It's mid-May, so naturally at AT Online, we're talking.... the 2023 college basketball season?
Well, not exactly. But with the transfer portal humming and NBA Draft decisions coming fast and furious, now feels like as good a time to look at the landscape of the season to come.
That's right, with teams like Carolina and Creighton welcoming back key pieces and others loading up through the portal, let's look at the updated 2022-2023 title odds.
I'll rip through all the best teams, telling you whether they are good bets, bad bets or simple stay aways.
Duke (+1000) - BAD BET
In a somewhat surprising piece of news, Duke is currently the co-favorite in the DraftKings Sportsbook title odds. And while I'm not saying it'd be impossible for Duke to win it, I also just think at these odds, there really is no value in betting them.
Duke of course will have a first-year head coach in Jon Scheyer, and really outside of Jeremy Roach, will have an entirely new roster, comprised almost entirely of freshmen. First-year, first-time head coach with a bunch of freshmen? I'll go ahead and pass.
Even if you do think Duke can win it all - and their talent says they can - your best bet is to wait until the season starts. If they hit a cold streak, or other teams emerge (some of which we'll get to below) their odds will go down, and you can get better value.
Kentucky (+1000) - STAY AWAY
While I understand the criticism from much of the Kentucky fan-base, I do think the pendulum has swung a little too far in the wrong direction on John Calipari. For all the criticism, Kentucky was in the Top 10 most of this past season, and injuries really slowed them down late, all culminating with that loss to Saint Peter's.
To be clear, the loss was inexcusable. But it overshadowed what was largely a solid bounce back season. Now the Cats welcome back a roster that will feature the reigning National Player of the Year (Oscar Tshiebwe), an established starting point guard (Sahvir Wheeler), two McDonald's All-Americans (Chris Livingston and Casen Wallace), and two established backcourt scorers (CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves). Kentucky will be better next year than many are giving them credit for.
Still, like Duke, I just don't love this number.
As I said on the Aaron Torres Pod often, two things in life can be true: I do think that Kentucky will be better than are giving them credit for, while also not thinking their title odds are all that appealing. I'm just going to go ahead and stay away from this one.
North Carolina (+1100) - GOOD BET
This isn't really a "good bet" so much as a "great bet." Maybe the best one on board, honestly.
Yes, the odds aren't great. And yes, the Tar Heels are going to miss Brady Manek. But North Carolina also returns four starters from a team that led the freakin' national championship game at halftime. And they could add another piece in the portal, as they've been linked to former Baylor wing Matthew Mayer.
Plus, for all the "you're overvaluing them based off their NCAA Tournament run" well, I don't buy that narrative. One, it's not like we're talking Saint Peters here - UNC has real talent, as Caleb Love, Armando Bacot and RJ Davis are all former McDonald's All-Americans, and Love would've been drafted if he'd declared. Not to mention that Carolina was actually good the final two months of the season (11-2 in their final 13 games), so it's not like they only got hot in the tournament.
Sometimes it takes teams - especially ones under a first-year head coach - more time to put it together.
Don't overthink this. The Tar Heels are a steal at 11-1.
Kansas (+1200) - BAD BET
For starters, Kansas might not even be eligible for the NCAA Tournament next year as their NCAA punishment comes down. But two, they lose an awful lot from this year's team.
Final Four Most Outstanding Player Ocahi Agbagi and big man David McCormack are definitely gone, and Christian Braun could leave as well.
For as great as Bill Self is, he has made just four total Final Fours in his 20 years at Kansas and won only two titles. While Kansas fans are certainly happy with that two-decade run, it also doesn't scream "this team is going back-to-back!"
Add that in with the roster and NCAA uncertainty it just feels like there are better ways to spend your money.
Houston (+1300) - GOOD BET
I'm not quite as high as some others in the media on the Cougars, as I need to see what Kelvin Sampson does in the portal to address his frontcourt. But that also doesn't stop me from thinking the value here is pretty good.
The offense should get a spark from the return of the injured Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, and Jamal Shead grew up in the NCAA Tournament. Freshmen Jarace Walker and Terrence Arceneaux should be immediate contributors as well.
If I were you, I'd grab Houston at this number.
You're not going to get this price once the season starts.
Arkansas (+1400) - GOOD BET
I currently have the Hogs at No. 2 in my preseason poll. I haven't seen any major college basketball writer have them lower than No. 4 or 5.
So if you're going to get a universal Top 5 team going into the year at 14-1? Yeah, I'd go ahead and grab it.
