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Best Bets: College basketball futures and win totals you have to bet

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College basketball season is just around the corner, which means that time is running out for you to lock in your preseason futures bets.

We’ve looked at the best bets that are available previously in this space. Since then, the odds have changed, meaning that the teams that are worth investing in have changed somewhat as well.

Here are the best national title futures, the best longshots, a couple of worthwhile fades and my favorite win total over/unders.

Odds are via a legal sports book in New Jersey.

BEST FUTURES

MICHIGAN STATE (9-1)

I have Michigan State listed here because of the price. At most books, the Spartans are somewhere in the 5-1 or 6-1 range. Considering the fact that they are the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, it makes sense that they would be priced there. What doesn’t make sense is where they are getting 9-1 odds. That’s the line that is available to me. If you can get Michigan State at 9-1, that’s worth it. If the Spartans are 5-1 or 6-1 where you wager, then I would pass at this point.

KANSAS (11-1)

The Jayhawks are currently priced as the sixth best team in the country. For my money, they are one of the consensus top three teams in the sport, along with Michigan State and Kentucky. They are also a veteran group with an elite point guard in Devon Dotson, plenty of talent on the wings and arguably the most unstoppable force in America in Udoka Azubuike. At 11-1, they are mispriced and worth the investment.

LOUISVILLE (14-1)

It’s as simple as this: Louisville is, for my money, the best team in the ACC. They are currently priced as the third-best team in the ACC and closer to a top ten team in America than a top five team. There are some questions about their point guard play. There are some concerns about their health, with David Johnson and Malik Williams banged up. And yes, Chris Mack is probably the best coach in the America that doesn’t have a Final Four on his resume. But I think you can make the argument that this is the best team he has ever had. No better time than now to get there.

FLORIDA (20-1)

The odds keep creeping down for Florida. I got the Gators at 50-1 before Kerry Blackshear announced that he will be playing his senior season in Gainesville, and then doubled down at 33-1 after he announced. They are now at 20-1, and I think this is still too cheap. This group has elite guard play, a McDonald’s All-Americans (Tre Mann, Scottie Lewis) that will complement the returning studs (Andrew Nembhard, Keyontae Johnson) and a coach that should be able to put all the pieces together. I think they’re clearly a top seven team in the country and right now, they are still not being priced that way.

OREGON (28-1)

Last week, the Ducks were still sitting at 33-1. That number has dropped a bit, but this is still a great price. Admittedly, I’m higher on the Ducks that most. But that’s because their head coach is one of the best in the country at getting new guys to buy into a role and he has an All-American point guard in senior Payton Pritchard leading the way. I think the Ducks should be priced around 18-1.

LONGSHOTS

OHIO STATE (40-1)

I am not as high on the Buckeyes as some people are, but I’m very surprised they are still available at 40-1 in some books. They have an All-American in Kaleb Wesson. They have plenty of talent on the wing, and if D.J. Carton lives up to the hype, they have one of the most exciting young guards in the country at the point. Oh, and should I mention that this Chris Holtmann guy coaching them is pretty good? They’re closer to a top 15 team in America than this, and I think that they should be priced at 25-1.

UTAH STATE (60-1)

I’ve already fired at the Aggies at 100-1 odds, and the number is still dropping. This is a team that is going to run through the Mountain West again this season. They are a pair of potential All-Americans and future NBA players in Neemias Queta and Sam Merrill. Throw in one of the better young coaches in the country in Craig Smith, and there is a lot to like in Logan. They’re still worth the flier.

HOUSTON (66-1)

My book has not yet adjusted to the fact that the Cougars have Quentin Grimes eligible immediately. I still think DeJon Jarreau is going to be their best guard, but adding a former top ten prospect is big. They are the best team in the American, but the payout betting on them is 4X the payout for betting on Memphis.

