An Early Look Dark Horse Candidates For 2020 NCAA Championship

An Early Look Dark Horse Candidates For 2020 NCAA Championship

2020 NCAA Futures

The NCAA Basketball season is in full swing for 2019/2020. We are into conference play now for the season, so it’s time to start paying attention to college basketball this year if you haven’t done so already. 

Every year, we hear about a few prospects who change the landscape of college basketball and drive the hype coming into the NCAA Tournament and later, the NBA Draft. This season is a down year in top-end talent as well as a down year in the potential tournament field, due to a lack of top-level teams.

Flash back to 2019 and it was a very entertaining season in college basketball. The Zion hype was in full swing. Ja Morant’s games at Murray State were on ESPN. Duke had three top 10 draft picks on their team. Texas Tech gave us one of the best runs in recent memory, winning exciting, close games throughout. Auburn was an exciting team who shot their way into the Final Four and nearly took out UVA in the Final Four. Overall, it was an exciting tournament featuring strong play, good shooting, and exciting games. This season definitely isn’t close to being on that level.

NCAA Championship Longshots 

Futures bets in college basketball are great, as long as you hit with a team with longshot odds. Last season, I picked Florida State early in the season at +25,000. It was insane to me at the time, since Florida State was a long, defensive team who had just beaten Florida. By the time the tourney rolled around, FSU was dominant defensively and made it all the way to the Elite Eight. The great part about that was, I was able to hedge in that round and make some of the money I could’ve potentially earned had they won it all.

For the first time in recent memory, there’s no clear frontrunner this year. In fact, there’s a case to be made that you could make an argument that any one of the current top five teams may not even be #1 seeds by the time the tournament rolls around.

It’s also more possible this season, than ever, we could say the odds of the field may be better than the odds for the current top 5 to win the title. Hopefully, we can find this season’s Florida State and all make ourselves a nice little bit of money on the side.

Today, I’ll go over ten intriguing teams to consider for a futures bet to win the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State +20,000

Iowa State is my “2019 FSU” pick of 2020. They’re off to a rough start (8-7) but have wins over 19th ranked Seton Hall and 11-4 Oklahoma. They feature a likely lottery pick at guard in Tyrese Haliburton, a lengthy Point Guard with a 7-foot wingspan, who’s a solid defender, good passer, and capable three-point shooter.

Iowa State needs to go on a bit of a run plus have a strong finish in their conference tournament, but it’s a team who has a realistic shot if they can get their foot in the door, given the talent on the roster. 

Clemson +20,000

Clemson is sort of in the same boat as Iowa State, but with bigger wins on their resume. Clemson is on a three-game winning streak, and though the win over North Carolina isn’t impressive, given UNC’s down season, the most recent win over Duke was one to headline their resume come tournament time.

Clemson is just 9-7, so they’ll also need to go on a streak in conference and likely do some damage in their conference tournament, but the odds for them are especially nice if they can get in. Aamir Simms has been a key cog to the Tigers winning streak of late. The question going forward will be, who else can step up and carry this team on offense into a potential tournament run?

Georgia +15,000

Georgia probably has the highest representation of talent for a team with such low odds. Of the three top prospects in the upcoming draft, only one is currently playing college basketball and that’s Georgia’s Anthony Edwards.

Edwards profiles as an elite scorer, but he’s been very inconsistent so far this season. He’s also been inefficient and has, at times, disappeared on the court. To me, that’s a big red flag for a guy considered a top three talent. Forward, Rayshaun Hammonds, is also a draft prospect, though he’s considered more of a late second round talent.

The duo of Hammonds and Edwards has yet to reveal it’s ceiling so far this season, but the 10-5 Bulldogs have a great coaching staff with plenty of tournament experience, and you have to like the idea this team will continue to improve as the season goes on, especially considering their youth.

The Bulldogs are my long shot but relatively safe bet to make the tournament. Though the team has struggled at times on offense and on the boards, if they can get it together, I like them as a dark horse to win it all.

#16 Wichita State +6,000

Wichita State has wins over #22 Memphis, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, and South Carolina (23 point victory). Their only loss this season is against West Virginia.

Though the team lacks NBA talent, they are a dangerous team who has had moderate success in the tournament in the past. Now a member of the American Conference, Wichita State will have a relatively smooth path back to the tournament as they’ll face Memphis at least one more time and should be able to at least get a decent at-large bid to the tournament if they don’t win the AAC Tournament.

They currently project as a 6 seed in the tournament, so the sky is the limit for this well coached team.

