Believe it or not, but the college basketball season officially kicks off Monday with the opening games of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament.
It seems like only yesterday Duke and Butler battled for the national title, but books have had an entire summer to set and juggle the odds for this year’s NCAA Tournament winner.
Here’s a look at the oddsmakers’ favorites to earn their “One Shining Moment” this season:Duke Blue Devils (+500)
There’s a lot to like about the Blue Devils. The defending champs bring back the bigger pieces of the puzzle in forward Kyle Singler, guard Nolan Smith and the 6-foot-10 Plumlee boys up front. Duke also adds freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and transfer Seth Curry, brother of former Davidson star Stephen Curry.
There are some questions on defense, like finding a go-to stopper to replace Lance Thomas, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski has plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles before March.Kentucky Wildcats (+800)
Any other program would be balled up in the fetal position after losing guys like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton to the pros. But not Kentucky and especially not head coach John Calipari.
Coach Cal reels in another top-ranked recruiting class, highlighted by freshman studs Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. Those new faces join a handful of returnees who had little run behind UK’s stars last season. Guards DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller are the top two talents back from 2009-10.
Bettors should treat the Wildcats much like last year, waiting until this young group finds itself. Kentucky faithful should also cross their fingers that Kanter isn’t held up by the NCAA regarding his sticky situation involving cash from a Turkish professional team.Kansas State Wildcats (+1,000)
Long before baseball teams were told to “Fear the Beard” by the San Francisco Giants bullpen, Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen was making facial hair fearful in the Big 12. The Wildcats talented, and bearded, guard is back in Manhattan for his senior season, bringing his 19.3 points per game with him.
Pullen isn’t the only reason why KSU is among the favorites to win the NCAA. Returnees Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels give the Wildcats great scoring around the basket and fellow forward Wally Judge is hoping to breakout after a quiet freshman campaign. Coach Frank Martin has also brought in first-year tweener Nino Williams and 6-foot-10 JuCo transfer Freddy Aspirilla, who both looked good in exhibition play.Michigan State Spartans (+1,000)
Michigan State was right up there with Duke in the NCAA futures odds, but a series of offseason setbacks have books doubting the Spartans this season.
Michigan State, which will start without standout point guard Kalin Lucas (Achilles), and is also without budding guard Korie Lucious, who was suspended for the first few games due to a reckless driving charge this summer. The Spartans also parted ways with troublesome shooter Chris Allen in the offseason. On top of that, the program was on the edge of its seat while coach Tom Izzo contemplated a move the NBA.
Izzo is back, along with studs Durrell Summers, Draymond Green and Delvon Roe. The Spartans added talented center Adreian Payne and