During an insane time on the sports calendar, college hoops rapidly snuck up on us. Games get underway on November 6, but the futures board remains open all season. Here are some preseason looks that I’m on before things get underway, but without conference games until December, you should have a while to get on most of these bets at pretty similar odds.
If you’re giving this an early read before the season tips off, I have put out my first play for a CBB game this season in the USC/K-State game.
The Blue Devils return a ton of fire power, while the rest of the conference took multiple steps back. UNC does return Armando Bacot, but lost almost everything else and will need to gel.
That Final Four team in Miami is really the only threat I’m worried about here. The Hurricanes return a couple crucial pieces, but also lost a couple — most notably Isaiah Wong. Meanwhile, Duke brings back its top-four scorers from last season.
Jeremy Roach gives them a veteran PG to stabilize the ship, while Kyle Filipowski and Tyrese Proctor are back in the mix after they were expected to leave for the NBA.
Kansas very well may live up to that preseason No. 1 ranking, and should be playing to avenge that early loss to Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 is no joke — Baylor and Texas will be really good teams, and National Title contending Houston now arrives in the conference. But at their best, the Jayhawks are the best of the bunch.
Dajuan Harris will be in the driver’s seat, a trusted senior PG. Kevin McCullar and KJ Adams are both very solid returning starters. But the big piece is the top player in the portal — Hunter Dickinson from Michigan. He immediately steps in as a National Player of the Year candidate, and gives this team as high a ceiling as any in the country.
No doubt the Wildcats lost a lot of big pieces from last year’s squad, but they did a good job reloading with outside talent, while the rest of the PAC-12 took some steps back. UCLA doesn’t have the guards and wing production it has over the last few years to contend anymore, which really opens things up for Arizona.
Colorado could be a dark horse, while USC is loaded with talent, but Arizona probably gives you the best overall starting five. Big man Oumar Ballo is back and should dominate the paint. Pelle Larson was the sixth-man in the conference, and now should flourish in a starting role.
The rest of the key pieces transfer in, but they are good ones — Keshad Johnson from San Diego State, Jaden Bradley from Alabama and a huge get in lethal-scorer Caleb Love from UNC. Toss in some highly ranked freshman and the Wildcats are onto something.
Good price on Sparty here with Purdue checking in as the favorite. I don’t believe in the Boilermakers, but really trust this MSU squad. Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard are about as solid of an upperclassman backcourt as you could ask for.
Jaden Atkins finished the season on a tear and gives another returning starter, as does big man Mady Sissoko. Malik Hall came off the bench last season and battled injuries, but should be a massive piece this season. Sparty is a championship contender.
The Big East is a buzzsaw, so nothing will come east here. Even National Champion UCONN got dominated in conference play last season. No denying teams like Marquette and Creighton return a ton of talent and deserve to be the favorites. But I think ‘Nova belongs right up there with them.
The Wildcats had a tough first year under Kyle Neptune, but things should look a lot different in year two. Justin Moore returned during the season last year from his Achilles tear, but returns fully healthy to start this season. Moore should be one of the best guards in the country.
Eric Dixon was good for about 15 points and seven boards last year, and will start at center in his senior season. Mark Armstrong showed flashes as a freshman, and should take a big jump this season.
But Villanova had a fantastic transfer portal, adding a slew of impact veterans. TJ Bamba averaged almost 16 points at Washington State last season. Hakim Hart comes over after being a three-year starter for Maryland. Lance Ware adds much needed depth as a big, and can both rebound and defend, as he proved at Kentucky. Finally, Tyler Burton provides an elite-scoring wing to go alongside Moore, coming off 19 points per game at Richmond last season.
If this team doesn’t come through for us in the futures market, they will at least be a great team to back game to game.
The SEC is going to be insanely competitive, but Arkansas is arguably a top-10 team in the country, so getting them at 8-1 to win their conference has to be a play. Anthony Black was selected top-10 in the NBA Draft, and was one of three Hogs drafted off of last year’s team that upset Kansas in the Big Dance. However, plenty of talent returns, the transfers are top tier, and plenty of high-upside freshman are incoming (per usual).
Devo Davis returns as a senior to run the show at PG, while one of the Mitchell twins (Makhi) returns as a starting big. Trevon Brazile only played nine games last season, but averaged about 12 points and six boards before the injury as a freshman. Watch for him to breakout and become the star of this team if he has a healthy sophomore season.
As for the transfers, Khalif Battle is a very solid guard from Temple that averaged just under 18 points last season. El Ellis also provides wing scoring, averaging 17.7 points for Louisville last season. Tramon Mark rounds things out with a big get from Houston.
Baye Fall and Layden Blocker are both considered contributing incoming freshman.
Gonzaga just wins the WCC every year, right? It’s automatic. Welp, not so fast this year. The Zags finally lost a ton of talent, and did an average job at replacing it. Aidan Mahaney highlights some terrific returning talent, along with some decent additions.
This mostly comes down to price, though. Gonzaga is never even at a number you can bet to win the conference. This year it’s almost a pick’em, and I have to think the Zags are being a bit overpriced due to past performance and brand name. This is a coin flip bet that we are getting +130 on.
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