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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
We’re just over seven months removed from what was an epic Final Four worth a quick revisit. Damn – we ACTUALLY were given UNC vs. Duke and Kansas vs. Villanova at a New Orleans Final Four. The Tar Heels left an unhealable wound in Blue Devil fans as they threw the last stab into Coach K’s career on their way to the championship game, but the recently suspended Bill Self and the Jayhawks edged them out late to cut down the nets. The finish to 2022 also reminded us that college hoops will never let you forget about the little guys, as St. Peters was officially put on the map with their Elite 8 run.
Now we turn the page, a new season has arrived which presents a fresh opportunity to blend chemistry on the court, peak at the right time, and find the right place on the bracket come March. It could be hard to top the panache of Final Four brand names we were given last season, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be the same intoxicating levels of drama and buzzer-beating moments that college basketball season brings us. As we sharpen our focus to the season that tips off this week with a myriad of tournament games out of conference, it’s time to re-examine the board and get those CBB preseason picks in, so you can accurately tout “I had them all along” come springtime.
Odds to Win 2022-2023 NCAA Championship – Men
The board is led off by Gonzaga (+900) as the favorite, which seems to be the case in recent years. The Mark Few regime rolls on and despite their March failures, they boast another strong recruiting class and there’s no reason to believe they won’t run through the WCC yet again. What will surprise you a bit is that the Houston Cougars are second to the Zags in betting odds around +950. Though college hoops die-hards know Houston is a juggernaut in waiting, they have to pronounce themselves on the national stage as a powerhouse – maybe this is their year? The defending champs Kansas go off at +1500 odds, while the tourney runner-up UNC is at +1000 odds.
The Pick: Houston +950, Bonus: Texas +2200
Wooden Award Odds
The Wooden Award, aka college basketball’s MVP award, is handed out at the Final Four and typically encapsulates a statistically sound leader that embodied the heart of the game. I preface that by saying that the Wooden Award doesn’t always get handed to the highlight reel, 1st round draft-level talent that captivates Sportscenter highlights. This year Gonzaga’s Drew Timme leads the betting odds again at +700 as he prepares for his 23rd season at Gonzaga. He’s closely trailed by UNC’s lethal weapon Armando Bacot (+800), his teammate Caleb Love (+1000), and Tshiebwe the 2022 winner is posting at +1200. I’m seeing a big jump for one Tar Heel, in particular, this year.
The Pick: Caleb Love +1000, Bonus: Marcus Sasser +1300
Odds To Win Conferences
Keeping in mind that these are odds “to win the regular season” you have to look at rosters and injuries more closely with these plays. Kentucky has their point guard and leader Savhir Wheeler down for the first part of the season, so I’m not sure they are the proper betting favorites to win the SEC at +180. I’m looking at Arkansas (+300) to take another leap and contend for the regular season title on the heels of a solid tournament run. The only other realistic pay is Tennessee led by defensive czar Rick Barnes at +350. Beyond that Alabama, Florida, and others are long shots to contend but lack the depth to cruise through conference play.
The Pick: Arkansas +300
As much as my Longhorns might be built for a March run, I can’t pull the trigger on them here at +350 odds to win the Big 12 (the third betting favorite). The reason being – this conference is OWNED in the regular season by Baylor and Kansas. Only twice in the last 20 seasons have one of them not at least shared the regular season title. It’s a coin flip who emerges in-conference as both teams hover around +200 odds – I’ll lean with the Bears only cause there could be a slight championship hangover for the Jayhawks.
The Pick: Baylor +200
The Duke and UNC conference proved that again last season – shocking. Still, we have to wonder what this Duke program looks and plays like in a post-Coach K world under Jon Scheyer. I don’t think it will be all roses to start in January when ACC play comes knocking, so I’ll stick with UNC as the favorite here to return to the top of the conference.
The Pick: UNC +130
This is by far the most WIDE open of power 5 conferences in College Hoops. Admittedly the Big Ten is down this year, whether that be because of big names leaving for the NBA or just general confusion from the lack of March success from Big Ten teams in the dance. What matters here is the regular season, where you’re looking to pick that ox of a team that can chalk up wins in bunches and has the depth to win in different ways. I’m looking at a sleeper team here beyond the betting favorite Indiana (+290) and a Hunter Dickinson-led Michigan team (+380). I’m eyeing Illinois at +470, which has brought in some intriguing transfers this offseason from the Big 12. Also, remember the name Coleman Hawkins for the Illini…
The Pick: Illinois +470
The conference has a lot of swagger, but seems to always let us down in the biggest games. Arizona and UCLA are the two favorites, and annually they are sexy pics to make noise. In-conference, it’s for sure one of these two teams that wins outright. Oregon (+600) is coming off a disappointing season and USC(+650) is too young. I lean with the Bruins this season, who nabbed two top 20 recruits with lots of promise.
The Pick: UCLA +150
Odds to Win 2022-2023 NCAA Championship – Women
The Paige Bueckers torn ACL injury sent shockwaves through the Women’s game this summer, and oddsmakers took note quickly. For the first time in a while, UConn is not the first OR second betting favorite, as the Huskies (+600) are listed third behind defending champion South Carolina (+250) and Stanford (+400). Bueckers is said to miss the entire season, but if there’s any sort of glimmer of a return (doubtful) that could put an already stacked UConn team over the top.
The Pick: Stanford +400, Texas +1500
So much College Hoops coming our way, and so many ways to be a part of the Madness with RYP!