It may only be late June, but it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2020-2021 college hoops season. And it’s definitely never too early to bet on it.
Thankfully our old friends at William Hill seem to agree, and they have given us something to pass the time until actual team sports return next month. They’ve given us updated 2020-2021 national title odds!
Admittedly, plenty of sports books have released odds since the end of last season in March. But with rosters more firmly (though not entirely) set, now might be the best time to throw down a small wager (please gamble responsibly!) before the season gets here, and Vegas catches up on who is good and who isn’t.
You can read the full William Hill odds here. But let’s look at some of the notable lines, and share some teams that might be worth considering, and others to stay away from.
Let’s start with Kentucky, since well, this is mainly a Kentucky site. And to be blunt, how you feel about these odds really is probably reflective of how you feel about this team overall. More importantly, it reflects how you believe the team will look come November.
That’s because while Kentucky isn’t listed as one of the favorites (we will discuss those teams momentarily), we also don’t entirely know what their roster will look like for 2020-2021 either. Yup, Olivier Sarr is still in the NCAA transfer waiver bizarro world, and until we get clarification on whether he plays or not, it’s hard to really peg Kentucky’s title odds.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you believe that Sarr will get eligible (and I personally believe he will) this is a good time to place a wager on the Cats, as this might be the best odds you can get them at. If you believe the NCAA will screw Kentucky and deem him ineligible, you should probably stay away.
Me? With Sarr eligible, I believe Kentucky is unquestionably a Top 5 team nationally, and (depending on who comes and goes at other schools) probably Top 3. So I would have no problem going ahead and betting these odds. They might be the best odds you get on the Wildcats all season.
Alright, now let’s look at the three teams William Hill has listed as the favorites next season, and whether it’s justified or not:
Villanova was No. 1 in my “Way Too Early Top 25” following the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, and their off-season has gone exactly as planned. So yeah, in my personal opinion, they should be among the favorites to win it all.
The Wildcats did lose leading scorer Saddiq Bey to the NBA Draft, but return ever other contributor off last year’s 24-win team, that split the Big East championship with Creighton and Seton Hall. That includes four different players who averaged double-figures and doesn’t include Bryan Antoine, a former McDonald’s All-American, who battled injuries last year and could be a breakout player in 2020-2021.
These are neither “good” nor “bad” odds, but instead, the right ones. Villanova should be one of the favorites heading into the season.
Some say that Gonzaga is overrated going into every season. I’d counter that by saying they’re the only team to make the Sweet 16 in each of the last five NCAA Tournament’s, with three Elite Eight’s and a Final Four over that stretch. So to me, they’re one of the elite programs in college hoops right now. Even if they don’t have a national title to show for it.
With that said, I wouldn’t necessarily bet them here. Not because they don’t have the opportunity to win a national title, but because they currently have three players testing the NBA Draft waters (Corey Kispert, Filip Petrusev and Joel Ayayi). And if any of the three end up staying in the draft it completely alters the makeup of this roster.
If this team returns fully intact, they have the goods to win it all. But right now, this feels like a solid stay away.
I swear, this isn’t me putting on my “Duke Sucks” sweatshirt and going after Coach K just for the sake of it. Nor is it me mentioning that Jim Calhoun has the same number of Final Four appearances (three) since 2004 as Coach K, even though Calhoun has been retired for eight years. Nor is it me mentioning that Duke had probably the most talented roster in college hoops in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and has zero Final Four apperances to show for it.
Ok, those last two were probably cheap shots. My bad.
Anyway, to me these odds are much more of a reflection of Duke being the most recognizable brand in college hoops (which makes them the most bet-able too), than it is that they are a true title contender. Not to take anything away from the Blue Devils, but they will replace All-American Tre Jones at point guard with a freshman (Jeremy Roach) and their best returning players are Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt.
I mean come on, is Matthew Hurt really putting this program on his back and leading them to a national title? No disrespect, but I just don’t see it.
And to be clear, I’m not saying Duke can’t win a title. I’m just not putting my hard-earned money on it.
