Best CBB futures bets right now


It’s time to play the transition game — that is, moving seamlessly from the end of the 2020-21 college basketball season to the 2021-22 futures market, which is now open for business.


As the popularity and legalization of sports betting continues to spread, all sports, not just football, should be on the minds of gamblers year-round. 


Hopefully you can plan for next season’s college basketball futures strategy with a boosted bankroll after recently cashing a Baylor ticket. 


But before laying down any money for 2022, begin the offseason by determining how you will play the expanding futures market. I believe in creating a dynamic portfolio that includes tickets on multiple teams and making multiple trips to the window throughout the season to take advantage of varying odds. 


If books are slow to adjust odds on your preferred play, go at them again. 


Having more than a couple of teams in pocket means you will have plenty of losers that eat into potential profits, but it also creates flexibility, hedging and at least the option of an early cashout.   


Another thought is to back just one squad and ride or die on that one ticket. A handful of Baylor bettors probably are thankful for using this technique, while an even larger population of Gonzaga future ticket holders are wishing for an opportunity to go back and get a little taste of the Bears sometime along the way. 


And let’s address the rollover parlay mentality. No doubt the math favors this instead of buying a futures ticket. However, most bettors don’t have the dedication to just keep rolling over single-game wins. The execution of this theory is not always practical when your son has a baseball game, the boss needs you to work late or you want to have a few beers in the clubhouse after a round. 


Futures odds from a book return less than a rollover parlay, yes, but the benefit of possessing a ticket is a price I and many other bettors are willing to pay.


It is like having a landscaper mow your lawn. You could do it just as well, or possibly better, but it is money well spent to bring a little more ease into life. 


Wait for the transfer dust to settle


With any CBB futures payout literally a year away, be very conservative in making any futures plays at this juncture. Consider this primarily window-shopping season. Such is the case when so many players are entering the transfer portal or leaving for the pros. All the roster volatility from the power conferences down to the low majors creates an extra layer of uncertainty in projecting what will happen next season. 


It likely won’t be until the late summer when teams have more clarity about who is on their rosters. Once this happens, it will create another round of handicapping. 


Stay in the middle lane for now 


When you are ready to look over the futures board expecting to make a play, attention should go right to the middle and down from there. So early in the offseason, bypass all the short odds at the top.


That might sound counterproductive after Baylor, Gonzaga and even Houston were at this place for most of last season. However, there is no reason to tie up your money for an extended period for teams with single-digit odds. Those prices can’t go much lower until around December, so be patient.


Even odds in the low to middle teens like the 13-1 for Purdue aren’t worth a mid-April trip to the betting window. Backing the Boilermakers, behind the trio of Trevion Williams, Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey, is a move best made in early September, right before the rest of the sports media starts looking at college hoops again. Right now I would rather use the funds for a 13-1 bet on Justin Thomas to win a golf tournament. 


Having a futures strategy is focusing on teams that can ultimately win and finding value along the way with return on investment in mind. At this point, value comes from zeroing in on the teams bookmakers have initially underestimated. Identify those teams before the public jumps aboard and forces a reassessment of the odds. 


A few teams out of the gate appear to be undervalued by some books. One is in the Big Ten and likely a result of the conference’s abysmal March showing. Maryland (25-1 BetMGM; 20-1 DraftKings; 20-1 BetRivers) is worthy of a proactive investment. 


The Terrapins, behind the recent transfer additions of Qudus Wahab and Fatts Russell, will become a trendy topic of conversation in the fall. Coach Mark Turgeon recently signed a contract extension and expects to return the core of the team that won a first-round NCAA tournament game. 


Right now this looks like a legitimate top-10 team. 


The Boeheims are back at Syracuse (35-1 BetMGM; 33-1 DraftKings; 33-1 BetRivers). That means Jim will have his team peaking in March and Buddy will be in full launch mode. So will backcourt shooting mate Joseph Girard.  


Like all teams, the Orange will have plenty of roster turnover. But big man Bourama Sidibe should be healthy and will be joined by transfers Symir Torrence from Marquette and Cole Swider from Villanova. 


St. Bonaventure (50-1 DraftKings; 50-1 BetRivers; 40-1 BetMGM) will look to play the role Obi Toppin’s Dayton squad did in 2020 before the tournament was canceled. That is to emerge from the mid-major Atlantic 10 and be a high if not a top seed. The Bonnies have a chance to be that good.  


This is a futures play based on high odds for a talented team outside the limelight. There is very little light of any kind in Olean, N.Y., let alone limelight. The Bonnies return talented big man Osun Osunniyi and playmaker Kyle Lofton. Experience and continuity should be valuable assets next year, and Mark Schmidt’s team has plenty of that.


Perhaps the best chance to be the 2022 CBB futures lottery ticket is Indiana (66-1 DraftKings; 66-1 BetRivers; 35-1 BetMGM). These long odds have a lot to do with the uncertainty of first-year coach Mike Woodson coming back to Bloomington. On the other hand, the roster looks pretty good. Trayce Jackson-Davis will be a preseason All-American favorite who can play off one of the nation’s top transfers, Xavier Johnson, a point guard previously with Pittsburgh. 


Perhaps Woodson, like Juwan Howard, can find immediate success back home on the sidelines in the Big Ten. 


An odds discrepancy like this among books should get your attention. 


Run it back 


The team with the shortest odds starting this offseason as the favorite is the same squad that had that honor all last year. At 9-1, Gonzaga edges out UCLA at 10-1 at DraftKings as the current odds leader. The Zags will lose Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and, most likely, Jalen Suggs to the NBA draft. Good chance Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard return for another run at a national championship. 


Here are the top five favorites, according to DraftKings: Gonzaga 9-1, UCLA 10-1, Michigan 12-1, Purdue 13-1, Ohio State 14-1. 


Here are the top five favorites, according to BetMGM: Gonzaga 6-1, Michigan 8-1, Baylor 12-1, Duke 12-1, Florida State 12-1.


Here are the top five favorites, according to BetRivers: Gonzaga 9-1, UCLA 10-1, Purdue 13-1, Ohio State 14-1, Villanova 14-1.


Find room in your futures portfolio for at least one of these teams before winter. And if you travel to Las Vegas, stop in at Circa to get the best possible future offerings. Expect Circa to hang its CBB futures odds around early May. 


Different perspectives


Of the three books detailed in this report, here are some other notably sized discrepancies among the opening odds for the national championship.


Purdue is a better price at 20-1 on BetMGM compared with 13-1 at DraftKings and BetRivers. BetMGM has Memphis at 25-1, while DraftKings and BetRivers list the Tigers at 40-1. DraftKings and BetRivers are going much lower with Houston at 15-1 to BetMGM’s 35-1. Florida is 35-1 on BetMGM and 50-1 on DraftKings and BetRivers. 


Prop it up


Here is a futures prop suggestion for any book: Kentucky, Duke, Louisville and Indiana all to return to the NCAA tournament in 2022. If so, give me the yes.


Future futures prediction 


With so many states now offering legalized gambling, it is a matter of time before recreational and first-time bettors view March Madness as a time to simplistically nab futures tickets instead of laying down $20 to make 67 picks in an office bracket pool.


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