College Basketball Championship Preview

We’re just a week away from what is sure to be another breathtaking college basketball season. Led by Freshman phenoms R.J Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish, the Duke Blue Devils have emerged as the early favourites. That said, there is still plenty of value to be had elsewhere. Teams such as Kansas, Kentucky, Gonzaga and North Carolina have all rebuilt their rosters and will be hungry for success. This preview will analyse each of the top 5 contenders for the title and provide our 3 best bets on the board.

Duke Blue Devils ($6) 

At $6, the Blue Devils are the favourite for the 2018/19 Championship. After a strong 29-8 season last year, Duke has only gotten stronger with their most recent recruiting class. Replacing lottery picks Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter was never going to be an easy task, but Duke has done an excellent job of doing so. In R.J Barrett, Cameron Reddish and Zion Williamson, they have 3 outstanding young players who project as lottery picks in the upcoming draft. I expect a fast paced and exciting brand of basketball from the Blue Devils this season, as they out-talent most of their competition with ease. Led by the astute leadership of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke are sure to be well-prepared for a strong campaign this year.

Kansas Jayhawks ($9) 

The Jayhawks rebound off a very strong 31-8 campaign with most of their roster intact. After winning the Big 12 and making the Final Four, their only major departure was swingman Svi Myhailiuk, who is now with the LA Lakers.  Led by wing players Quentin Grimes and Lagerald Vick, I expect Kansas to have a strong matchup advantage over most of their opponents this season. The return of big men Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike compliments this nicely with a strong inside force. With another year under the expert guidance of Bill Self, the Jayhawks will no doubt be amongst the chief competitors yet again.  

Kentucky Wildcats ($10) 

After winning the SEC Tournament last season, the Wildcats were only able to reach the Sweet Sixteen of the big NCAA tournament. They lost a ton of talent this past off-season, with Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander both lottery picks in the 2018 NBA draft. Nevertheless, the Wildcats still have a ton of talent entering the 2018/19 campaign. Power Forward PJ Washington is projected by many to be a first round pick this year and is complimented nicely by Small Forward Keldon Johnson. If the Wildcats young backcourt can gel, I expect the leadership of Coach John Calipari to have them right in the mix. 

Gonzaga Bulldogs ($12) 

Gonzaga will be looking to build off a strong 2017/18 campaign which saw them go an impressive 32-5. With big man Jonathan Williams being the only notable departure, the Bulldogs have most of their roster intact for a championship run here. They certainly have the talent for it as well. Forward Rui Hachimura is thought to be one of the best athletes in the upcoming draft class and is already projected as a lottery pick. Similarly, Shooting Guard Zach Norvell has a very well-rounded game and is likely to be considered a 1st round pick in the 2019 draft. In what will be Coach Mark Few’s 20th season, the Bulldogs represent decent value at $12. 

North Carolina Tar Heels ($14) 

The Tar Heels will be looking to bounce back after a relatively poor season that saw them achieve a conference record of only 11-7. In Freshman Small Forward Nassir Little, they look to have found a man capable of bringing them back to the promised land. With a 7’1 wingspan and 8’9 standing reach, Little is an athletic phenom that is likely to be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. Point Guard Seventh Woods and Power Forward Luke Maye are experienced stars that will help round out the starting five nicely. With Coach Roy Williams still at the helm, this is a team that will likely play an effective style that is easy on the eye. 

Best Bets 
Best Bet: Duke $6 

At a tasty $6, it’s hard to look past the Blue Devils as the best bet on the board here. In RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson, they have two incredibly talented players who are projected to go #1 and #2 in the upcoming draft. Cameron Reddish is another superbly talented freshman who is also likely to be selected in the top 10. In Mike Krzyzewski, Duke also have a very capable coach who can get the best out of these young stars. Whilst they’ll miss both Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter, I think $6 is excellent value for the Blue Devils here.  

Dark Horse: Kentucky $10 

Betting on John Calipari at 10/1 is always a smart move. The Wildcats have a deep and versatile roster, with top-end talent in PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson that will allow them to compete against other top sides. It can be tough to manage the consistent roster turnover that Kentucky go through, but Coach Cal has instilled a culture centred around teamwork and camaraderie. These prices suggest that the title race is wide open this season, and Kentucky are my next best bet after Duke. 

Value Bet: Gonzaga $12 

Whilst Duke’s stars will rightly get all of the headlines, I think this Gonzaga roster has a very strong collection of talent. In Forward Rui Hachimura and Shooting Guard Zach Norvell, the Bulldogs have two bona fide first-round picks that I believe can lead them to the promised land. With an excellent Head Coach in Mark Few, they’re also likely to have a strategic advantage almost every night. Combine this with a talented and versatile roster and there’s no reason why Gonzaga can’t win it all in 2019.