Which Struggling Blueblood Should You Bet On For NCAA Title Run?
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What do UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Indiana, Connecticut and Kansas have in common?
Aside from the fact that these are the seven winningest programs in college basketball history with 42 national championships among them, the teams share another dubious distinction this year – all seven are unranked and fighting to simply make the NCAA Tournament in what’s already been a bizarre 2021 season.
As anyone who has followed college basketball odds this season can see, the bluebloods have struggled. This has happened for a variety of reasons, many of them related to the same challenges all teams are facing amid strict COVID-19 protocols.
Lack of homecourt advantage seems to be one of the biggest factors – Duke is just 6-4 at Cameron Indoor, a huge outlier for a program that has won 91.1% of all home games since 2003. Kentucky has also struggled at Rupp Arena with a 3-5 home record.
Even Michigan State – a beacon of consistency under Tom Izzo boasting the third-longest streak in the nation at 22 consecutive NCAA Tournaments made – is in serious jeopardy of missing out on the dance at 10-7 on the season.
The NCAA Tournament title futures betting board at DraftKings reflects the 2021 shake-up. Filled with new-money favorites like Baylor (+290), Gonzaga (+310), Ohio State (+1300) and Houston (+1400), one has to scroll quite a ways to find traditional powerhouses like North Carolina (+6000), Michigan State (+8000) and Duke (+20000).
That’s not to say the bluebloods are entirely out of the March Madness betting picture. Of the top 14 current favorites, only Villanova (+900) has won a national title over the past 30 years. And this will be a tournament unlike any other, taking place entirely in Indianapolis amid a season which has already seen more than its share of crazy upsets.
In searching for college basketball futures betting value, there’s one blueblood in particular that still has a great chance to turn things around and make a deep run in March.
The Case For UConn
Connecticut is a whopping +5000 over at BetMGM . The Huskies are a flawed team at 8-4 on the season. But you’re not going to find an obvious choice when scrolling down the board for value. And we still see value on this Huskies team.
For starters, Connecticut’s program has been a case study in righting the ship come tournament time. The Huskies cut down the nets in 2011 as a No. 3 seed and again in 2014 as a No. 7 seed – the only two teams over the past 13 seasons to win it as a No. 3 seed or higher.
As for this season, the Huskies have had more than their share of games postponed. They had a 17-day layoff in December and three Big East games postponed in January. They beat Butler on Jan. 26 and didn’t play again until Feb. 6, an 80-73 loss to Seton Hall.
It’s still early in Connecticut’s season as far as game experience goes. And this roster is about to get a huge boost that could seriously change the season trajectory in the coming weeks.
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James Bouknight Returns
Huskies guard James Bouknight was a preseason Big East Player of the Year contender and lived up to the billing in the early going.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore averaged 20.3 points and 5.3 rebounds when healthy early this season. An elbow injury suffered in a January 5 win at Marquette required surgery, but Bouknight’s recovery went well and he’s expected to return this week.
Connecticut looked like a different team with Bouknight in the lineup. He played the first six games and led the Huskies to a 5-1 start. He nearly willed the squad to a win over No. 19 Creighton, scoring 40 points in a 76-74 overtime loss.
The Huskies have really struggled without him in recent weeks. They’ve lost three of their last four games, but they’re hanging tough even when outmatched on the offensive end. None of the three losses (to St. John’s, Creighton and Seton Hall) were by more than eight points. Now Bouknight is back and the Huskies will be a far more dangerous team entering March.
Most bracketologists currently have Connecticut as a 10- or 11-seed for the dance. We expect that to improve in the coming weeks. The NCAA Tournament is also star-driven event, and Bouknight is exactly the type of player who can put a team on his back and carry them through the first two weekends.
Connecticut is also +650 to make the Final Four at DraftKings in addition to its robust title odds. We think there’s value on both, as the Huskies are now the blueblood program most likely to turn it around midseason and live up to the name on the front of the jersey by season’s end.
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