Stuckey: My 5 College Basketball National Title Futures for the 2019-20 Season
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Myles Powell
Last year, we came excruciatingly close to cashing an Auburn future. I’m still not over the Chuma Okeke injury and/or a one-point loss to Virginia in the Final Four. We still made some profit on the investment but oh, what could’ve been.
Well, with college basketball getting underway today, it’s time to forget about last year and focus on this season. As I do each year, I split my futures into three categories, and have five total plays this year:
- Primary Futures: 1 unit investments
- Dark Horses: 0.5 unit investments
- Dart Throws: 0.25 unit investments
The primary futures will generally be teams with odds between 10-1 and 30-1, while dark horses will generally be between 30-1 and 75-1. And the final category is a few dart throws I make at teams with odds of 75-1 or higher.
I risked a total of 2.5 units on five preseason futures. Let’s dive in.
The Primary Candidates
I will rarely ever consider a college basketball preseason future at less than 10-1. We’re still talking about a one-and-done tournament in March and the potential for one major injury can completely change the complexion of a team.
I do think Michigan State team is head and shoulders above the rest of the field. The Spartans are loaded, especially if Keith Langford comes back at some point. Even if not, Tom Izzo’s bunch is the well-deserved No. 1 team in the nation.
Most would classify Kansas and Kentucky in the next tier, which I don’t think is unfair, but I don’t think either is necessarily a slam dunk. And, again, no thanks at under 10-1.
Per the futures odds at most places, you’ll find Duke, North Carolina, Memphis and the two championship game participants from last season in the next tier: Texas Tech and Virginia.
I just don’t think it’s in the cards for either UVA or TTU returning to the national title, despite elite coaching.
Speaking of Cards, I’m rolling with the Louisville Cardinals as my largest preseason future investment. (Please don’t tell my girl and friends in Lexington!).
This Louisville team is loaded with some leftover Rick Pitino recruits and another rock solid recruiting class. The strength is down low with a veteran frontcourt filled with NBA-level talent, led by ACC Preseason Player of the Year Jordan Nwora.
The backcourt has some questions but bringing grad transfer Lamarr Kimble over from St. Joe’s should provide the necessary steady hand the Cards will need come March.
I’m also a big fan of head coach Chris Mack, who I think can guide this team to a conference title in what should be a down year in the ACC compared to ones we’ve seen recently. That in turn should hopefully lead to a top two seed and a much easier path to Indianapolis.
Also, don’t sleep on the fact that Louisville can make its free throws, which could make or break a deep run in a close game in the tournament. The Cards finished last year at 77.77% from the charity stripe, which ranked in the top 10 nationally.
I love this team and would ride them at anything over 12-1.
Florida just missed the cut here, for what it’s worth.
The goal here is to find a team that I think has value in the market that can get in the dance and make noise for a variety of reasons.
Across town in Cincy, I also think the Bearcats are intriguing. They should have one of their better offenses in quite some time with the hire of John Brannen, who will have not one but two Cumberland brothers to lean on this year. However, I decided to pass there.
Not surprisingly, Seton Hall made my final cut with Myles Powell — who’s capable of taking the Pirates deep all by himself. But it isn’t just a one-man band in New Jersey as Kevin Willard’s bunch returns more than 80% of minutes from last season and I love the addition of 7-foot Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu.
This team is very experienced and well-rounded but it basically comes down to Powell — the first team All-American who is capable of leading Seton Hall to a Big East title, a relatively high seed and then some potential magic in the dance.
Two of my darts this year are on Utah State and St. Mary’s. I love the experienced Aggies, who arguably have two top 50 players in Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta. I love head coach Craig Smith, who likely won’t be in Logan for many more years.
This team can defend at the rim, so if they get in the dance (and they should in a very down Mountain West), a few bad shooting nights from their opponents could get them to the second weekend. And then who knows?
St. Mary’s also has a dynamic inside-out duo in Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts, who could challenge the Zags for the WCC title this year. I have the Gaels rated as a top 20 preseason team, so will gladly take a flier on them at very generous odds (200-1 can be found out there).
One of the things I love about St. Mary’s is they play extremely slow, ranking 351st in Adjusted Tempo last season. The Gaels are a snail, which will limit possessions and increase variance if they run into a top 2 seed in the dance.
Take a look at the summary of my entire preseason futures card below. I got some better prices over the weekend for some as the odds for certain teams, especially dark horses, can wildly differ depending on the book.
I simply included each team with the minimum odds I would play them at for your reference, but always make sure you shop around to find the best possible number!
2020 NCAA Basketball Futures Summary
- Louisville 13-1 or better (1 unit)
- Xavier 50-1 or better (0.5 unit)
- Seton Hall 50-1 or better (0.5 unit)
- St. Mary’s 100-1 or better (0.25 unit)
- Utah State 100-1 or better (0.25 unit)
I’ve invested 2.5 units in the preseason. Maybe I’ll add one or two during the season but this is the group we roll with for now. Cue up the Gus Johnson clips and get ready for the ride, ladies and gents!