Which Conference is Worth a Bet to Win the 2022 College Basketball National Title?
Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: An SEC logo.
We are now 12 days away from the start of the NCAA Tournament. While 68 teams will be gunning to become national champions, conference bragging rights will be on the line as well.
In light of that, FanDuel currently has a "Conference of National Champion" special in which you can wager on which conference the national champs will come from.
The ACC comes in at +1000, but it's been a down year in the conference. If there's a national title contender out of the ACC, it's Duke. You can get better odds by taking Duke to win the national title at +1300 on FanDuel.
The Big Ten has not won a national title since 2000. While I would love for my Michigan Wolverines to end that drought, they have struggled to put two good performances in a row all season, which makes it hard to put together the six it would take to win the national title.
Guard play is pivotal in March, and Purdue has one of the most explosive backcourt players in the country in Jaden Ivey. However, it also ranks 100th in adjusted defensive efficiency, which is well beyond the typical threshold of a national champion.
The Big Ten also has Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, which can make runs with the right draw. The odds of a Big Ten team winning the national title come in at +750.
The Pac-12 has some solid value at +550. Arizona is one of my favorites to cut down the nets this year, while USC and UCLA both made the Elite Eight last season and are capable of making another run.
The Big 12 comes in +390 and has Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech as its top contenders.
However, Baylor lost forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua for the season to a knee injury and is still without guard LJ Cryer because of a foot injury. Without those two, Baylor's title chances take a hit.
The WCC sits at +350, but like the ACC, it has only one national title contender. You can get slightly better odds by taking Gonzaga to win the national title at +400 on BetMGM.
Gonzaga is still the betting favorite to win it all. However, in addition to Arizona, my other two favorite national title picks both reside in the SEC.
Kentucky may have the National Player of the Year in forward Oscar Tshiebwe. The junior averages 16.9 points, 15.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks while shooting 59% from the field. Kentucky has two capable point guards in TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler.
In particular, Washington is the kind of player that loves the moment and could go off under the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky outrebounds its opponents by 10.5 per game and has capable 3-point shooting led by Kellan Grady's mark of 43.3%.
The Wildcats typically have played their best basketball in March in the John Calipari era. That's usually because the roster is lined with freshmen who need time to gel. However, this season, Washington is the only Kentucky freshman who sees more than 10 minutes per game. Tshiebwe, Grady, Wheeler, Keion Brooks, Davion Mintz, and Jacob Toppin make up an experienced bunch of juniors and seniors.
Since Calipari arrived in Lexington in 2009, Kentucky has played in 31 NCAA Tournament games, the most of any school in the nation. It has been to the Final Four four times, the Elite Eight seven times, and cut down the nets in 2012.
Bruce Pearl took Auburn to the Final Four in 2019, but he has more talent on this year's team. Forward Jabari Smith may be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. The standout freshman is averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 42.5% from 3.
His frontcourt mate, Walker Kessler, leads the nation with 4.6 blocks per game. His rim protection has made Auburn the best shot-blocking team in the country.
K.D. Johnson and Wendell Green are capable guards, while forward Allen Flanigan has been rounding into form since returning from an Achilles injury. He serves as one of the best perimeter defenders in the country.
Kentucky and Auburn both rank in the top 25 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Kentucky comes in at +800 to win the national championship on BetMGM, and Auburn is +1400 on FanDuel.
While those two would be enough for me consider taking the SEC for the special, they are not alone as contenders in the conference.
Admittedly, I'm not as high on Tennessee as others due to Rick Barnes' struggles in the NCAA Tournament and an offense that can be shaky at times and ranks 49th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
However, Tennessee can shut its opponents down and ranks third in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Volunteers also have wins over Arizona, Kentucky, and Auburn in Knoxville this season.
Arkansas made the Elite Eight last season and is playing like a team ready to make another deep run. After a midseason lull, the Razorbacks have won 14 out of the last 15 games, including wins over Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky in that span.
Alabama is a longshot and continued its up-and-down season by losing to Texas A&M at home last night. However, as I outlined a few weeks back, if the Tide get hot, they can win the whole thing.
Because there are five contenders — with a few longshots — I would go with the SEC for the FanDuel special. While betting on the favorite isn't always sexy, it still offers good value at +340.