The big boys are expected back for the Final Four this year. Michigan State and Kentucky both come in at +125 on the DraftKings Sportsbook. Duke and Virginia both follow at +175 and +200. Memphis is a surprising name at +325, but when you look at their recruiting class and the returning players, they are going to be in the thick of it. Of course the season is long, and the tournament seeding will always change things up later on. At the moment there are some solid mid-range values that can make a splash this season.
Michigan State and Kentucky both headline the top of the teams to make a Final Four appearance. The Spartans were close last season, and will return a lot of their players. The Big Ten should belong to State this year, although a few contending teams will give them run. This roster will be behind Cassius Winston, who was a big time player for the Spartans last season. The Wildcats will also bring back players, which hasn’t always been the case for the Kentucky as they are a notorious one and done year type school for players. They are returning a solid core and a good recruiting class is coming in. The Wildcats will be back in the mix. I would bank on the Spartans to get to the Final Four.
Duke will lose some big names like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish from this past year, where they disappointed in the tournament. Tre Jones is returning, and of course Duke is going to bring in a strong recruiting class. Virginia is at +200, which is a bit odd with a lot of players off the roster from their championship winning team. Out of this group, I am more likely to avoid betting on Duke and Virginia to get to the Final Four. There are some better values a bit lower that have more intriguing teams.
The Next Batch
Once again we have some familiar faces within this group, as names like Louisville (+625) and Kansas (+225) make their appearance. Both are bringing back a solid returning teams. Under Chris Mack in a somewhat rebuilding season, Louisville exceeded my expectations. They have Lamarr Kimble on a transfer, and have a top 15 recruiting class coming in as well. Kansas is ready for a bounce back year and will have Dotson and Azuibuike coming back. The Jayhawks had somewhat of a lackluster recruiting class compared to what they usually do, but they will have a lot of solid return players.
Memphis at +325 is a strong starting point for Penny Hardaway, who has this team on the rise. The overall culture could be strong for the Tigers moving forward. They have a talented recruiting class and some one-and-done players. This is a big year for a team went 22-14. Gonzaga (+375) is a team that continues to produce in a weaker conference, but tends to struggle to really push against the nation’s elite in the tournament. Florida is one of my favorite teams heading into this season (+425). The sportsbook is pretty high on them as well, but +425 is a solid value for a team that has a top ten recruiting class and a lot of strong players coming back. I would expect the Gators to push in the SEC, which will have Kentucky as main front-runners.
Top Long Shots
Historically, Arizona has not been a long shot, but coming off a troubling year with legal issues, and a lackluster roster, Arizona brings back a top five recruiting class. Nico Mannion, Josh Green, and Zeke Nnanji will be names to watch. I expect the Wildcats to get back to the tournament, and at +1200 they are worth of shot if they can produce a strong season in a somewhat average Pac 12 conference. The seed will be important for the Wildcats where they can get a couple gimme games early on. VCU at +3000 is solid as well. This is a team went 25-8 last season, and are a strong team to be A-10 champs come the end of the season. Getting Tre Clarke and Jarren McAlister is going to be a plus to this roster. They have always had a stable organization making the occasional deep tournament run. This could be another run for this quad.
Cincinnati (+1900) comes in as a deeper pick. John Brannen steps into a pretty good situation, and they took home. This should be another good season for the Bearcats, where they always push into the middle of the tournament rounds, but fail to get any further. Given the roster returning, I would not be surprised to see the Bearcats push into the tournament.
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