It is never too early to start handicapping college basketball, and with July coming to a close soon the season is right around the corner. Here’s a look at some of the current odds on the favorites, contenders, and a few darkhorses heading into the 2012-13 NCAAB season.
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Defending champion Kentucky and Indiana are early favorites
Kentucky lost six players to the NBA draft this offseason. That is no typo; six. Those players include the top two picks in the draft in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. For most schools, that kind of turnover would decimate the program, but for John Calipari and Kentucky it is just business as usual.
Kentucky enters the season as the favorite to win the NCAA Championship at 13/2. Calipari will once again restock the cupboard with elite prospects, and regardless of the turnover he’s a hard coach to bet against as Kentucky has been to three straight Elite Eights under his tutelage. Power forward Kyle Wiltjer, small forward Alex Poythress, and center Nerlens Noel should make up a loaded front court that will be difficult for opposing teams to handle.
Bettors looking for a more proven group to place their early money on might like the Indiana Hoosiers, who are going off at 15/2 to win it all. The Hoosiers return four double-digit scorers and multiple key role players from last year’s team that went 27-9 in the regular season and made it to the Sweet 16 before being knocked out by Kentucky. Elite prospect point guard Yogi Ferrell joins the talented core and could be exactly what Indiana needs to rise to the next level if he plays to his potential.
Other top contenders not too far behind on the betting board
Coming in fresh off a run to the Final Four last season, this may be the most talented group that Rick Pitino has had at Louisville yet. Led by an elite point guard in Peyton Silva and other proven contributors down low in power forward Chane Behanan and center Gorgui Dieng, the Cardinals have a great core in place, and they also get Wayne Blackshear and Mike Marra back healthy this season. Blackshear showed what a force he could be against Kentucky in the Final Four, and if he stays healthy this season Louisville could be a great value at 17/2.
Like Kentucky, the North Carolina Tar Heels (12/1) were decimated this offseason in losing four star players to the NBA Draft (all first-rounders) in Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall. Also like Kentucky, UNC is built to reload instead of rebuild. With an elite group of prospects joining the team including point guard Marcus Paige, North Carolina should pick up where it left off last season with another deep run in March.
Will this be the year that Ben Howland puts it all together at UCLA? The Bruins (15/1) have seen multiple NBA stars come and go through the system over the last few disappointing years. The Wear twins return up front, and one of the best recruiting classes in the nation steps in with shooting guard Shabazz Muhammad, point guard Kyle Anderson, and center Tony Parker all expected to be immediate stars. The Pac-12 is UCLA’s for the taking, the Bruins just have to execute.
Plenty of darkhorses out there to provide some big value
Everyone knows about the favorites coming into the season; the big money is made on finding this year’s breakout team before everyone else does. Who will it be in 2012-13?
It might be one of the Big Ten’s top teams, the Ohio State Buckeyes or the Michigan Wolverines, each going off at 20/1. Ohio State lost lots of talent in Jared Sullinger and William Buford, but power forward Deshaun Thomas and point guard Aaron Craft look ready to pick up the slack on offense. Michigan’s power forward Tim Hardaway Jr. is a star in the making, and is the type of player that can single-handedly take over a tournament.
Duke can hardly be considered a darkhorse, but how often do you see the Blue Devils at 18/1? With point guard Quinn Cook returning healthy this season, Coach K may have the pivot he needs to run his offense. Perennial contender Kansas is also available at 18/1.
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