Best Bets: Which top teams are easiest national title fades?

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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 five teams with odds 50:1 or lower that are the easiest to fade during the preseason.

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. 

MICHIGAN (+3,000)

Michigan has a chance to be a pretty good team this year. They finished last season as the No. 3 team in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and with all of their best defenders — and defensive coordinator Luke Yaklich — all back, I fully expect them to once again be among the nation’s-best defensive teams.

And that’s before you factor in John Beilein, who has proven himself to be one of college basketball’s best coaches and ruthlessly effective in tournament settings. He’s been to the national title game twice. He’s won back-to-back Big Ten tournaments. Who can forget the success he had with West Virginia.

So I get it.

I’m just not willing to pay this price.

For starters, the Wolverines are going to enter the season ranked somewhere near the back-end of the top 25 — we have them 23rd — but there are just nine teams with lower odds to win the national title. That’s a red flag.

Then you have to factor in the issues I expect the Wolverines to have on the offensive end of the floor. There were long stretches of last season where Michigan’s offense was painful to watch, and this offseason they parted ways with their three-best offensive weapons — Mo Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson. That means that they are going to have to be carried offensively by players that have either failed to provide they can handle that kind of load (Zavier Simpson, Charles Matthews) or by youngsters that haven’t proven themselves at this level yet (Jordan Poole, Isaiah Livers).

While it is important to be a good defensive team if you want to have success in March, you are much more likely to make a Final Four or national title run with an elite offense and a good-enough-defense than vice versa. I did a study on this subject. You can see the results here and here.

So I would stay away from Michigan, particularly at these odds.

RELATED: The longshot national title futures with value

UCLA (+3,000)

Even before the injuries that ravaged their bench, the Bruins were a team that I had no interest in. This is a program that has played precisely zero defense in the Steve Alford era, and they are entering a season where their three best players aren’t exactly know for their effort on the defensive end of the floor and where issues may arise over whose team this is, Kris Wilkes or Jaylen Hands.

That was before we found out that Alex Olesinki had injured his foot and will miss at least a couple of months, Shareef O’Neal will miss the season due to a previously-undiagnosed heart ailment and Tyger Campbell — the one steadying presence that the Bruins had in their backcourt — had torn his ACL.

I expect the odds here to adjust eventually, but as it currently stands, betting on UCLA to win a national title when they have the tenth-lowest odds is giving money away. If that’s what you’re looking to do, I’ll send you my Venmo. Your money will be put to better use that way.

Jaylen Hands (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

OREGON (+2,000)

According to the Westgate’s oddsmakers, Oregon is the seventh-most likely team in college basketball to win the national title.

Seventh!

I’m a fan of Dana Altman and I think that this Oregon team does have some talent — they should be one of the two-best teams in the Pac-12 this season — but seventh?

That is a steep price to pay for a team that undeniably has flaws.

This is one of the youngest teams that Altman will have coached at Oregon. As much respect as I respect Payton Pritchard, he’s not exactly the kind of lead guard that Altman has thrived with in the past, and neither are Altman’s wings; Louis King might be able to fill that Dillon Brooks’ role, but that is a big ask from a freshman.

That’s not the biggest issue I have, however.

The reason that Oregon is regarded this highly likely has to do with the fact that they landed Bol Bol, a top five recruit in the class and a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. But I have real concerns over his effectiveness at the college level — both due to who he is as a player and his fit in the Oregon system. There’s a lot to unpack there (I go through it all in detail here) but it should be enough to scare you off the Ducks when the payoff you’re getting is only 20:1.

INDIANA (+4,000)

I actually like this Indiana team this season. Romeo Langford will likely be the best freshman in the Big Ten. He is a potential all-league player, as is senior forward Juwan Morgan. They have some length and athleticism, giving them the kind of roster that head coach Archie Miller typically has success with. Point guard play is going to be a question mark, but at (+20,000), the Hoosiers were a great bet.

The problem is that Indiana is no longer (+20,000) to win the national title.

After the Hoosiers landed Langford’s commitment in late-April and Morgan announced that he was returning to school in late-May, their odds dropped all the way to (+4,000). That puts them at the 15th-most likely team to win the national title, at least according to the bookmakers at the Westgate.

I’ll pass.

