College Basketball National & Conference Futures: Betting Value on Arizona & Purdue (Dec. 8)

College Basketball National & Conference Futures: Betting Value on Arizona & Purdue (Dec. 8) article feature image

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Mike Calabrese: Unlike college football, the hardwood offers favorable odds throughout the season on teams with legitimate Final Four aspirations.

For perspective, Georgia was never available at odds of 6:1 or longer to win the College Football Playoff this season, while Alabama spent more of 2021 in the 3:1 neighborhood, only rising into the +650 range prior to the Tide’s “win-and-you’re-in” SEC championship game appearance.

A quick accounting of college basketball’s AP top five shows that four of the five top teams (Purdue, Baylor, Duke, UCLA) were all going off at 12:1 odds or longer just two weeks ago. What this indicates is that there continues to be value in the sport.

While some schools have either solidified (Gonzaga) or bolstered their position (Duke) by taking on rugged non-conference schedules, many programs are in a holding pattern in terms of scoring premier wins over ranked opponents.

While that may force pollsters and bracketologists to take a wait-and-see approach on many top-25 teams, it also creates opportunities to grab undervalued assets.

Let’s take a look at the teams with stale numbers hung next to their name across the country.

National Championship Picture

Arizona Wildcats
To Win National Championship +3000

Mike Calabrese: The Wildcats are off to a 7-0 start, punctuated by an impressive 18-point win over Michigan. Tommy Lloyd, the long-time Gonzaga lieutenant, has quickly installed an up-tempo offense in the desert and the early returns have been jaw-dropping.

The Wildcats lead the nation in points per game, scoring margin, assists-to-made baskets ratio and have gotten to the line more than any team in the country.

The overnight transformation feels sustainable given that U-of-A isn’t overly reliant on a single superstar to make it all go. The Wildcats have three players currently averaging 15 points or more per game, with Bennedict Mathurin living up to his NBA draft buzz on the wing (16 PPG).

But it’s Arizona’s impressive frontcourt play that has really caught my attention. Christian Koloko (7-foot-1) and Azuolas Tubelis (6-foot-11) are not only coexisting on the low block, but the pair is also teaming up to average 31 points, 13.5 rebounds and 6.2 “stocks” per game.

Out of Gonzaga’s All-American combo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, this may be the best 1-2 frontcourt punch in the country.

Starting Saturday, U-of-A will kick off a seven-week scheduling burst that will include Illinois (receiving votes) and at least five other opponents currently ranked in both the Coaches and AP polls.

Given Arizona’s lack of recent tournament success (no Elite Eights since 2015), its current odds may hold for a week or two. However, I wouldn’t wait for a better number, with a manageable schedule ahead that screams an 11-0 start.

Houston Cougars
To Win National Championship +3500

Mike Calabrese: Houston bullied its way to the Final Four last season in Indianapolis, holding its first four opponents to 55 points per game before running into the eventual champion in the national semifinals.

For that effort, the Cougars opened in the 17:1 to 20:1 range to cut down the nets in 2022. But for some reason, those odds have only increased despite a 8-1 record, which includes dominant wins over Butler, Virginia and Oregon.

Kelvin Sampson’s only loss came by a single bucket against a suddenly resurgent Wisconsin program.

Statistically, this is the UH team we’ve come to expect in recent years. The Cougars suffocate opponents, leading the nation in points per game allowed (53.4).

Just have a look at this rundown of their defensive metrics:

  • Opp FGM/Game – 18.2 (1st)
  • Opp TO/Play – 23.0% (9th)
  • Opp Eff FG% – 42.4% (13th)

When they have the ball, junior Marcus Sasser has taken a star turn this season and has the look of a superstar ready to carry a team late in March.

He’s improved his shooting from the field and 3-point range, while increasing his points per game average by a full four points. He’s the perfect player for UH to hitch its wagon to.

Much like Arizona, the generous numbers attached to Houston out in the market right now won’t last. This is particularly true given the Cougars' upcoming opportunity against Alabama on Saturday.

If they handle the Tide in T-Town, they’ll likely wake up on Monday morning back in the AP top-10, with odds in the 25:1 range to win it all. That means you must strike while the market sleeps on the Cougars.

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Conference Picture

Purdue Boilermakers
To Win Big Ten +155

Kody Malstrom: Words cannot describe how excited I am to be back to writing about mid-season future adds.

After writing all season for college football — one that includes a Michigan +8000 ticket to the playoff — I am back to share the basketball futures I will be adding to my portfolio.

With that said, I am starting off this column with the chalkiest pick possible: Purdue to win the Big Ten +155. Not the juiciest play, but it fits right into my main focal points when adding a future.

A reminder for what I look for when adding a future to my portfolio:

  • Does it have value?
  • Will I have options to hedge down the road for a guaranteed profit?
  • Is this the best number I can get?

With that said, I truly believe this is the best number we will get all season, barring any drastic injuries.

Purdue is a wagon. I wrote about the Boilermakers in the preseason as one of my favorite national championship futures, and they have not disappointed yet. They come into this week ranked first in the polls — a well-deserved first-place ranking — for the first time in program history.

Purdue has depth to overwhelm everyone. The Boilers are one of the deepest teams in the nation, with stud Trevion Williams conceding time to Zach Edey by coming off the bench.

It’s incredible how selfless Painter has this team. It is a unit with everyone focused on one goal: cutting down the nets come March.

With a potential Player of the Year candidate in Jaden Ivey attacking off of the dribble, they can beat any defense in multiple ways. Ivey possesses the dual ability to be a scoring threat of his own, while also having the ability to hit the open man. Ivey leads the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game while shooting 40% from 3.

If Ivey starts to get double teamed, this opens up the block for giant sophomore Edey, who stands at 7-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds. He's a monster down low who is getting more polished the more he plays. He currently averages 15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

As previously stated, this team is as selfless as it gets. My preseason future relied heavily on Williams making his return to the Boilermakers. Little did I know he was going to return and come off the bench. This gives a huge boost to the depth, as he is a star in his own right and still produces eye-popping numbers.

Williams is averaging 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, leading a continuous onslaught of production no matter what unit is on the court.

Purdue currently has four players averaging double figures, with reasonably 10 players playing meaningful minutes.

All in all, this team is deep — one of the deepest teams I can remember in recent history. They have all the tools to go far in the NCAA Tournament, let alone win the Big Ten.

What to Watch For

Louisville Cardinals
To Win ACC +900

Kody Malstrom: Louisville had a chance to put its name into the mix as a potential contender, only to be the victim of a scorching hot shooting night from the Michigan State Spartans.

There was not much the Cardinals could do, especially when MSU isn’t the best shooting team to begin with. MSU shot a blistering 55.6% from 3, while the Cardinals went ice cold themselves, shooting for 25.9%.

I still believe in this unit, as the Cardinals have plenty of time to figure out scoring. Meanwhile their defense is one of the better units in the nation.

With Duke’s half-court offense being exposed against Ohio State, Louisville has the tools to mimic the same performance the Buckeyes' defense had against the Blue Devils.

Per KenPom, Louisville ranks 17th in AdjD. The Cardinals will need to generate offense from their defense, forcing opponents to make mistakes and capitalize on them.

As of now, Louisville hasn’t shown it can generate offense by any one man, with Noah Locke being the only scorer in double digits at 11.3 points per game.

If Louisville can start to show signs of life on offense, then this will be a future I will be adding to my portfolio.

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