A quick glance at the AP top 25 shows just how wild this college basketball season has been. Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky aren't on the list, while teams like Illinois and Alabama have earned their highest rankings in almost two decades.
Though the betting market has mostly caught up, there are some glaring differences between the polls and the title oddsboard, which can reveal some clear values and trap bets on teams whose perception outweighs their production.
Here are the top 25 teams in Monday's AP Poll and their title odds, and a few of the biggest gaps between the two:
|San Diego State||+8500||22|
No. 7 Oklahoma (+6000)
The Sooners have been sneaking up the polls for some time after an 8-1 run that includes wins over Kansas, Texas, Alabama, and West Virginia. Still, a low KenPom rating and relative lack of star power have this team priced outside of the top 20 among title contenders.
That's simply too far of an adjustment for Lon Kruger's group, which has proven capable of slaying top teams behind a deliberate offensive approach and a disciplined defense that rarely allows easy scoring chances. Oklahoma isn't a sexy title pick, but it's a smart one at this price.
No. 12 Houston (+2500)
These odds were even more baffling a week ago when Houston was ranked sixth in the country but still priced outside of the top 10. A loss to Wichita State knocked the Cougars down the polls, but they're still an elite team on both ends and better than their odds suggest.
Houston leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (39.8) and opponent effective field-goal percentage (42.2), which is a punishing combo against teams that aren't potent enough offensively to keep pace on low volume. The Cougars also rank sixth in KenPom's adjusted efficiency margin, which makes them an obvious buy at a top-15 price.
No. 16 Virginia Tech (+11000)
This ranking is a bit high for Virginia Tech, which has feasted in a down year for the ACC and has a few questionable losses. But 110-1 is a price that should be reserved for an Atlantic 10 long shot, not a talented high-major squad.
The Hokies beat Villanova earlier this year and blew out Virginia in late January, and their aggressive perimeter attack gives them a chance against any team in the country. With a likely high seed coming in the tournament, there's no reason not to take a shot at these odds.
No. 23 Wisconsin (+2200)
Remember when Wisconsin was ranked as high as No. 4 in early December and snuck back to No. 6 later that month after an 8-1 start? The team has since gone 8-7 and hasn't won consecutive games since Jan. 20.
A brutal Big Ten schedule is mostly to blame, but the Badgers are still 1-5 against teams ranked in the AP Poll, which makes it tough to justify a top-15 price for a team that pollsters view as outside of the top 20. Early season wins should only go so far when betting on tournament success.
No. 25 Tennessee (+1800)
I've been high on Tennessee since before the season began, so it's hard for me to advise laying off one of the most talented teams in the country. But the Volunteers have lost five of their last 10 games after a 10-1 start, and their once-heralded defense has fallen apart in the last five, allowing at least 70 points in each of those contests.
There's still hope the defense returns to form and offense stops taking ill-advised shots, which is why Tennessee is dealing at this price. Still, if you haven't bought already, it may be worth waiting for an adjustment in March.
Oregon has reached the Sweet 16 (2019), Final Four (2017), and Elite Eight (2016) in its last three tournament appearances, and it's trending toward a top-eight seed after a 14-4 start to the season. A closer look at the schedule, though, reveals why pollsters aren't buying into this group's record.
The Ducks' season-opening loss to Missouri was their only matchup against a team currently ranked in the top 25, and they have two ugly losses to Oregon State (11-11) and Washington State (14-10). They've also been a bit lucky, winning five of their six games by six points or less. You're better off paying a shorter price on USC than hoping for Oregon to make a run.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.