WICHITA STATE (+4,000)

Simply put, this is just a terrible line, and not in the way that we want to exploit. Wichita State is a good program that has had success in the NCAA tournament in the past and the kind of name recognition that goes beyond their place in college basketball’s hierarchy, but it would be (ahem) shocking if this was the year that the Shockers were to cut down the nets.

They lose nine of their top 11 scorers and 89 percent of their minutes played from last season, and none of the kids they have coming into the program this season are the kind of impact recruits that can dig them out of a rebuilding season. Gregg Marshall is Gregg Marshall, so anything is possible, but I will say that people around the AAC that I’ve spoken to expect them to finish in the bottom four of their league standings.

There are only 14 teams with lower odds to win the title.

I’d take Wichita State (+4,000) to get a bid to the NCAA tournament. I don’t know if there is a line that would get me to bet on them to win the national title.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan St snaps 2-game skid

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats BC 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.

Miles Kelly leads Georgia Tech to 79-77 win over rival Georgia

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Northeastern at Georgia Tech
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ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s Miles Kelly hit another winning shot against a state rival.

Terry Roberts endured a nightmarish final minute for Georgia.

Kelly hit a long 3-pointer and then a drove for the game-winning floater with 23 seconds remaining as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Georgia 79-77 on Tuesday night.

Kelly hit the winning shot in similar fashion against Georgia State on Nov. 12. He did it again to beat the Bulldogs, finishing with a team-high 17 points after failing to score in the first half.

“I’m going to continue to keep shooting, no matter how many times I miss,” Kelly said.

Roberts missed a 3-pointer, turned the ball over twice with bad passes, and was called for an offensive foul as he was trying to drive for the basket that would’ve sent the game to overtime.

“A tough finish for us,” Georgia first-year coach Mike White said. “We were in position to steal one on the road.”

A pair of second-chance buckets seemingly put Georgia (7-3) in control with a 77-73 lead.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again as Kelly led the comeback for the Yellow Jackets (6-3) – with a big assist from Roberts.

He had a chance to essentially seal it for the Bulldogs, but his jumper beyond the arc clanked off the rim.

Georgia Tech grabbed the rebound and raced down the court, where Kelly swished a 3 from well behind the stripe that brought Georgia Tech within a point with about a minute left.

Trying to work the ball inside, Roberts made an ill-advised entry pass that was deflected and stolen by Deivon Smith, setting up Kelly’s drive for the basket that put the Yellow Jackets back ahead,

Roberts tried a drive of his own, only to have it blocked by Jalon Moore. Georgia retained possession, but Roberts’ inbounds pass was stolen by Moore, who was fouled and made one of two free throws.

Roberts took the ball again and hurriedly dribbled toward the basket, only to be called for an offensive foul when he sent Smith flying.

“Just sacrificing my body for the team,” Smith said.

Georgia stole an inbounds pass around midcourt, giving Karlo Oquendo one last shot to launch a 3 that still would’ve won it for the Bulldogs. It bounced off the rim.

The game was tight throughout. Neither team led by more than eight, and a sequence in the second half showed just how tightly these rivals were matched.

With both squads playing at a frenetic pace and showing little regard for defense, the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions as the teams traded baskets.

Stunningly, they combined to score on 19 straight possessions before Georgia’s Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe missed a pair of free throws with 5:17 remaining.

FIRING UP THE CROWD

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came when Georgia Tech football coach Brent Key addressed the crowd at halftime.

Key, who served as interim coach for the last eight games of the season, was introduced Monday as the full-time choice for job.

He fired up the fans by getting them to chant “To hell with Georgia” over and over again. When a smattering of Bulldogs fans responded with barks, Key smiled and egged on the Yellow Jackets crowd to drown them out.

He also declared Georgia Tech to be the “greatest school in the entire state, the entire country,” following up his vow the previous day to not back down from the defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia: This will be a tough one to swallow for Roberts, who led his team with 16 points and seven assists. The Bulldogs lost despite shooting 53.4% from the field.

Georgia Tech: Four players scored in double figures, and two others players finished with eight points. But it was Kelly, as usual, who had the ball in his hands at the end of a tight game.

UP NEXT

Georgia: After a nearly two-week break, the Bulldogs return to Atlanta on Dec. 18 to face Notre Dame at State Farm Arena in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event.

Georgia Tech: Head to North Carolina on Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the struggling Tar Heels.