March Madness isn’t just for teams in search of a title or people hoping to win their NCAA tournament pool.
Vegas also loves it.
Anyone taking note of college basketball odds before the season probably saw Kentucky and North Carolina as the sure bets. (We media types did too.) But as Selection Sunday nears, some oddsmakers have started to adjust their bets accordingly.
Take Sportsbook.com. Not long ago, Kentucky was 4/1. Now it’s 2/1. UNC went from 5/1 to 8/1. (If you’re a gambling man, those odds are probably a little more enticing, though I fully expect VegasWatch to weigh in with his smart bets weighed against kenpom before long.)
Kansas’ odds have improved slightly (now 8/1), while Michigan State’s have jumped from 20/1 to 12/1. Word’s out on the Spartans.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.