2020-21 Season

Assessing value in the college basketball futures market

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I went through some of the current futures listings and picked out some spots that I found intriguing.

NCAA Tournament

My picks:

  • Villanova +1100: Villanova has an elite coach with NCAA Tournament pedigree and is ranked 11th on KenPom, it feels like we are still getting some value here.
  • Florida State +2000: Hamilton has been to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in his last two trips to the NCAA Tournament and has been playing extremely well over the last month or so.
  • Alabama +2500: Alabama runs a Morey-ball style offense of threes and layups and is ranked in the top 10 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. At 25/1, they seem to be worth a roll of the dice.
  • Oregon +6000: Oregon is only ranked 42nd on KenPom, but its season has been plagued by injuries, COVID absences and inconsistency. Dana Altman runs an offense and defense that is tough to prepare for and there’s a lot of talent on the roster.

Final Four

With two prohibitive favorites and then a lot of parity, it is a bit easier to find an edge on teams making the Final Four. Maybe they won’t beat Baylor, Michigan, and Gonzaga, but they are good enough to get hot en route to the final weekend of the season.

Here’s an assortment of “Make the Final Four” futures — with Michigan listed at -150 — and a few picks who appear to be good value.

My picks:

  • Creighton +550: Greg McDermott’s teams are always elite on offense but this year’s group seems to be figuring it out on defense. The Bluejays are ranked just 49th in adjusted defensive efficiency but 2nd in the Big East in points per possession allowed per game.
  • Loyola +1150: A top-10 KenPom team at 23/2 odds to make the Final Four feels like a situation worth investigating.
  • Oregon +1400: Sticking to the same logic above, I think this team is a tough prep, especially on a short turnaround, and is undervalued because of an odd regular season.

Big Ten Tournament

Michigan is a +225 favorite to win the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Here’s the full listing of futures for the conference tournament followed by some of my favorite picks.

Conference tournament winners have to balance the sweet spot of both having enough to play for and being talented to win 3+ games in as many days. My picks:

  • Illinois +450: Illinois is that team that everyone knows is good but can’t seem to play great basketball consistently. Sometimes a new venue and multiple games in multiple days are exactly what a program like that needs to get back on track.
  • Michigan State +5000: I think you are hoping for the Spartans to sneak into a Thursday seed and then get hot with their NCAA Tournament streak on the line. Is it likely? No, but I’m not betting on Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, Northwestern or Nebraska to make a similar run.
  • Penn State +20000: This one is just too low, Penn State is one of the best bad teams in the country and randomly plugging results into a Big Ten Tournament bracket generator gives me a Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue draw for the Nittany Lions to make the semifinals. That’s far from an insurmountable stretch.

Can the Big Ten win one?

The Big Ten hasn’t won the NCAA Tournament since 2000 but many are pointing toward this being the year that the conference breaks the drought. The Big 12 is the most likely conference to win the NCAA Tournament (+110) but the Big Ten isn’t far behind at +150.

I think the value plays her are probably the ACC (+800) and the SEC (+900) but these odds definitely prove how close the Big Ten is to ending its title drought after two decades.

Notable Replies

  1. jmarks86

    Love the picks, Dylan. Couldn’t agree more on Dana Altman’s outfit, completely undervalued.

    A few other long shots that appear to have value to me are

    Arkansas (#16 on KP, getting hot at the right time, very difficult team to prep for on short rest, senior guard play, and a bunch of hungry transfers.

    Rutgers (#26 on KP, battle tested in the nations best league, extremely athletic difficult matchups, don’t want to play them if your fatigued, senior guard play, clear talent, thirst for postseason success)

    I know you don’t mention the Bonnie’s out of the A10 on the list but they’re another team that combines experience, lights out 3 point shooting, excellent on the offensive glass, grind it out style tempo that I believe can be successful in March as well.

  2. Voltron_Blue

    Am I understanding this correctly that, per these odds, we have a better than 50% probability to make the Final Four, and double the probability of making the Final Four than winning the BTT?

    I get the latter on a relative basis, just given that the semis and finals of the BTT are likely to have better teams per KenPom than Michigan’s regional given the tournament rules around pairing conference teams in the same bracket, not to mention the motivation issue Dylan referenced, but still kind of crazy to think about.

  3. Maize_achusetts

    I’ve only made one sports bet in my life - a buddy of mine was having his 50th birthday in Vegas, and I bet on Michigan to beat Iowa and the over in the game last year when Luka put up 44 points but Michigan won (won both bets).

    Sports betting isn’t yet legal in Massachusetts, but the irony is that I’m friends with the Draft Kings founder and CEO, who also resides here (we play in a weekly poker game - I’m the old guy, and he was until recently, the young guy). The game’s been going on for more than 20 years.

    Fun to see this partnership…gonna have to read up on everyone’s comments to learn the ins and outs of this stuff!

  4. Moebuckets

    Really happy with the +4000 Michigan I got in January when barstool sportsbook did a boost . 25 to win 1000!

  5. laddergoat

    For what it’s worth some of the betting sites are offering a bet where you can bet on either Baylor or Gonzaga to win or take the rest of the field. Last I saw the odds were right around 50/50.

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