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Don't look now but the college basketball season tips off in just over a month. While football is still king in October, it's never too early to turn an eye toward college basketball to try and sniff out which teams could be a factor come March.
The favorites to win this year's college basketball national championship are the typical teams bettors are used to seeing atop the oddsboard, led by Michigan State (6-1), Kentucky (7-1), Kansas (8-1), Duke (10-1), and North Carolina (10-1). The defending national champions, Virginia, come in at 20-1.
Below are the odds to win the 2019 college basketball national championship, followed by the biggest movers and value plays.
Memphis is the flavor of the month with college basketball bettors after Penny Hardaway brought in the nation's top recruiting class, highlighted by center James Wiseman and forward Precious Achiuwa. The Tigers are likely to start five freshmen this season, yet bettors are buying Hardaway's team. Memphis saw its odds move from 80-1 to 16-1 after landing three potential NBA lottery picks. The value on the Tigers is gone, but it could return at some point. Memphis is a young team that could take time to reach its full potential. If you like the Tigers, consider waiting until after the season starts when the future odds get readjusted. Right now, you're buying low on Memphis.
Florida is expected to challenge Kentucky in the SEC after landing Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. The move had a big impact on the betting market as well, moving Florida's title odds from 60-1 to 16-1. I'm a fan of this team but, like Memphis, consider waiting for better value. Florida has 10 players that are in their first or second season, so its core is young. Expect some early growing pains before the Gators hit their stride in March. Similar to Memphis, you're buying low on Florida right now, and that's not the way to maximize profits while betting the futures market. Wait until the odds on Florida lengthen during the season, then pounce on the Gators.
Baylor has all the ingredients to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears are a deep, experienced squad led by guards Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell. Baylor also gets stud junior forward Tristan Clark back. Clark was averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game last year before a knee injury ended his season. This team is absolutely loaded and unlike Memphis and Florida, I suggest betting Baylor now at 40-1. The Bears are being undervalued but have the talent to compete with Kansas for the Big 12 title. I'm a big college basketball futures bettor but I usually wait until the campaign starts to make the most of my large wagers. Baylor is one of the exceptions this season. Expect the program's title odds to be around 15-1 once conference play tips off in January. Grab the Bears now.
Besides Baylor, the other team I made an early decent-sized wager on to win the national championship is Oregon. The Ducks look to be the class of the Pac-12 this year and head coach Dana Altman knows how to win in March. Oregon will once again be one of the top defensive teams in the country and the Ducks possess the kind of guard play needed to win it all with Payton Pritchard and New Mexico transfer Anthony Mathis. Oregon also added the top junior college transfer in guard Chris Duarte. This could be Altman's deepest, most talented team at Oregon, and the Ducks are primed to make a deep tournament run this season.
Interested in a long shot? Look no further than Illinois. The Fighting Illini will be one of the most improved teams in the country after finishing 12-21 a year ago. Illinois returns four starters to a team that lost a lot of close games in 2018, led by guards Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier, along with star forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili. That trio helped Illinois become a dangerous team over the final two months of last season, as the club registered upsets over Michigan State, Ohio State, Maryland, and Nebraska. If the Illini - a team that finished fourth in scoring in the Big Ten last season at 72.7 points per game - can improve their conference-worst defense, they'll be a dark horse to win the Big Ten and a major factor come tournament time.
Thomas Casale is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. A devoted fan of the wishbone offense, Thomas bets on all sports but specializes in college football, NFL, and college basketball. Find him on Twitter @TheTomCasale.