The current NCAA basketball season stands in stark contrast to what we’ve seen the last few years. Instead of one or two stacked teams dominating the national spotlight, a remarkable amount of parity exists among the top-25.
Credit much of that to a dispersal of young talent. The top freshman aren’t confined to Kentucky and Duke. The presumed no. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft, Ben Simmons, opted for LSU; Jaylen Brown went to Cal; big Canadian Diamond Stone took his talents to Maryland; and Stephen Zimmerman stayed close to home at UNLV.
Kentucky and Duke still got their share of soon-to-be one-and-done wonders (see Kentucky’s Jamal Murray and Duke’s Brandon Ingram), but the balance of power has shifted.
It’s also true that this year’s freshman crop isn’t as talented as previous years. Simmons is a beast, but the likes of Skal Labissiere – the no. 2 recruit according to ESPN – are struggling to find their footing in the college game.
All of the above has led to an unprecedented number of losses for the top teams. Myron Medcalf noted that, as of Jan. 22, the AP’s top-five teams had a combined 19 losses, the most at that point in the season.
So when it comes to the March Madness futures, you aren’t going to see a prohibitive favorite. Instead, there’s a cluster of teams at the top.
What does that mean for bettors? In all likelihood, it means that coaching will be more important than ever. Experts love to point out how successful the Tom Izzos, Rick Pitinos, Mike Krzyzewskis, and John Caliparis of the world are when March rolls around. All four have decent, not dominant teams this year, but expect them to find another gear come tourney time – a gear that teams like Villanova (Jay Wright) and Virginia (Tony Bennett) never seem to have.
2016 March Madness Odds:
Michigan State: 10/1
Texas A&M: 25/1
West Virginia: 25/1
Wichita State: 25/1
Iowa State: 45/1
(Photo: public domain.)
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