The other big brands
I don’t care what anyone says about Bill Self, the dude is a hell of a coach. That said, he lost – by far – his two best players off last year’s team (Udoka Azibuke and Devon Dotson), and is replacing them with decent role players and a good, but not great recruiting class.
Self phenomenal on the sidelines and in the film room. But to be blunt, I’m not even sure they’re the best team in the Big 12, let alone one good enough to win a national championship.
North Carolina (30-1)
So, am I the only one that remember North Carolina going 14-19 last year and finishing tied for last place in the ACC with Wake Forest? I’m not? Ok good.
Yes, the Tar Heels should be drastically improved next season. But if you’re seriously considering betting them to win it all, you might as well just light your money on fire. It will save you a bunch of time and stress between now and next April.
While the Cards were clearly overvalued coming into last season (yes, I was one of many who bought into the hype), I kind of think they’re undervalued entering 2020-2021. David Johnson has a chance to be a breakout player in the ACC, Samuell Williamson is legit and the roster has been filled out with grad transfers and other guys ready to step into bigger roles.
Still, do I think this team can win the title?
No. No I do not.
Overvalued and Stay Away
If All-American Luka Garza comes back (and it’s looking like he will) Iowa will return everyone of substance off of last year’s 20-11 squad. And they will be just about everyone’s favorite to win the Big Ten.
But to bet on this team to win it all, would be to bet on head coach Fran McCaffrey. And with no disrespect intended, he has now been a head coach at the Division I level for nearly 25 seasons (including 10 at Iowa) and has never even made a Sweet 16. So to bet Iowa, you’re betting that he will burst right past the Sweet 16, through a Final Four and win a national title?
Yes, it’s absolutely conceivable that Iowa could win a national championship. I’m just not going to be the one to bet on it.
Michigan State (20-1)
Like a lot of teams, I feel bad for Michigan State. Because 2020 was the year for the Spartans to hang up another banner in the Breslin Center. By the time March rolled around, Cassius Winston was playing like an All-American, Xavier Tillman was one of the best big men in college hoops, and Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts were providing legit complimentary scoring around them.
Still, even with the possibility that the latter three return (Henry and Tillman are testing the draft waters – but rumor is, they are both on campus for summer workouts) there is still no replacing Winston at point guard.
Tom Izzo will have this team playing well by March, because Tom Izzo is a wizard. But I just can’t see them winning six straight games in the NCAA Tournament though.
Nope, nope, nope. I don’t care that they return their top 12 scorers – TOP 12!!! – off last year’s team. Or that they add Greg Brown. I don’t trust Shaka Smart. I just don’t. Sorry.
This team is 90-78 overall in Smart’s five seasons in Austin, 40-50 in the Big 12, with zero NCAA Tournament wins, and now they’re going to win a title? Sorry, but there is no amount of money I’d be comfortable betting on the Longhorns to win it all. None.
Best Value Bets
There is some legit “boom/bust” potential here with Baylor.
On the “boom” side, let’s never forget that the Bears went 26-4 last season, had a 22-game win streak and stayed at No. 1 in the polls for longer than any team since the 2015 Kentucky Wildcats (bet you didn’t know that one, did you?!). And that team – which again, won 22 straight games last season – could return seven of its top nine scorers. If everyone comes back, this should be a Top 3 team nationally heading into the season.
But, did you notice how I said that Baylor could return seven of its top nine scorers, which brings us to the “bust” side of that equation. That’s because the Bears are currently awaiting NBA Draft decisions from their two leading scorers, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague. While Baylor could probably survive without Teague (who has no real NBA future) they wouldn’t even be a Big 12 title contender without Butler, let alone a national title contender.
Butler is projected right now as a mid-second round pick, and if he returns the Bears are solid value at 13-1. That is a big “if” however.
Texas Tech (25-1)
Of all the bets on the board, Texas Tech at 25-1 might be my favorite.
Like so many off-season’s before this one, the Red Raiders have largely flipped their roster, and did lose some key pieces. Most notably guard Davide Moretti, who decided to go pro in his home country of Italy. But in place of all those who have departed is essentially a team whose entire roster is made up of wings who are somewhere between 6-4 and 6-8, who can all play multiple positions, and who will all defend their you-know-what’s off. The Red Raiders have a chance be one of the best defensive teams in all of college hoops next year, and with three or four guys in their lineup with NBA potential (TJ Shannon, Joel Ntambwe) they should be able to score as well.
