Updated: Nov 23, 2022
College basketball season has arrived, and it is never too early to invest in a National Championship futures pick. There are a handful of teams worth investing in at the Betfred Sportsbook to win the National Championship, and others not so much.
Here is what you should do with some of the National Championship Contenders, with again, all picks provided by the Betfred Sportsbook.
Kelvin Sampson has turned Houston into one of the best and most consistent programs in all of college basketball, with his defense and intensity first approach. The Cougars have reached the Final Four and Elite Eight in each of the last two seasons and has another team this season capable of another team tournament run.
After losing star guards Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark to season-ending injuries in December a season ago, both are and look good early. Sasser is averaging a team-best 17 points per game, with Mark adding 11 or so, and after stepping up a season ago, Jamal Shead is back as well. He currently leads the team at over six assists per game.
Freshman McDonald's All-American Jarace Walker has added much needed size down low averaging 12 points and seven rebounds so far as well.
The Cougars will be heading to the Big 12 after this season and have already proved they belong before even getting there. This is a team that’s capable of winning the whole thing.
Mark Few has continued to schedule a very difficult non-conference slate for his Bulldogs, and this year is no different, as they have already played Michigan State on an aircraft carrier, Texas in Austin and Kentucky in Spokane, going 2-1 in those games. The issue is Gonzaga still has to play a full conference schedule against the WCC and there is a difference between playing those teams in November and December, compared to conference play. This is something that has hurt Gonzaga in the past and even though they are one of the best programs in the sport, they likely will not win a National Championship until this is fixed.
Even more concerning is this specific group of Zags. Gonzaga has had a team that was capable of winning a National Championship in each of the last two seasons, however, they have lost the majority of the elite players from those teams and it was unknown whether their pieces this season were capable of doing that. Drew Timme is one of the best players in all of college basketball, but can’t do it all by himself, and so far this team has struggled with turnovers at over 17 per game.
From Jalen Suggs to Andrew Nembhard to Josh Perkins to Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga has always had elite point guard play when they’re at their best. That is something this Gonzaga team might not have, as Nolan Hickman has yet to play consistently good basketball during his college career. This was a Gonzaga team that lost a ton from each of the last two seasons and will be closer to a top 20 team then legitimate National Title contender.
Verdict: Don’t Invest
Scott Drew’s team looked like they were capable of repeating as National Champions last season, until injuries derailed the Bears. Baylor got a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but ended up losing to North Carolina in the Round of 32.
Well this year, Baylor is back healthy to start and ready to go.
Despite going 1-1 in a weekend Las Vegas trip, the positives continue to come in the backcourt, starting with LJ Cryer. Cryer averaged 13.5 points per game and was one of the better guards in the Big 12 last season, prior to getting injured - and has come out with a bang this season, averaging 18 points per game. He will be joined by Adam Flagler, who is currently averaging 17 per contest and freshman Keyonte George, a likely lottery pick in 2023. In just five college games, George is averaging 15 points and six assists per contest.
With guys like Jalen Bridges and Flo Thmba holding down the frontcourt, this Baylor team has all the pieces to continue being one of the better teams in the sport. There aren’t many teams with a better backcourt and that is a very important factor when you are trying to win in the month of March. With a National Championship winning coach, a ton of talent and great guard play, this Baylor team is definitely worth investing in to win the National Title.
North Carolina: +1200
After a disappointing early regular season in 2021-2022, the Tar Heels played their best basketball at the most ideal time and got all the way to the National Championship game, before losing to Kansas. Hubert Davis will now bring back four of his five starters from last season, to make up one of the most talented rosters in all of college basketball.
The one key contributor who is not back from last season is Brady Manek, and North Carolina added Northwestern transfer and First Team All-Big Ten Honorable Mention forward Pete Nance. Manek was key to North Carolina’s title run, hitting every big shot when they needed him to. Although Nance is a proven player at the high major level, it will be interesting to see what exactly his role is, especially compared to Manek’s.
Nance will likely have a future playing in the NBA, and is as good of an option to replace Manek as possible. The question will be is North Carolina capable of playing at the level we saw in the NCAA Tournament for a full season? While at his best, Caleb Love is one of the most dynamic and top players in the sport. However, he also had games last season when he was extremely inefficient from the field, and it felt like he was hurting the team more than helping. North Carolina needs Love to play at his absolute best if they want to get back to the National Title game.
Furthermore, Armando Bacot has returned to school, after one of the most impressive NCAA Tournament efforts we have seen in recent memory. Bacot had 15 points and 15 rebounds in the National Title Game after suffering a foot injury due to the floor buckling.
With all of these pieces back, it is easy to see why North Carolina would be an appealing option to invest in.
However, North Carolina hasn’t looked great out of the gate, and there are better options with better value. The Tar Heels run felt magical and although they are capable of getting back, it is not something I’d invest in considering the price.
Verdict: Don’t Invest
Like Baylor, UCLA traveled to Las Vegas this weekend, and like Baylor things did not go as planned. Unlike the Bears, who dropped a game, UCLA went 0-2.
Not good. But I'm not losing my faith in the Bruins.
Put simply, there isn’t a better duo of returning players in college basketball then Tyger Campbell and Jamie Jaquez Jr., who are both seniors and have been at UCLA since Mick Cronin’s first season. Campbell has a legitimate argument for best point guard in the sport, and is currently averaging 15 points and fie assists a night, while Jaquez is averaging 14 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
In addition, UCLA brought in the No. 12 ranked recruiting class in the country headlined by future NBA players Amari Bailey and Adem Bona.
Oh, and for those who haven't been paying attention, forward Jaylen Clark has been one of the breakout stars nationally early. Through five games, Clark is averaging 16 points and a team-high eight boards, with 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. All while shooting 46 percent from three, and serving as the team's best wing defender.
This is a team that has all the pieces that can legitimately win the whole thing.
We might as well throw a longshot bet at you and although the numbers say that Creighton is a longshot to win the national title, they really shouldn't be, as they were picked to win the Big East in the preseason.
And with good reason why.
One, you've seen it the last two days in the Maui Invitational with wins over Top 25 teams Texas Tech and a thriller against Arkansas - but really Creighton's argument dates back to last year.
There wasn’t a team in college basketball that played better leading into the NCAA Tournament last season then Creighton. Just one season after losing all five starters from his 2021 team that made the Sweet 16, Greg McDermott did the best coaching job of his career, leading the Blue Jays to a 10-3 end of the season before the start of the NCAA Tournament.
More importantly, what made McDermott’s coaching job so impressive was the fact that most of these players were freshmen and sophomores who kept improving as the season went on. Their starting point guard Ryan Nembhard was also lost for the season right at the beginning of this stretch, when Trey Alexander filled it and did the job superbly. In Creighton’s Round of 32 loss to the ultimate National Champions Kansas, Creighton was missing Nembhard and starting Center in Ryan Kalkbrenner. This was in addition to losing their original starting point guard Shareef Mitchell, who was lost for the year at the very start of the season.
With all three guys back in the mix, alongside Arthur Kaluma, Alexander and others, this Creighton team could be the best we’ve seen in some time. The Blue Jays will also add South Dakota State transfer Baylor Schierman, who was one of the most heralded players on the market this past offseason.
Creighton was a pleasant surprise to many people in college basketball last season, including possibly some of their own staff.
This team played too good of basketball not to want to invest in them to win it all, and the scary thing is they’re still getting better.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter @ZacKrull_