The dog days of summer have come to an end for many across the college landscape as students are trickling back to campus for fall classes this month, meaning preparation for the 2021-22 college basketball season is already well underway. So with rosters mostly set for the upcoming season, it's time to reassess how best to spend some of your hard-earned cheddar with an updated look at college basketball futures bets to win the 2022 NCAA Tournament..
Sure, there are still months away until the season starts -- 84 days to be exact! -- but now's the time when real value can be extracted by digging deep on rosters and projecting ahead to the season. My best stab at that is below.
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I've separated the teams I like most into tiers in descending order based on current odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Tier 1: The Gonzaga tier
Team: Gonzaga (7-1)
Gonzaga went 30-0 last season before Baylor outclassed the Bulldogs in the national championship game. So I get the apprehension about the Zags entering the season, especially after losing Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi. But there's a very good chance next season it's Gonzaga, which is ranked No. 1 in the CBS Sports early preseason Top 25 And 1 vs. the field. They return mustached mega-star Drew Timme and a reliable backcourt presence in Andrew Nembhard while enrolling the No. 2 recruiting class in the country led by 7-footer Chet Holmgren, a contender to go No. 1 in the 2022 NBA Draft. It's hard to imagine any team in college hoops matching the Zags' talent next season.
Tier 2: The frontrunners
There's quite a contrast between these two teams. UCLA returns four of its top five scorers and adds a potential lottery pick in Peyton Watson to its roster while maintaining stability at the helm with Mick Cronin. Texas on the other hand returns Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones but turns over most of its roster with a transfer-heavy class -- and also brings in a first-year coach in Chris Beard. Both are among the more fascinating teams to watch entering next season as likely frontrunners to win their respective leagues. Between the coaching acumen on both sidelines and the offseason momentum there's reason to buy stock here.
Tier 3: Contenders with value
There's no team in the Big Ten I'm higher on next season than Purdue. Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams are back, for starters. That's a 1-2 punch that might be as good as any in college hoops. But Zach Edey and Sasha Stefanovic are back, too, meaning the team has its top four scorers returning from last season and at 14-1 odds, that's better value than Michigan (12-1).
Alabama at 20-1 is juicy as well. After winning the SEC regular season and SEC Tournament, the Crimson Tide are primed to reload in 2021. Getting back their top two scorers from last season in Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly should help on that front but Nate Oats has also accumulated real depth as well. Five-star point guard J.D. Davison and transfer guard Nimari Burnett factor in as day-one contributors.
Tier 4: Big brands with big value
Duke went 13-11 last season but has upgraded its talent in a meaningful way with the additions of Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels and Theo John. Still, there's some uncertainty here about the Blue Devils -- likely in part because there's uncertainty about a lot of the 2022 draft class because of the pandemic and limited scouting opportunities. But if you're in on Banchero and Griffin being potential top-five guys -- which I very much am -- then I think at 16-1 there's some real value knowing you're gambling on a pair of players with All-American potential backed by a Hall of Fame coach. I try not to put much stock into narratives when considering futures bet, but Mike Krzyzewski entering his last season adds to the many reasons I like Duke. Everyone in that program is going to be pulling in the right direction for one last run to get him a championship and send him out on a high note.
Kansas and Kentucky at 16-1 and 20-1, respectively, are fliers I like quite a bit as well. Neither team is close to the most talented Bill Self or John Calipari has fielded but both are heavy on transfers and experience. In the case of KU, Self has a ton of guards who can score and create. With Kentucky, Calipari has addressed shooting and shot-creation and has talent inside and out to be one of the smartest, oldest teams he's had in Lexington.
Tier 5: My favorite values
Teams: Memphis (30-1), UNC (30-1)
Memphis at 30-1 is one of the true, "Wait, what?" numbers on the board to me. It just landed five-star Jalen Duren, a No. 1 pick candidate for 2022, and is one of the favorites to land five-star Emoni Bates, who just reclassified and could join Duren in a recruiting class that would rank No. 1 in 2021. The Tigers also bring in transfers Earl Timberlake, Chandler Lawson and Tyler Harris. And oh -- by the way -- they return their top two scorers in Landers Nolley and Deandre Williams, too. This team is just laughably loaded. If the Bates decision breaks right, they might have two future top-five picks on their roster. That's something no team outside of Duke could say with any level of confidence.
UNC at that same number is on my list here as well. Hubert Davis being in his first year on the job as coach is likely reason this is longer odds than normal in the preseason for UNC. But this Tar Heels team is nothing if not completely loaded with talent and between Caleb Love, Brady Manek, Armando Bacot and Dawson Garcia, it's a situation Davis might be able to thrive in right away.
Tier 6: Longshot to watch
Look, if you're in Vegas, I'm not opposed to throwing down a Jackson on Auburn and just seeing what happens. Here's the pitch with Auburn:
- Top-tier coach in Bruce Pearl
- Top-tier recruit in five-star enrollee Jabari Smith
- Top-tier transfers in Walker Kessler and K.D. Johnson
- Top-tier NBA prospect in Allen Flanigan
So much talent and so much potential with this team. If it clicks into place -- which Pearl-coached teams often do -- then there's a not-insignificant chance this Tigers team is the best in the SEC.
2021 NCAA Tournament odds
Odds to win the 2022 NCAA Tournament from Caesars Sportsbook