Yes, this roster will be young. But Eric Musselman has had this program peaking in March for two seasons in a row (and really three, if you factor in injuries in 2020), and this will be by far his best roster in Fayetteville. It features three play-making McDonald's All-Americans (Anthony Black, Nick Smith and Jordan Walsh) as well as a slew of veterans, and at least one returnee and maybe two, depending on what Jaylin Williams decides to do.
This is a no-brainer. Grab the Hogs at 14-1 while you can.
Oh, and if you're not familiar with the freshman class, here's a preview.
Michigan (+1500) - BAD BET
Hunter Dickinson is back, and his return alone makes Michigan the overwhelming favorite in the Big Ten. That tends to happen when you bring back a 7'1 All-American who averaged 18 and nine, which included an incredible 27 point, 11 rebound performance against Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
At the same time, what's really around him? Sharpshooter Eli Brooks is gone, Caleb Houstan is testing the draft waters and projected starter Frankie Collins just transferred. Basically, we're talking about a lot of unproven players, and a transfer from Princeton in new guard Jaelin Llewellyn.
Point blank, I'm just not sure the guards will be good enough here.
At the very least, wait until we get word on Houstan's NBA Draft status before you pull the trigger on this one.
UCLA (+1600) - GOOD BET
At this time last year UCLA was picking universal "Top 5 in the country" buzz, and many would argue they underachieved this year. I kind of disagree. Despite a near month long Covid pause and never-ending injuries, they were basically in the Top 10 all year, beat Arizona and Villanova head-to-head, and were a possession or two away from making another Elite Eight, where they would've played Saint Peter's to go to the Final Four.
So one, they weren't as bad as you think, and two, I like the pieces returning.
Johnny Juzang is gone, but in some ways, I think that opens up the offense a bit. The Bruins will have a fourth-year starter at point guard (Tyger Campbell) and Juzang's absence should open things up even more for Jamie Jacquez. And UCLA will be significantly more athletic with the additions of Amari Bailey and Adem Bona.
Let's just say I like this team, a lot. I truly believe they can win the 2023 national title.
Arizona (+1800) - STAY AWAY
This one, at this particular moment, is pretty straightforward for me.
Guard Dalen Terry is currently testing the NBA Draft waters. If he returns, that means that four of the Wildcats top six players will be back off a No. 1 seeded team. If it doesn't, it means that Arizona's three best, most athletic and NBA ready players will be gone, and the Wildcats will be good, but far from elite.
Wait on Terry before placing your bets.
Gonzaga (+1800) - BAD BET
First off, it's shocking to see Gonzaga - which has essentially been the betting favorite for two straight years now with odds this low.
But they're absolutely justified.
One, Drew Timme is testing the NBA Draft waters, so to me, there's no real reason to make this bet now. Because if Drew Timme doesn't come back, you can basically rip up this ticket and throw it away before the season even begins.
But even if he does, the Gonzaga backcourt will still be young and relatively inexperienced next year, with Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis - both sophomores - taking over starting spots. After years of Josh Perkins, Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, Andrew Nembhard, all veteran guards, to go to so much youth, is just a little jarring in Spokane.
Now to be clear, the Zags do still have work to do in the portal - and are finalists for both Kevin McCullar (Texas Tech) and Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State).
But there's no guarantee they get either. And there's no guarantee they get Timme back. Again, I'd prefer to just stay away.
Villanova (+2800) - BAD BET
Beyond just the fact that Villanova lost, quite possibly the best coach in college basketball, they also lost a ton of talent. There's just no real way to replace the leadership of Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels, and it feels increasingly unlikely that Justin Moore plays next season after tearing his Achilles in the Elite Eight.
Villanova will still be good.
But this simply isn't a title team.
Creighton (+3000) - GOOD BET
But you know who is a team that's good enough to win it all? How about Villanova's in-conference rival Creighton.
It sounds crazy, but the Jays return four starters off one of the hottest teams in college hoops this past season, one which made the Big East Tournament final and also pushed Kansas to the brink in the NCAA Tournament. And by that point, they were down two starters out with injuries.
Well, most of that core will be back, including center Ryan Kalkbrenner who averaged 13.5 and 7.5 boards last season (he will be recovering from knee surgery but should be good to go, point guard Ryan Nembhard, who averaged 11 points and 4.5 assists as a freshman, and Arthur Kaluma, who blew up late, including 24 points in that loss to Kansas in the tournament.
Oh, and they added one of the best transfers in the portal as well, as South Dakota State's Baylor Scheierman committed to the Jays last week. He is both very talented (17 points on 46 percent three-point shooting) and also the exact piece the Jays need.
Creighton is good enough to win it all. Grab the Jays while you can.
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres
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