It’s that time. The leaves are changing colors. There is a crisp chill in the air. if you listen closely, you can almost hear the sweet sound of sneakers squeaking on a nearby hardwood.

That’s right. College basketball is officially back!

We’re past the “secret scrimmages” that aren’t so secret and the old-timers complaining about the transfer portal. Instead, it’s now time to focus on actual basketball – and, overreacting on social media, laughing at memes of sweaty coaches on the sidelines, and staying up until 1 AM to listen to the philosophical musings of Bill Walton. You know, the good stuff.

With the season’s tip-off just days away, it’s a perfect time to take a quick look at the top contenders, according to Las Vegas gambling odds provided by BetMGM.

The Favorites:

Here are the odds for the teams expected to be standing at the end of the season:

Gonzaga +600

Michigan +1200

UCLA +1200

Villanova +1200

Duke +1400

Purdue +1400

Kansas +1400

Texas +1400

Kentucky +1600

Memphis +1800

While Gonzaga has a history of falling short in the NCAA Tournament, their talent alone makes them a favorite coming into the season. The Bulldogs have one of the most productive returning players in the nation with Drew Timme and one of the top recruits in Chet Holmgren. On top of that, Gonzaga has experience in the backcourt with Andrew Nembhard who should serve as a calming force. Expect the Bulldogs to glide through the regular season as always. The real test will be whether they can navigate March Madness well enough to reach the top of the mountain.

However, there are several other highly touted teams entering the season. Michigan returns Hunter Dickinson and will surely be battle tested in one of the toughest conferences in the country in the Big Ten. UCLA will feature star Johnny Juzang, fan favorite Jaime Jaquez Jr, and notable transfer Myles Johnson. The Bruins, alternatively, should have an easier time in conference but will certainly be buoyed by last season’s post-season success. Reliable as always, Villanova is following the same formula that has led to a decade of success by focusing highlighting experienced upperclassmen in the efficient Wildcat system.

Purdue, Kansas, and Texas are arguably the most talented teams in the country. But, this can be a blessing and a curse. Each of these teams will have to find a way to integrate several talented players into a cohesive unit. Texas, for example, has landed six of the top 31 best available transfers, including Utah’s Timmy Allen and Minnesota’s Marcus Carr. Each of these players is used to being a major contributor on their previous team. So, the question becomes – now that Texas has 10 quality rotation pieces, who will be willing to sacrifice and will they be able to gel well enough to compete for a title? The Boilermakers and Jayhawks are facing similar issues.

Finally, Duke, Kentucky, and Memphis are all stacked with young talent and their future will largely be dependent on how quickly they adapt to the college game. Each team will also likely have a lottery pick in Paolo Banchero, TyTy Washington, and Jalen Duren.

Sleepers:

Here are a few teams that could prove to be decent longshots:

Ohio State +2000

Illinois +2000

FSU +2500

North Carolina +3000

Michigan State +3500

Maryland +4000

Arizona +5000

UConn +5000

Oklahoma +6600

Indiana +6600

Of this group, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Indiana seem most likely to surprise. UNC, Oklahoma, and IU have reenergized programs with new coaches and a great mix of experience and youth. Furthermore, North Carolina’s Caleb Love and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis are both potential player of the year candidates. Finally, Illinois has been building momentum over the last few years and will be motivated to make up for last season’s disappointing tournament performance.


Featured Photo: IU Athletics

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