College Basketball Futures: Best Bets for NCAAB Champion (2022)

Feb 14, 2022 - 3:21 PM

With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror and the NFL season concluded, college basketball can finally take center stage as we are just two weeks removed from the start of conference tournaments. With March approaching, “bubble talk” has heated up, and many bracketologists are beginning to reveal their projected brackets. Of course, a lot can change between now and the start of the NCAA tournament, and many bettors will always be hesitant to back a team to win the championship without seeing what their path to a Final Four and beyond will look like. However, we believe there is value in placing such wagers early, as we will get better odds on many of these teams by getting involved now.

Here is a look at the best bets to win the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

We separated our college basketball championship odds into two different tiers, as the top eight teams in the odds list all have +1500 odds or better to win the championship.

Why We Are Fading Gonzaga

Gonzaga is a worthy favorite at this point in the season, as they are the most likely team in this list to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and thus have what should be the easiest path to the Final Four. Gonzaga’s metrics are eye-popping, as they rank No. 1 in both effective field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage defense, per KenPom. In addition, their West Coast Conference competition is arguably the best it has been in several years, as BYU and Saint Mary’s are once again tournament-worthy teams, while teams like San Francisco and Santa Clara have also proven formidable.

The problem with backing Gonzaga is two-fold. First, are their +450 odds too short for a team that has not been able to get over the hump and win their first championship in school history? And the question marks surrounding Gonzaga this year are the same questions that seemingly always haunt them entering the tournament. Has it been too long since their last challenging game that they are not battle-tested enough entering March? The Bulldogs own impressive wins against Texas, UCLA, and Texas Tech, but none of those wins came after December 18th. Instead, they are amid a 12-game stretch where their closest margin of victory has been by 16 points.

There will be a lot less pressure on Gonzaga entering the tournament this year, as they will not have the weight of being undefeated hanging on them. However, +450 odds are too short for a team that has shown its vulnerability against Duke and Alabama, as they allowed 87.5 PPG in those two losses.

BEST BET OF THE TOP TIER: Kentucky (+1000)

Every team in this bunch has flaws. Arizona’s guard play is questionable, as is Purdue’s defense, Duke’s perimeter shooting, Auburn’s half-court execution, and Kansas’ and Baylor’s depth. And while Kentucky has issues of their own from an injury standpoint, when fully healthy, they have looked like a team with the highest ceiling in the country.

It may be wiser to wait before backing Kentucky, as TyTy Washington’s long-term prognosis is still unclear. Washington left in the second half of their last win against Florida, and head coach John Calipari has hinted that his star guard may miss a week or two.

This bet is solely contingent on Washington having enough time to get healthy and see some action before the SEC Tournament begins. And if the Wildcats struggle against Tennessee, Alabama, and LSU in Washington’s potential absence in the next three games, it is likely one could get better value on Kentucky than the +1000 odds they currently have.

But Calipari’s team looks like a team peaking at the right moment. The SEC has prepared them for the grind of the NCAA tournament. They have a head coach that knows how to win on the big stage, the Wooden Award favorite in Oscar Tshiebwe, and are one of three teams in this list that ranks in the top 12 in the country in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Unfortunately, two of Kentucky’s losses (at LSU, at Auburn) were marred by in-game injuries. Sahvir Wheeler was limited to four minutes in the loss to LSU, and Washington left with an injury nine minutes into the game against Auburn. However, provided the Wildcats are healthy entering March, they have as good a chance as any to cut down the nets.


Illinois earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament last year. And while they do not project to have anywhere close to that this year, the reality is that their current 18-6 record is precisely the same as it was through 24 games last year. In 2021, the Fighting Illini closed the regular season with impressive road wins over Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State, which propelled them to the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship. Entering today, the Illini are leading a stout Big Ten Conference and have an opportunity to gain a lot of momentum heading into postseason play with road games against Michigan State and Michigan.

The one glaring difference between last year’s team and this year is the absence of AP First-Team All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu. However, Kofi Cockburn is a force that not many teams can defend and is a unique weapon to have on the court as long as he stays out of foul trouble.

Illinois is another team that has battled injuries but is getting healthy at the right time. Sophomore guard Andre Curbelo missed 14 games earlier this season and has scored in double figures in two of six games since returning from injury. If he can start playing like the player who averaged more than nine points per game and was second on the team in assists in limited minutes last year, Illinois’ can reach a ceiling they have not reached yet. That is an intriguing way to look at Illinois, which already leads one of the best conferences in the country.

OTHER TEAMS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Duke (+1200), Kansas (+1500), Texas (+4500)

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

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