College Basketball Betting: Three Midseason Futures to Consider
It’s no GameStop (GME), but throughout the season NCAA futures market can offer major money-making opportunities to the clever sports bettor. Obviously, Baylor and Gonzaga appear to be on a collision course to meet in the National Championship, but that does not mean other squads are devoid of value – if nothing else, for possible hedging opportunities. Let’s take a peek at three teams who currently offer value.
Note: Prices come courtesy of Vegas Insider. Always line shop on futures – chances are good that with a little effort, an even better price is available elsewhere.
North Carolina Tar Heels 35-1
In terms of midseason futures, we’re looking for teams that could realistically have another gear, something that could render the current price irrelevant come tournament time. North Carolina has certainly had its hiccups, most often due to a lack of perimeter punch offensively, but the continued return to health of wing Anthony Harris could be the element that lifts the Tar Heels from “solid team” to “real contender.”
Harris has only made cameo appearances off the bench thus far, but he’s flashed his ability every time he’s played: a steal here, a scoring flurry there. His 10 points in 11 minutes against rival NC State helped spark a win, and he basically took over the second half against UCLA last season, tallying 14 points in the second stanza alone before tearing his ACL soon after. He has size, smarts, and silky shooting stroke, a combination that simply does not exist elsewhere on the UNC roster.
Of course, Harris alone isn’t winning a title. The rest of this Tar Heels squad provides an appealing foundation, though. There may not be a better collection of bigs in the country, and UNC’s domination on the offensive glass allows it to compete in every game it plays, regardless of whether shots are falling from outside.
The biggest concern lies with the freshman point guard platoon of RJ Davis and Caleb Love. Both have tantalizing upside, but they are also liable to brick every shot they take while punting the ball into the stands. The hope is that the talented but young duo stabilizes by the time March rolls around, which would give this Heels a fighting chance to advance.
One last note: it might be worth waiting two weeks to scoop up a UNC ticket, as Harris still is not full strength and the schedule is stiff through Valentine’s Day (at Clemson, at Duke, vs. Miami, at Virginia).
Alabama Crimson Tide 40-1
The Crimson Tide have been a darling of mine going all the way back to the offseason when Nate Oats scooped up a steal in Yale transfer Jordan Bruner and scored several prized perimeter recruits. Despite the loss of Kira Lewis to the NBA Draft, Oats assembled a formidable roster that fit his vision: versatile, mobile, and most importantly, lethal from the perimeter.
However, even I, the conductor of the Alabama basketball hype train, have been stunned at how well this team has defended. The Tide have zoomed up the KenPom Efficiency rankings in large part due to what is now a top 10 defense, stifling opponents with length and high-energy rotations, forcing difficult shots and swiping steals that fuel the offensive inferno. More than anything, that defense has elevated the Tide to the “sub-Gonzaga/Baylor” tier.
The aforementioned Bruner is a key part of why I think this price is still somewhat low. Alabama has fared alright without him, ripping off four wins before stumbling at Oklahoma this past weekend, but his return lifts the ceiling on that already-stout defense, and he has the size and shooting stroke to open up the court for all of the Tide’s drivers.
Schedule-wise, the Tide have a fairly soft close to the year, facing just three top 40 KenPom opponents over the final nine contests (and zero in the top 25). They are playing well enough to win out, and the media has certainly taken note of the electric shooting displays, so the price likely only gets worse from here on out.
Loyola Chicago Ramblers 200-1
This price only makes sense when you factor in that the Ramblers face a harrowing road to even make the NCAA Tournament. They whiffed on big non-conference opportunities against Richmond and Wisconsin, leaving their at-large resume barren, meaning they likely need to capture the Missouri Valley automatic bid at Arch Madness in St. Louis. Considering how well they’ve played recently, perhaps it’s not that daunting a task, but the looming threat of the undefeated Drake Bulldogs means it’s still a dicey proposition.
If in the field, though, the value is remarkable. This is currently a top 25 team by all analytics rankings, thriving via an incredible man-to-man defense that makes life miserable for its opponents and an offense that features a unique post talent in Cameron Krutwig. Plus, the program has been to the Final Four recently under its current coach. Porter Moser has been through rigors of a single elimination tournament (as have Krutwig and the other seniors on this roster!), and getting that far again would provide copious hedging possibilities.
Sure, it would be nice to have more of a bucket-getter in the backcourt, and a clearer path to an at-large would make this an easier sell. But this is a well-coached, veteran-laden team, and if the Ramblers can sweep ATS wagon Drake in just under two weeks, finding 200-1 – or anything remotely close – will be instantly impossible.
Follow BettorIQ contributor Jim Root @2ndChancePoints.