Oh, and they’re one of the few teams in college hoops whose roster could get significantly better between now and November, if they can somehow convince Jonathan Kuminga to turn down pro money and come to Lubbock to play with his brother. It’s not likely. But is at least possible.
Admittedly, this team does have flaws (no “true” point guard, good, but not great shooting).
But, they are a team I believe can win the national championship. Which at 25-1 is a good bet to me.
Say what you want about the Badgers – and everyone here has an opinion on them – but they return their entire starting five off of a team that split the Big Ten regular season title this year.
Do I really see them winning a national championship? Probably not. But it isn’t inconceivable, which is why I like these odds.
Most everyone reading this knows the deal with Tennessee by now. Assuming Yves Pons comes back (he is currently testing the draft waters, but has returned to campus for summer workouts) the Vols have a loaded roster that brings back most of its key pieces, and adds the No. 4 recruiting class in the country.
Plus, for all the flack that Rick Barnes get for his “NCAA Tournament disappointments” the guy has been to seven Sweet 16’s, three Elite Eight’s and a Final Four in his career. A lot of coaches would love to have such a “disappointing” tourney track record.
Again, once you get past the favorites, it’s about finding teams that are good enough to win it all. And Tennessee is exactly that.
West Virginia (30-1)
On the one hand, the Mountaineers reached the Top 10 in the polls last season, and return pretty much everyone. On the other hand, they were exposed down the stretch as one of the most abysmal offensive teams in college basketball.
With that said, they play absolutely ferocious defense and there isn’t a team in the country that has the size and toughness down low to match Derek Culver and Oscar Tschiebwe.
Basically what I’m trying to say is, the Mountaineers play a style that is basically impossible to prepare for, especially on a short turnaround in the NCAA Tournament. At 30-1, they’re not awful value here.
Outside of Texas Tech at 25-1, UCLA is probably my favorite bet on the board.
As we speak, UCLA is awaiting word on whether leading scorer Chris Smith will come back. But assuming he does, that means that UCLA will return eight of its top nine scorers off of arguably the hottest team in college hoops down the stretch. For those who’ve forgotten, the Bruins won 11 of their final 14 games, and were a play away from splitting the Pac-12 regular season title with Oregon. With or without Smith they should be the favorites in the Pac-12. With him, they are good enough to win the title as well.
Still, there are causes for concern. Mainly that – and this is a truly incredible stat – this entire UCLA roster has combined to play in one NCAA Tournament game. ONE!!!! At UCLA!!!! That is Smith, who was a reserve on the 2018 UCLA team that lost in the “First Four” to St. Bonaventure. The other 12 scholarship players have never played in a single NCAA Tournament game. Which is partly because, you know, the NCAA Tournament was cancelled last year. But still, it’s a lot to expect a team full of guys who’ve never even played in the Big Dance to actually win it all. Let’s also not forget that Mick Cronin has made it to the Sweet 16 just once in his career, with zero Final Four appearances.
So yeah, there are plenty of things working against the Bruins. But when you get down to 50-1 its hard to find a team good enough to even compete for a title, let alone win it. And the Bruins can in fact win it all.
Man oh, man. LSU. The Bad Boys of College Basketball. Seriously, I’m pretty sure the internet might explode if Mark Emmert actually had to hand the national title trophy to Will Wade on that first Monday in April.
And yes, it is a long shot. Like so many other teams, LSU’s title odds will be altered by what happens in the next few weeks. They’re still waiting on final draft decisions from Javonte Smart, Darius Days and Trendon Watford, as well as the potential college commitment of Moussa Cisse. So yeah, their roster could look a lot different between now and the start of the season. In a good way, or bad way.
But, if all three guys come back, and if you add them with transfers Shareef O’Neal (UCLA), Josh LeBlanc (Georgetown) and a loaded freshman class, do the Tigers have the opportunity to win it all?
They absolutely do.