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Best Bets: Which longshot national title futures hold value?

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During the 2018-19 college basketball season, we will be taking deeper dives into the betting markets now that sports gambling has been legalized outside of the state of Nevada.

To kick the season off, we are going to break down National Title futures and which bets are worth your time and money. 

Here are the best longshot bets, teams with odds that payout better than 100:1 to cut down the nets in Minneapolis in April. 

REMINDER: A bet of $100 on +200 odds would win $200. A bet of $100 on +10,000 odds would win $10,000. A bet of $1 on +20,000 would win $200.

NOTE: These odds come via the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. 

MARQUETTE (+20,000)

I’m higher on Marquette than most people seem to be, and that’s because Marquette has one of the most potent offenses in all of college basketball. They are one of just five teams to finish in the top 12 of KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric over the course of the last two years, joining Duke, Kansas, Villanova and North Carolina. With Markus Howard and Sam Hauser back and joined by a slew of talent, young players that have spent a year or two under Steve Wojciechowski, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Golden Eagles don’t finish near the top offensively again this season.

The reason Marquette has struggled as much as they have the last two years is that they are also a trainwreck defensively.Only six high-major programs finished below them in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings: Washington State, East Carolina, South Florida, Tulane, Memphis and Iowa. Only four teams reached the NCAA tournament with a worse defensive rating — Texas Southern, LIU Brooklyn, NC-Central, Iona — and Iona, a No. 15 seed, was the only tournament invitee that was not in a play-in game.

But Marquette has made some changes. They’ve added Joseph Chartouny, a transfer from Fordham that has finished among the league leaders in steals the last three years, while Ed Morrow is now eligible, a physical frontcourt piece that can defend the rim and rebound the ball. They should be improved defensively, and the truth of the matter is that teams that are good enough defensively and elite offensively are the ones that win national titles.

Marquette checks those boxes this season, and at 200:1 odds — where there are 48 teams that are currently getting better odds — they are more than worth the bet.

WASHINGTON (+20,000)

The Huskies are another team that is not getting enough hype heading into the season.

Coming off of Mike Hopkins’ first season in Seattle, Washington looks like a sneaky-favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. They surprisingly won 21 games a year ago and were in the mix for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament until a late-swoon down the stretch of the season. Perhaps the best news is that not only will Washington bring everyone from that team back — including the most slept-on freshman out west in Jaylen Nowell — but Washington will now be heading into their second season playing this 2-3 zone that Hopkins, a former Syracuse assistant, has fashioned.

Put another way, Washington was ahead of the curve last year before the players on the roster really had a feel for what a season in this system was going to be like. And assuming that zone continues to improve, we’ve seen what Syracuse has been capable of doing in March when they shut people down defensively. Why can’t Washington do the same? At +20,000, the risk is getting paid off.

CENTRAL FLORIDA (+50,000)

UCF was one of the best defensive teams in all of college basketball last season. They finished eighth nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and that was despite Tacko Fall — their 7-foot-6 center and one of the nation’s most lethal shot erasers — playing only 16 games. They struggled, finishing just 19-13, because they could not score, and that was due to the fact that Fall was far from the only UCF star that missed a lot of time. B.J. Taylor, a contender for AAC Player of the Year this season, played in just 16 games as well. Aubrey Dawkins, a transfer from Michigan, missed the entire season after suffering a shoulder injury.

With essentially everyone back this season, I fully expect UCF to win the AAC, push for a spot in the top 25 and, potentially, enter the NCAA tournament as a top four seed. That is very much in the range of outcomes for the Knights, and if you can stomach betting on Johnny Dawkins, at $10 bet could win you $5,000.

PROVIDENCE (+20,000)

The Friars are a borderline top 25 team in my mind, and their head coach — Ed Cooley — is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the country that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. There is quite a bit of young talent on this roster as well as a handful of former four-star recruits that are ready to come of age; Makai Ashton-Langford and Alpha Diallo, specifically. As a program with the 49-best odds to win the national title, they are worth a look.

CLEMSON, TCU, LSU, MISSISSIPPI STATE (+10,000)

Individually, I don’t love any of these bets for a variety of reasons, but I do believe that they are worth mentioning here. All four are going to enter the 2018-19 season as consensus top 25 teams — TCU and Mississippi State might sneak their way into the top 15 — and all four are currently getting the 30th-best odds to win the national title.

Put another way, Vegas is telling you there are somewhere between 30 and 48 teams in college basketball better than these four, while the coaches and the media within the sport are saying that there probably aren’t 25 better than them. If you love any one of these four teams, you are getting pretty good value on this bet.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.