NCAA Basketball Futures, Odds: How to Target Kentucky in 2023-24

NCAA Basketball Futures, Odds: How to Target Kentucky in 2023-24 article feature image
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Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images. Pictured: John Calipari (Kentucky)

Editor's Note: Zvonimir Ivišić has yet to get a waiver from the NCAA

The 2023-24 college basketball season is right around the corner, and with Kentucky launching sports betting on Thursday, I got to thinking about Big Blue Nation.

Despite sitting behind only Kansas, Duke, Purdue and Michigan State in the NCAA basketball national title odds, there have been plenty of question marks surrounding Kentucky this offseason.

First, the Wildcats’ results in recent years have been incredibly disappointing based on their talent level and the expectations within the program. Kentucky has won just a single NCAA tournament game in the past three seasons, including missing the Big Dance in 2021 and losing to No. 15-seeded Saint Peter’s in 2022.

Secondly, John Calipari is losing Oscar Tshiebwe and a host of other key players, like point guard Sahvir Wheeler, No. 10 overall pick Cason Wallace and others.

Finally, in the middle of the summer, there was potential for doom and gloom for the Wildcats, as Antonio Reeves' future within the program was in question and there was very little depth on the roster, especially in the frontcourt.

But, Calipari turned all that negativity into a positive late in the offseason.

West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell joined the team after Bob Huggins’ resignation, 7-foot-2 Croatian Zvonimir Ivisic committed and Reeves returned with clarity about his role.

And that brings us to the current standing of this roster and the potential for it to reach the Final Four and possibly win a national title for the first time since 2012.

The Wildcats have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247sports, thanks to the additions of D.J. Wagner, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, Rob Dillingham and others.

Add in veterans in Mitchell and Reeves, and the Wildcats have one of the more talented rosters — on paper — in the nation.

That talent is where the upside lies on the Wildcats’ futures numbers at FanDuel:

  • +1600 to Win 2024 National Championship
  • +470 to Reach 2024 Final Four
  • +500 to Win SEC Regular Season Title

Potential Downside to Futures Bets

As we’ve seen in years past, talent alone doesn’t mean Calipari and company are an automatic add to your futures portfolio.

As we’ve seen time and time again, returning players are more important in college basketball than high-level freshmen.

Reeves is back, Mitchell has been around the block and Adou Thiero will likely take a step forward as a sophomore, but this team is mostly a new group that will take time to jell. While the frontcourt has beefed up its depth, Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso are coming off of injuries and Ivisic is an unknown in the U.S.

And we all know — whether you’re a Kentucky fan or not — Calipari’s teams don’t always perform well in the non-conference. That could ultimately hurt their seeding when March rolls around.

Kentucky Futures & Odds

That’s not to say that I don’t think Kentucky can reach the Final Four or win a national title — I certainly do — but I think there’s more value at the national championship number (+1600) and the SEC title number (+500) than the Final Four.

In fact, I love the SEC bet, and here’s why:

  • I’m not high on Tennessee (the favorite at this point) due to its issues scoring over the years. I don’t care who the Volunteers added in the offseason, I’m not comfortable backing them until I see some progression in that area. The league is wide open beyond that, and I’m happy to take the most talented team at this number.
  • Despite the fact that Tshiebwe was one of the top players in the nation, he limited Kentucky’s spacing. With Mitchell on the floor, the lane won’t be clogged for Edwards, Wagner, Dillingham or Kentucky's other explosive players.
  • Reeves could be one of the best scorers in the country (he averaged 19.6 PPG in his final seven games of the 2022-23 season) and Edwards could be in the same conversation by season’s end, which will only help Reeves as the year progresses.
  • Yes, it's the GLOBL JAM, but Kentucky showed a willingness to shoot more 3s in its exhibition games this summer. Again, if it's able to hit those shots consistently, it'll open up the lane.

The best-case scenario for Kentucky is where my national title future reasoning lies. Edwards and Bradshaw have top-five NBA draft potential, Wagner has top-15 NBA draft potential and Ivisic showed flashes in the FIBA U20 Euro Championships.

If those four live up to the hype — and the veterans stay healthy and productive — watch out.

So, with the state of Kentucky now entering the sports betting sphere, it’s time to get those futures in on the Cats.

Futures Selections: Kentucky to Win SEC (+500) | Kentucky to Win National Championship (+1600)

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Doug Ziefel
Jun 23, 2024 UTC