SI: Auburn among nation's best value championship bets

(Photo: Bryan Lynn, Getty)

The best bets are a combination of chance to win and value. It doesn’t make sense to lay a bet on a team that is too much of a long shot. And yet there’s also no use betting on a team that is an overwhelming favorite … even if one’s bet pays off, it barely pays.

And sitting perfectly at that intersection are the 2018-19 Auburn Tigers. Based on odds from oddsmaker William Hill, Auburn has 50/1 odds despite boasting a talented and veteran squad. That makes the Tigers arguably the most worthy bet, according to Sports Illustrated.

“Go back over the last decade of college basketball, and a theme about the teams that cut down the nets becomes obvious: they were mostly veteran teams led by upperclassmen, not high-profile freshmen,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Michael Beller. “With the exception of 2011-12 Kentucky, which featured Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and 2014-15 Duke, led by Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, recent one-and-dones have not formed national championship foundations. Looking at this season’s plausible longshots, one team fits into that trend perfectly: Auburn.

“Even with Mustapha Heron transferring to St. John’s, Auburn returns six of its eight top scorers from last year’s squad that shared the SEC regular season championship with Tennessee,” Beller wrote. Junior Jared Harper and senior Bryce Brown give Bruce Pearl one of the most dynamic backcourts in the country, and with sophomores Chuma Okeke and Austin Wiley ready for more responsibility, there’s good reason to believe Auburn will shore up a defense that ranked 111th in kenpom.com’s effective field goal percentage.

“Auburn’s pace makes it a matchup nightmare for nearly every team in the country, and while that can lead to burnout, the Tigers have the right guards at the helm, especially since they ran the show so beautifully last year,” Beller wrote. “Harper and Brown fit the same leadership mold we’ve seen from recent champions, making the Tigers well worth a bet at 50/1.”

In fact, Auburn should look quite a bit different than a year ago, thanks to the Tigers’ ability to go jumbo with players like Okeke and Wiley … a year ago, Auburn’s best lineup included undersized Anfernee McLemore at the five until he suffered a season-ending injury.

And with Wiley — who some thought would be among the nation’s best centers a year ago — and Danjel Purifoy back eligible, Auburn has the super-quick backcourt to trouble opponents, and the depth and strength to bang with opponents down low. Auburn should be able to score inside and out, while the defense could take a step forward from last year's No. 37 group, per KenPom.

Auburn may wind up being a top 10 team this year. And being able to get that kind of value for 50/1 odds makes Auburn a fascinating bet to win it all.

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