MARQUETTE (66-1)

The market has overcorrected on Marquette. They are too cheap. The reasoning is too long to type out. Watch this:

FADES

MEMPHIS (16-1)

Confession: I currently hold a ticket for a Memphis national title future.

The price?

50-1.

The current odds are just too expensive for my taste. I’ve made this point ad nauseum during the offseason, but this is a program that is going to end up starting five freshmen with seven freshmen and two sophomores in their ten-man rotation. Their best player – James Wiseman – may or may not have an ankle injury, or a shoulder injury, or something. I just have no interest in this group at 16-1.

DUKE (8-1) and NORTH CAROLINA (9-1)

These are easy fades for me. I certainly understand the upside, but I just think they’re too expensive at this point. My issues with Duke have to do with how the pieces are going to fit together (see the video below) and while I love Cole Anthony, I do think that asking the Tar Heels to win a national title with a completely is a big ask. If they were, say, 25-1, then it would be interesting. But as it currently stand, there are just two teams with lower odds than the Tar Heels: Duke and Kentucky. I cannot justify that cost.

KENTUCKY (8-1)

So Kentucky is not a full fade for me. I think that, come February, this is going to be one of the best teams in college basketball. I also think that, in November, they are going to take some lumps. I see this team having a similar learning curve to last year’s group. If you recall, they got smoked by Duke in the Champions Classic, struggled through a few buy games and then lost to Seton Hall in New York City before turning into the team that they were down the stretch. What I am going to do is wait for this line to drop and, hopefully, snag Kentucky at around 16-1 while eating Thanksgiving dinner.

WIN TOTALS

DUKE: Under 25.5

The ACC is going to be tough at the top this year, Duke has a roster that doesn’t exactly fit together all that well. In the last six years, since Coach K has gone all-in on the one-and-done movement, Duke has had more than 25 regular season wins twice. Once when they won the national title and once when they had Zion.

FLORIDA: Over 23.5

This best is fairly obvious. I love Florida this year. I have two Florida national title future. Of course I’m going to bet them to win 24 regular season games.

KANSAS: Over 24

Kansas is undervalued by the metrics. They are a consensus preseason top three team, and last season was the first time since 2014 that the Jayhawks didn’t win at least 24 regular season games. Since the 2006-07 season, Kansas has only won fewer than 24 fewer season games twice.

OREGON: Over 22

I think the Ducks are the best team in the Pac-12. They should be able to get to 23-8 pretty easily.

TEXAS: Over 18.5

This line is much lower than I expected it to be. I’m bullish on Texas this season. I think Shaka Smart finally has a bit of roster continuity and a team that looks to be older than in the past. They look like a team that will compete for top three in the Big 12, believe it or not. Getting to 19 wins seems very doable.

KENTUCKY: Under 24.5 (+110)

The odds are what makes this bet more attractive. I’m assuming that Kentucky is going to lose to Michigan State on opening night. They then have to play a full SEC schedule (Florida, Auburn and Tennessee twice and at LSU) plus Texas Tech away, Ohio State on a neutral and Louisville at home. That’s a lot of tough games. If they lose seven, you more than double your money.

GONZAGA: Under 27.5

Killian Tillie is banged up, Gonzaga’s starting backcourt is made up of grad transfers (Ryan Woolridge, Admon Gilder) that may or may not be good enough to play for a top ten team, Oumar Ballo has to redshirt and Brock Ravet is taking a leave of absence from the program. In the non-conference, they play at Washington, at Arizona and North Carolina at home plus the Battle 4 Atlantis, and that’s before you consider home-and-homes with a good BYU and a really good St. Mary’s. Four losses means the bet hits.

LOUISVILLE: Over 22.5 (-134)

I think Louisville is a top five team, I think they are the best team in the ACC and if they go 23-8, you win your bet. The odds aren’t ideal, but a win is a win is a win.

No. 1 goes down again as Texas Tech upsets Louisville

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NEW YORK — It was the fourth time it’s happened in the first five weeks of the season, the third time it’s happened against an unranked team and the second time that Madison Square Garden played host to the carnage.

