Which teams are now the best value to win it all in 2013-14?
Andrew Wiggins' decision to play for Kansas not only sent Lawrence into celebrations while three other campuses grumbled, it also was the last major piece of the puzzle in terms of looking ahead to 2013-14. That means it's also time for the linesmakers to adjust and republish their futures odds for next season's national champion.
Kansas' odds obviously dropped considerably after the announcement, with the Jayhawks now listed anywhere between 10-1 and 15-1 to win it all. I was more intrigued by a handful of other cases, though. For entertainment purposes only, of course, here are a few notable possibilities (based on odds provided by VegasInsider.com)
You get that price on the defending national champs, after they got Russ Smith back to go with an absurdly loaded backcourt? Gorgui Dieng is a loss inside, but his absence will just provide more minutes for Montrezl Harrell. Plus, the Cardinals will be spending this upcoming season in the decidedly less intense American Athletic Conference, which they should win easily. UConn, Cincy and Memphis are decent teams, but they shouldn't touch the Cardinals over a full league slate. That means the Cards should be well positioned for a 1-seed, and if that's the case, they should have a better chance than eight percent or so to win the title, even with this season looking particularly deep with championship options.
Losing Trey Burke is a huge blow, but the Wolverines, after getting Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III back for another season, have plenty of firepower left. And they still have John Beilein on the sidelines. And Spike Albrecht needs to impress Kate Upton. The Wolverines should be one of the prime competitors in the Big Ten this season, so that price seems reasonable on a team that should have a solid NCAA seed and the experience of this past season's title-game run.
C.J. Fair returned for his senior season, the Orange have a five-star point guard prospect coming in to replace Michael Carter-Williams, and they still have the length and probably more quality depth with the incomers as last season's Final Four team. If guys like Trevor Cooney can rise to former expectations and provide some semblance of shooting, this team should do well in its debut ACC season and be well positioned for a March run.
To be clear, I don't think Wisconsin will win the national title. So why put them here as a possible choice? Because they are getting Sam Dekker back to help run the show, they have a lot of returning talent from a team that overachieved last season, they have a favorable Big Ten schedule where they avoid road games at Michigan State and Ohio State, and there is a subregional in Milwaukee (hosted by Marquette) where the Badgers can play their first two games. If they get to the Sweet 16, you can start to hedge against them, as needed.
Similar hedging principles apply here as with Wisconsin. The Zags lost Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk and didn't land either Josh Davis or Mike Moser as a transfer, so their frontcourt -- a massive strength last season -- won't be as imposing. That said, a Sam Dower-Przemek Karnowski combo has the potential to be very solid, and the backcourt with David Stockton, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. returns intact. The Zags should win the WCC again ahead of BYU, and there is a Spokane regional (hosted by Washington State) where Gonzaga has every chance to wind up for the first weekend, given how the current committee appears to feel about keeping teams close to home.
Wichita State (70-1)
You can take a roll with the team that nearly took out Louisville in the Final Four and returns multiple starters and a lot of good depth. Fred Van Vleet should be able to slot in for Malcolm Armstead at the point, and guys like Evan Wessel (back from injury) and Tekele Cotton will help fill the scoring void left by Carl Hall. They still have Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker, and the league doesn't have Creighton in it anymore, so the Shockers should be the preseason favorite in the Valley.
Losing Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler (among others) hurts, but the Ducks have a super-athletic core of point guards Dominic Artis and Jonathan Loyd, wing Damyean Dotson and UNLV transfer forward Mike Moser to roll with. They also bring in athletic freshman Jordan Bell, who actually broke a rim in a game this past season. Seriously.
Dana Altman surprised many in the Pac-12 last season and then got the Ducks into the Sweet 16 from an undeserved 12-seed. Arizona is the likely preseason pick in the league, but after that, is anyone in better shape than the Ducks?