#13 Dayton +3,300

Dayton isn’t the Mid-Major we recall from years ago. The Flyers have made some impressive runs in the tournament in recent years. Most notably, the 2014 team made the Elite Eight. What’s different about this year’s team has been the fact they have a potential lottery pick in Power Forward, Obi Toppin.

Toppin is a 6’9 forward with a great outside shot, who can make plays in the post. He’s the type of guy a team can lean on in the tournament as his ability to shoot the three opens up lanes for his teammates. Dayton’s only losses this season are to two ranked teams (Kansas & Colorado), so they’ve been handling their business when they need to.

They’re the current front-runners in the Atlantic 10 and if they can keep up their solid play, they could find themselves sitting in a very favorable seeding position when the tournament rolls around. 

Arizona +3,000

The Arizona Wildcats are in a weird spot for a team with this much talent. Like Georgia, the Wildcats have multiple NBA prospects on their team, but they’re struggling to find their footing, as they’ve slipped to 11-5 in their conference, following a second half tsunami of scoring from Oregon State.

The team has three NBA Draft prospects (Nnaji, Green, Mannion), the most notable being Nico Mannion, a Point Guard. Mannion is a potential lottery pick with good athleticism and play-making ability. He’s averaging 14 points and 6 assists this season but has been inefficient with his shooting.

The impact has reflected on the team as they’ve had some very impressive games and some very big letdowns along the way. Like Georgia, this team should be able to get an at-large bid into the tournament, but they’ll need to have a strong showing in conference play if they want to have any shot in the tournament. They are young and very talented and a good value at these odds in my opinion.

#22 Memphis +3,000

Like Arizona and Georgia, Memphis is loaded with talent. Even after the departure of potential #1 overall draft pick, James Wiseman, this Tigers team still has three or four NBA prospects on their roster. Most notably, Precious Achiuwa, a 6’9 Forward with elite athleticism. In addition to Achiuwa,  Memphis has Boogie Ellis, DJ Jeffries, and Lester Quinones. It’s true this team isn’t playing especially well so far this season and much of the blame can be attributed to Penny Hardaway, who is still very new to coaching at this level.

Though the team may be one of the most talented in the nation, they’ve yet to show it in a meaningful game this season. The 14-point comeback victory against the USF Bulls was a nice sign going forward, but can this team figure it out by the time the tournament rolls around?

The Tigers are currently 14-2, so a tournament bid is very likely at this point, but are they worth it considering the opposition they’ll face down the stretch? They certainly have the most upside of any team on this list, but only time will tell. 

#5 Butler Bulldogs +2,000

The Butler Bulldogs have a rich history recently in the Tournament. Following consecutive Runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011, the Bulldogs again made the Sweet Sixteen in 2017. This season, the Bulldogs have lost just one game (Baylor) and feature a roster of guys you likely won’t see much of in the NBA.

Though Butler is void of future NBA players, the Bulldogs are a tenacious defensive team who suffocate opponents much like the Virginia Cavaliers teams of the past. They’re currently ranked #5 and don’t stand out as a potent team worthy of consideration from fans of the blue blood programs, but they may be worthy of our consideration at such long odds. 

#15 Michigan State +1,500

I like Michigan State here because of the potential and the Senior leadership. Tom Izzo is as solid as any coach out there and he’s got a solid leader among his players in Cassius Winston.

Winston is one of three potential NBA players on this team (Tillman & Teske are the other two). The Spartans are 13-4 on the season and are coming off an embarrassing loss to Purdue over the weekend. Regardless, they’ve had some solid wins against good teams this season and their only other losses were against ranked opponents, so there’s not much of a reason to be too concerned.

I expect this team will get much better down the stretch and if there’s one thing that’s proven to be a key to having success in the tournament, it’s senior leadership at the Point Guard position and the Spartans have just that. 

#2 Baylor +1,500

The Baylor Bears may be the team we look back on in a few months and say to ourselves, how did we not realize this team was elite earlier? The Baylor Bears have beaten #5 Butler, #14 Villanova, Arizona, #23 Texas Tech, and #6 Kansas. Their only loss was the second game of the season, against Washington. Since that early loss, Baylor has looked impressive on both sides of the ball and looks to be the most complete team in the country.

Freddie Gillespie and Jared Butler are both potential future NBA players and the team is relatively balanced on both sides of the ball. Baylor isn’t the sexy, typical blue blood program bettors gravitate towards, which makes them a solid candidate as a dark horse for the title. They currently have the 5th best odds in a three-way tie to win the title.

With the toughest part of their Big 12 schedule in the rear view mirror, the Bears could end the regular season as a top three favorite to win the title, meaning getting them now at +1,500 could be a smart call.