The No. 1 team in the country lost.

On Tuesday night, in the opener of the Jimmy V Classic, No. 1 Louisville lost to the unranked Texas Tech, 70-57. That’s the same Texas Tech that arrived in New York City on a three-game losing streak — against Iowa, Creighton and DePaul — and who was forced to play with leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey, who missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury.

Davide Moretti led the way for the reigning national runners-up, finishing with 18 points, while freshman Terrence Shannon chipped in with 13 of his own and Chris Clarke added seven points, 12 boards and six assists.

As we have become accustomed to under head coach Chris Beard, Texas Tech won with their defense. They held Louisville to 34 percent shooting for the game. The Cardinals were 3-for-17 from three. They turned the ball over 19 times and made 18 field goals. It was, to be frank, as bad as it sounds.

Texas Tech does this to teams. They take you out of what you want to do offensively. The Red Raider coaching staff scouts as well as any staff in the country — in the first half, with their defense right in front of them, they were calling out Louisville’s sets as Louisville was calling their plays. — and this put Louisville in an impossible spot. They couldn’t get good shots out of their offense because Texas Tech wouldn’t let them, but with a point guard situation that is can be flatteringly called a work in progress, they didn’t have anyone that could create offense.

Texas Tech forces you to make plays.

Louisville doesn’t have anyone that can do that.

And it showed.

Penn State upsets No. 4 Maryland

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Penn State used five double-figure scorers and played consistently hard on both ends of the floor as the Nittany Lions stunned previously-unbeaten No. 4 Maryland with a 76-69 Big Ten win on Tuesday night.

Losing by 30 on the road to Ohio State in their last conference game, Penn State displayed impressive intensity on the defensive end, limited turnovers on the offensive end and received plenty of help for star senior Lamar Stevens when he wasn’t having his best game. For the second straight season, Penn State upset a ranked Maryland team on its home floor as the Nittany Lions proved they’ll be a tough out at home all season.

Penn State (8-2, 1-1) received double-doubles from both Stevens (15 points, 10 rebounds) and big man Mike Watkins (15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) as the duo did a ton of damage on the interior. The Nittany Lions also had double-digit scoring efforts from Myreon Jones (14 points), Izaiah Brockington (14 points) and Myles Dread (10 points). With 19 assists and only eight turnovers, Penn State’s offense did an outstanding job of running clean sets and getting good looks from multiple players.

This is a quality win for the Nittany Lions early in the Big Ten portion of the schedule. It gives an unproven team a major boost of confidence — particularly beating a top-five team on a night where Stevens was only 5-for-13 from the floor. The Ohio State road loss shows Penn State still has a long way to go to be considered any kind of major threat. But Pat Chambers’ team is at least balanced and feisty enough to be a really tough out at home this season. A few more wins like this could put Penn State in the NCAA tournament picture with the kind of schedule they’ll play in the Big Ten this season.

But the major story here is the loss for Maryland. Because the Terps have some concerning trends they need to address.

Early in the season, Maryland (10-1, 1-1) has made a habit of falling behind early. It happened multiple times in an early-season tournament. And it’s now happened in back-to-back Big Ten games against Illinois and Penn State. While Maryland has been able to overcome slow starts all season with talent and comeback wins, a bad start came back to really bite them on Tuesday.

Trailing by 10 at halftime, Maryland tried to make second-half runs to stay with Penn State. Ultimately, the Terps were derailed by inconsistent offense, sloppy and careless turnovers (Penn State had 17 points off turnovers in the first half) and an inconsistent effort on the inside.

Maryland’s offense had 20 turnovers to only nine assists for the game as the Terps never seemed to figure out the proper way to run its offense. Alternating between senior Anthony Cowan Jr. (16 points) and sophomore Eric Ayala (15 points) initiating offense, both guards had too many bad passes and unforced errors for a team with Big Ten title aspirations.

