Ignore CBB powers for futures wagers


We are entering one of the most crucial periods of the sports betting calendar.


The betting public is spending two weeks focusing on Patrick Mahomes’ turf toe, the color of Gatorade to be dumped on the winning Super Bowl coach and the Over/Under on the length of the national anthem. That leaves little time to take advantage of the college basketball futures board before the public turns its attention away from the NFL and to a new sport in search of action.


This will give rise to an influx of novice bettors, especially those in states that have newly legalized gambling, such as Virginia, Tennessee and Michigan. They will gravitate toward and invest in the brand-name programs they can watch each week on television. 


While those people remain concerned about what Tom Brady can do, let’s use the prized commodity of timing to handicap the future offerings of the marquee college programs before any remaining value is drained out of the market. 


Duke (+ 5,000 to win the national championship on BetMGM; + 656 to win the Atlantic Coast Conference on DraftKings): This season the Blue Devils have made more noise off the court than on it. Duke (5-5, 3-3 ACC) conveniently shut down the nonconference portion of the schedule due to health concerns — after some poor performances. Then came the fallout of coach Mike Krzyzewski unnecessarily chastising a student reporter.  


To date, nothing is appealing about a Duke futures play. However, that won’t stop some bettors from being enticed by long odds attached to the Duke name. 


Don’t go down that rabbit hole with them. This year’s squad bears absolutely no resemblance to the team from a year ago, which was a legitimate national-championship contender. 


Sophomore big man Matthew Hurt is averaging just shy of 20 points and a double-double each game. He is one of the best players in the ACC. Nonetheless, Duke is a .500 team. 


Let the public have fun buying Duke at a 50-1 price. You look elsewhere.  


North Carolina (+ 5,000 to win the national championship on BetMGM; + 500 to win the Atlantic Coast Conference on DraftKings): Once again, avoid all the congestion on Tobacco Road and take a less populated route. 


UNC (10-5, 5-3 ACC) averages 74.5 ppg but wastes too many possessions with just a .310 3-point shooting percentage. The Tar Heels will need more 3-pointers to leapfrog defensive-minded Virginia and Florida State in the conference power rankings. 


Their strength, an impressive front court led by Armando Bacot (12.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg), can do only so much, and so far that is to make the Tar Heels a middle-of-the-pack ACC team.  


From a futures standpoint, + 500 isn’t good enough to make a conference-tournament wager when squads like Virginia Tech (+ 600), Clemson (+ 3,500) and resurgent Georgia Tech (+ 6,500) are available. 


Next week will be important for gauging where UNC truly stands in the conference hierarchy when it travels to Clemson, then Duke. If everything goes well for the Tar Heels, we can reassess their value. But for now there is no reason to rush to the window with UNC on the mind.


We do recommend making a more immediate decision on the ACC tournament before the public gets involved.  


There is value with Syracuse at + 7,000 to win the ACC tournament on DraftKings. 


Somehow the Orange have avoided the national spotlight, even though they remain solid defensively by keeping opponents below 70 ppg while increasing their offensive output to just shy of 80 ppg. Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim’s outside shooting, Marek Dolezaj’s length and Quincy Guerrier’s scoring make Syracuse (9-5, 3-4 ACC) an attractive long shot at a price that invites hedging opportunities.  


Don’t be scared off after Virginia shot its way to an 81-58 home win over the Orange on Monday night. Virginia is that good and deservedly the current favorite to win the ACC tournament (+ 225 on DraftKings). The Cavaliers have the same funky and effective defense (59.5 ppg) but have taken the ACC lead by riding a recent wave of hot shooting — 45.2%, 44.4%, 55.6% and 50.0% from behind the arc in their last four games. 


Syracuse, like Virginia, has the ability to get teams out of rhythm on both ends of the court and is worth a play at + 7,000 to win the conference tournament. A good idea might be a package deal: Get the Cavs and Orange now and have both ends — favorite and long dog — covered. 


Kentucky  (+ 10,000 to win National Championship on DraftKings; + 1,200 to win the




Kentucky (+ 10,000 to win the national championship on DraftKings; + 1,200 to win the Southeastern Conference on DraftKings): The Wildcats (5-9, 4-3 SEC) are another blue-blood team in desperate need of a transfusion. Hold off, though, on making a donation. 


The priority in the SEC is still Alabama at + 470 to win the conference tournament. Get those Bama odds soon before they go away. Let the public bettors be intrigued by the + 1,200 for a program like UK — high on pedigree, low on cohesion. 


Kansas (+ 50,000 to win the national championship on BetMGM; + 650 to win the Big 12 Conference on DraftKings): These un-Kansas-like odds are a combination of a three-game losing streak and conference cohort Baylor standing firm as the No. 2 team in the country. 


We search out teams on a dip, and Kansas does provide that opportunity. Still, you must use the eye test at all times, and the Jayhawks aren’t showing much March potential in late January. 


Bill Self does have eight Big 12 tournament titles to his name, so don’t give up entirely on Kansas. The only option of making a Kansas futures play should be during the last week of the regular season, when the Jayhawks play Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor.  


Two or more wins during that difficult stretch would bring a possible futures play back into the conversation. Buying Kansas at that point for a conference tournament championship would come at a much lower price, but it would be a wiser investment than doing anything now, regardless of the odds. 


UCLA (+ 50,000 to win the national championship on BetMGM; + 200 to win the Pac-12 Conference): The Bruins require immediate attention before the public and even some casual basketball fans, especially those on the East Coast, take note of what Mick Cronin is doing in Westwood.  


Oregon remains the odds-on favorite to win the Pac-12 even though UCLA (12-3, 8-1) is alone in first place. A 2-1 price for a team atop the standings is still available because the Bruins lost their first conference game at the overtime buzzer against Stanford last weekend.


The Cardinal did would-be UCLA bettors a favor with that upset since it slowed the momentum behind a new wave of media coverage the Bruins were about to generate. 


Get in on UCLA before it hosts Oregon for two games Thursday and Monday with Oregon State on Saturday.


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