With the Nov. 6 tip-off to the college basketball season rapidly approaching, time is running out for hoops fans to place preseason futures bets on programs that could go all the way this year. While futures wagers aren't part of most serious gamblers' portfolios—there's too much juice baked into the odds to provide real value—they can be fun recreational plays. Plus, if your bet cashes in, the bragging rights are far greater than merely picking the winner correctly in your March Madness bracket.
With odds from William Hill, here are four futures bets that could pay off big time in early April.
Odds to win the 2019 college basketball championship
North Carolina +1200
Michigan State +2500
West Virginia +4000
Texas Tech +5000
Wichita State +5000
Arizona State +8000
Florida State +8000
Kansas State +8000
Miami (FL) +8000
NC State +8000
Ohio State +8000
Texas A&M +8000
Virginia Tech +8000
2017-18 results: 29-8, lost in Elite Eight
Even as the team with the best odds on the board, Duke still presents interesting value thanks to the insane influx of talent that Mike Krzyzewski has coming in this year. In wings R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, the Blue Devils landed the three highest-rated players in the country. Barrett is a preternaturally gifted and a highly skilled scorer. Williamson is—no exaggeration—one of the most freakish athletes in the history of the sport, and Reddish does everything well on the court. The final puzzle piece is freshman Tre Jones, the type of true point guard that can make this talent mesh together. This year's squad has the potential to rank among Coach K's very best teams.
IN THE MIX
2017-18 results: 32-5, lost in Sweet 16
While Gonzaga is one of college basketball's best mid-major teams year in and year out, every few seasons the Bulldogs hit a nexus of talent and experience that makes them a legit national title contender. This figures to be one of those seasons in Spokane. The frontcourt duo of Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie should give opponents fits. Hachimura is a top-tier interior scorer and Tillie is a lights-out shooter—he hit 48% from deep last season. Both are preseason All-WCC selections, as are guards Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell. Those two combined to average 25 points per game last season and are each marksmen themselves at 39.3% and 37.0% from three, respectively. In addition, Perkins is the type of veteran point guard that has been at the forefront of so many national title winners over the years. Mark Few's team also gets a promising reinforcement in San Jose State transfer Brandon Clarke, a double-double machine who set the SJSU single-season record for blocks in 2016-17.
2017-18 results: 31-3, lost in Round of 64
Virginia's oft-maligned style of play does leave it vulnerable to big upsets as last year's historic blowout loss to UMBC in the first round of the tournament attests. But it's clear that coach Tony Bennett's pack line defense also allows the Cavaliers to not only hang with the nation's best teams, but also dismantle them. Virginia went 17-1 in the ACC last year, finishing four games ahead of any other team in the country's toughest league and winning the conference tournament. This year, Bennett brings back a squad with an enormous chip on its shoulder and, more importantly, many of its best players. ACC defensive player of the year Isaiah Wilkins and stopper Devon Hall are notable departures, but versatile wing De'Andre Hunter, the reigning conference Sixth Man of the Year, is ready for his turn in the starting lineup as a sophomore. Junior guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy form one of the nation's most experienced backcourts having played key roles each of the last two seasons. Jack Salt is a bruiser at center, and exemplifies the toughness that should have this team in contention for a top tournament seed once again.
Kansas State +8000
2017-18 results: 25-12, lost in Elite Eight
Bruce Weber seems to always have a surplus of grit on his Kansas State teams, but this year he also returns a ton of talent to the Little Apple from a team that took down Kentucky en route to reaching the Elite Eight last season. Dean Wade and Barry Brown are both preseason All-Big 12 selections. Wads is also only the second Wildcat to be named preseason conference Player of the Year. He's a deft scorer from anywhere on the floor, including emphatically at the basket. Brown can score in bunches—it was his drive to the basket in crunch time that lifted K-State over Kentucky. Brown also leads his teammates with a relentless, fiery energy on the floor. Ranked 12th in the preseason Pomeroy Ratings, the Wildcats are a bargain buy at 80-1.