at making another run. And at 60-to-1, betting on them is a smart play.

Oklahoma | Odds: 80/1

The post-Buddy Hield Sooners went 11-20 and missed the NCAA Tournament a year after advancing to the Final Four. But Lon Kruger has his crew primed for a big season in Norman.

Hopes for returning to national relevance rest on the shoulders of five-star freshman phenom Trae Young, a local recruit who chose the Sooners over Kansas. Young is a point guard with big-time court vision and big-time range as a shooter. Young has the keys to the offense after the departure of Jordan Woodard, and he figures to have his foot on the gas pedal deep into March.

Texas A&M | Odds: 100/1

Texas A&M was mostly irrelevant in 2016 after a "growing year." The Aggies went 16-15 and 8-10 in SEC play. Not great.

The bright side: Texas A&M returns four of five starters and boasts a bona fide lottery-quality player in Robert Williams, who turned down a chance at millions to boost his draft stock. With Williams and big man Tyler Davis, the Aggies have as formidable a front line as any SEC foe.

The only question mark is at point guard, where Admon Gilder (who is better equipped to play off the ball) spent a lot of his efforts at last season. If 2017 signee T.J. Starks or redshirt freshman J.J. Caldwell can take the reins, Gilder could be free to drop 3s. If A&M get a positive answer at the point, it could launch the Aggies into SEC contention and provide good value at 100/1.


OPEN CURRENT
Kentucky 10/1 7/1
Duke 12/1 7/1
Michigan State 20/1 8/1
Kansas 12/1 10/1
Arizona 20/1 10/1
Louisville 12/1 12/1
USC 60/1 20/1
Wichita State 20/1 25/1
Texas 300/1 25/1
North Carolina 12/1 30/1
Villanova 12/1 30/1
Florida 20/1 30/1
Michigan 20/1 40/1
UCLA 40/1 40/1
Missouri 300/1 40/1
Gonzaga 12/1 50/1
Butler 20/1 50/1
Alabama 80/1 50/1
West Virginia 30/1 50/1
Oregon 60/1 50/1
Virginia 30/1 60/1
Miami 50/1 60/1
Notre Dame 80/1 60/1
Xavier 80/1 60/1
Baylor 50/1 80/1
Oklahoma 30/1 80/1
Florida State 40/1 80/1
Saint Mary's 40/1 80/1
Seton Hall 60/1 80/1
Purdue 60/1 80/1
Wisconsin 60/1 80/1
Iowa State 80/1 80/1
Indiana 20/1 100/1
Creighton 80/1 100/1
Vanderbilt 80/1 100/1
SMU 80/1 100/1
Cincinnati 80/1 100/1
UConn 100/1 100/1
VCU 100/1 100/1
Virginia Tech 100/1 100/1
Syracuse 100/1 100/1
Marquette 100/1 100/1
Maryland 100/1 100/1
Minnesota 100/1 100/1
Northwestern 100/1 100/1
Illinois 100/1 100/1
Arkansas 100/1 100/1
South Carolina 100/1 100/1
Texas A&M 100/1 100/1
Nevada 100/1 100/1
Utah 100/1 100/1
TCU 300/1 100/1
Auburn 300/1 100/1
UNLV 1000/1 100/1
San Diego State 100/1 200/1
Providence 200/1 200/1
Georgetown 200/1 200/1
Georgia 200/1 200/1
Oklahoma State 300/1 300/1
Kansas State 300/1 300/1
Texas Tech 300/1 300/1
Dayton 300/1 300/1
Rhode Island 300/1 300/1
Wake Forest 300/1 300/1
Clemson 300/1 300/1
St. John's 300/1 300/1
Iowa 300/1 300/1
Ohio State 300/1 300/1
Penn State 300/1 300/1
Nebraska 300/1 300/1
Illinois State 300/1 300/1
Ole Miss 300/1 300/1
Tennessee 300/1 300/1
Mississippi State 300/1 300/1
BYU 300/1 300/1
California 300/1 300/1
Colorado 300/1 300/1
Arizona State 300/1 300/1
Stanford 300/1 300/1
Houston 500/1 500/1
UCF 500/1 500/1
Memphis 500/1 500/1
Richmond 500/1 500/1
La Salle 500/1 500/1
Davidson 500/1 500/1
Georgia Tech 500/1 500/1
Pittsburgh 500/1 500/1
NC State 500/1 500/1
Middle Tennessee 500/1 500/1
LSU 500/1 500/1
Colorado State 500/1 500/1
Boise State 500/1 500/1
Fresno State 500/1 500/1
Oregon State 500/1 500/1
Wyoming 500/1 1000/1
Vermont 1000/1 1000/1
St. Bonaventure 1000/1 1000/1
George Washington 1000/1 1000/1
George Mason 1000/1 1000/1
Saint Louis 1000/1 1000/1
UNC Wilmington 1000/1 1000/1
Charleston 1000/1 1000/1
Old Dominion 1000/1 1000/1
Princeton 1000/1 1000/1
Harvard 1000/1 1000/1
Yale 1000/1 1000/1
Texas Arlington 1000/1 1000/1
Georgia State 1000/1 1000/1
Arkansas State 1000/1 1000/1
Oakland 1000/1 1000/1
Valparaiso 1000/1 1000/1
Northern Iowa 1000/1 1000/1
Belmont 1000/1 1000/1
Akron 1000/1 1000/1
Ohio 1000/1 1000/1
Buffalo 1000/1 1000/1
New Mexico 1000/1 1000/1
Utah State 1000/1 1000/1
Washington State 1000/1 1000/1
East Tennessee State 1000/1 1000/1
Chattanooga 1000/1 1000/1
New Mexico State 1000/1 1000/1
Grand Canyon 1000/1 1000/1
Boston College 1000/1 1000/1
Florida Gulf Coast 2000/1 2000/1
Louisiana Tech 2000/1 2000/1
Monmouth 2000/1 2000/1
Troy 2000/1 2000/1
Pennsylvania 2000/1 3000/1
Western Kentucky 1000/1 3000/1
NC Central 2000/1 3000/1
Bucknell 2000/1 3000/1
Washington 2000/1 3000/1
Louisiana-Lafayette 2000/1 3000/1
UTEP 5000/1 5000/1
Mount St. Mary's 5000/1 5000/1
San Francisco 5000/1 5000/1
Wright State 5000/1 5000/1
Jacksonville State 5000/1 5000/1
UNC Greensboro 5000/1 5000/1
South Dakota 5000/1 5000/1
North Dakota State 5000/1 5000/1
Fort Wayne 5000/1 5000/1
South Dakota State 5000/1 5000/1
IUPUI 5000/1 5000/1
Cal State Bakersfield 5000/1 5000/1
Texas State 5000/1 5000/1
Coastal Carolina 5000/1 5000/1
Albany 5000/1 5000/1
FIELD (All others) 300/1 300/1
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