It’s very clear that Maryland has the talent to compete with nearly any team in the country. Even on an off night, the Terps made this a one-possession game against a balanced Big Ten team with some veteran players. But Maryland can’t have these kinds of unforced errors if they see themselves making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

That mainly falls on Cowan. A few of his turnovers were stunningly bad for a senior floor leader. Getting stripped 35 feet from the hoop and throwing lazy passes for interceptions and easy layups can’t happen for Cowan. There’s just too much talent on offense for Maryland to be giving away points in close games.

The good news for Maryland is that there is plenty of time to correct some of these mistakes. Cowan can limit the mistakes. The offense will likely play better and more together. But Maryland’s slow starts are a trend to keep an eye on as it has been a factor for them in multiple games this season.

Bracketology: Cardinals, Buckeyes sit atop latest bracket projection

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At the quarter-turn of our race to Selection Sunday, the Louisville Cardinals lead Ohio State by a nose for the No. 1 overall seed.  Close behind are Michigan, Kansas, Gonzaga and Maryland.  The Buckeyes and Wolverines are the surprise entries among that group, although both have earned their positions with impressive performances out of the gate.

While the first turn provides a quick glance at the Field, we still have three-quarters of the race to run – including a daunting backstretch and the turn for home known as conference play.  Those grueling furlongs tend to separate the pretenders and contenders.

Early brackets are notoriously fluid; margins between teams are thin. Early projections also tend to produce some quirkiness – especially related to conference balance.  Keep those things in mind.  By next month we could see a lot of changes.

UPDATED: December 10, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Iowa State vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION Georgetown vs. Oregon State
MIDWEST REGION  SACRED HEART vs. PRAIRIE VIEW AM
WEST REGION MONTANA vs. NC A&T

MIDWEST Indianapolis EAST – New York                       
St. Louis Cleveland
1) LOUISVILLE 1) OHIO STATE
16) NC-AT / SACRED HEART 16) RADFORD
8) West Virginia 8) VCU
9) Penn State 9) Texas
Sacramento Sacramento
5) Arizona 5) SAN DIEGO STATE
12) WESTERN KENTUCKY 12) UNC-GREENSBORO
4) Kentucky 4) Washington
13) LIBERTY 13) YALE
St. Louis Greensboro
6) MEMPHIS 6) Villanova
11) Saint Mary’s 11) Iowa St / Arizona St
3) DAYTON 3) TENNESSEE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) VERMONT
Albany Greensboro
7) Florida 7) Seton Hall
10) DePaul 10) Indiana
2) Maryland 2) Duke
15) HOFSTRA 15) COLGATE
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Houston
Omaha Cleveland
1) KANSAS 1) Michigan
16) MONTANA / PV-AM 16) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
8) Stanford 8) LSU
9) Marquette 9) Colorado
Albany Omaha
5) Michigan State 5) North Carolina
12) BOWLING GREEN 12) NORTHERN IOWA
4) Virginia 4) Baylor
13) BELMONT 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Tampa Tampa
6) Purdue 6) Auburn
11) Oklahoma 11) Georgetown / Oregon St
3) BUTLER 3) Florida State
14) RIDER 14) GEORGIA STATE
Spokane Spokane
7) Utah State 7) Xavier
10) Creighton 10) Connecticut
2) GONZAGA 2) OREGON
15) UC-SANTA BARBARA 15) NEW MEXICO STATE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Creighton Georgetown Iowa Arkansas
Connecticut Arizona State Wichita State Virginia Tech
Saint Mary’s Oregon State NC State Houston
Oklahoma Iowa State Richmond Oklahoma State

Top Seed Line
Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Kansas

Breakdown by Conference …
Big East (8)
Big Ten (7)
Pac 12 (7)
BIG 12 (6)
SEC (5)
ACC (5)
West Coast (2)
American (2)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (2)

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.