Those predictions we heard about this college basketball season being filled with upsets and uncertainty? Well, they seem to be pretty accurate just a few weeks into play.
Somehow, Kansas lost on a buzzer-beater to a 3-3 Dayton team that had previously fallen to UMass Lowell. The Jayhawks' implosion came after Alabama fell to Iona, Michigan was upended by Seton Hall and BYU embarrassed Oregon.
Mighty Gonzaga, nearly a double-digit favorite over Duke, another team with a national championship on its mind, also fell victim to an upset Friday night in Las Vegas. That 84-81 loss to the Blue Devils showed that every team, even the squad considered the best in the country, will be vulnerable to some extent this season.
But don’t discount the Zags after just one high-profile loss. The early trend of upsets and volatility should continue. Even after the Duke loss, Gonzaga still has the appeal of a treasury bond standing out among much riskier investments.
After a few days to digest what happened in front of the sellout T-Mobile Arena crowd, let’s re-examine the futures board to determine what role a one-loss Zags team now plays in the market.
Gonzaga National Championship + 400 (BetMGM)
For those interested in making a CBB futures play for a national championship and desiring a high level of stability, you’ll have to pay for it at + 400. Stable, yes; value, no.
That number is just way too short to make a national championship play this early in the season. Even if a bettor has an unwavering feeling that this season Gonzaga will finally win its first national championship, it is not the most prudent wager for early December.
The 4-1 odds are unattractive considering the tournament will have five or six teams that can legitimately be in position to outplay Gonzaga over 40 minutes.
Last season at this point, Gonzaga was just less than 8-1 to win it all. At that time, there was no shortage of people touting the Zags as a safe bet to win it all. Of course, Baylor prevented that and reaffirmed the adage that there are no guarantees in sports betting.
Instead of laying down any money now on Gonzaga for a national title, save those funds and use them for some in-game wagers when the Zags go into halftime with a small lead or trailing. This team has a good track record of strong second-half performances.
Gonzaga Final Four + 130 (DraftKings)
If you are compelled to make a Gonzaga futures play at this point, look at a Final Four appearance. This certainly wouldn’t be a value play on a bet that pays a little more than even money for a four-month financial commitment. Rather, it would be based on making a realistic projection and hopefully getting paid for it.
As a bettor, avoid becoming a prisoner of the moment and spending too much time scrolling through Twitter. The Bulldogs’ loss to Duke doesn’t mean they are overrated fake contenders. They were and remain one of the few teams in the country that can win the national title.
Gonzaga will be a No. 1 seed in the tournament and theoretically in the West bracket without UCLA. That should translate into a Sweet 16 berth before any sweat for a Final Four bet. To pay off, Gonzaga would then need to beat a combination of teams such as Memphis, Arkansas and Arizona — the ones Joe Lunardi expects to be there based on his current bracketology.
A Gonzaga Final Four ticket-holder would have a good deal of confidence going into those final two games of the regional against a pair of those aforementioned schools. Basically those two games are what is needed to cash a Final Four bet — one without a substantial ROI, but a way around the need for a national championship, this program’s Waterloo.
The Final Four bet also makes sense since it is still available at a plus number but won’t be much longer. Before someone starts the rollover moneyline parlay debate, making this Final Four bet now should be for bettors who have some disposable units on hand looking for the convenience a futures ticket provides.
West Coast Conference Tournament Championship -5000 (BetMGM)
Based on the hot start by fellow WCC mates BYU, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s, expect some chatter about which one can knock off the Zags. Sure, it might happen in the final game of the WCC tournament. Randy Bennett and the Gaels have done it three times since 2010.
Still, hearing about the WCC tournament being in play doesn’t mean a bettor needs to act on it. Certainly not at the outrageous price for the Zags. Yes, BYU’s 6-1 and the 15-1 for Saint Mary’s and San Francisco have some underdog appeal, just not enough to make any substantial wager. Doing so now would be too reactionary to the Gonzaga loss. It would also likely create some buyer’s remorse come March.
Those Saint Mary’s teams in the past that knocked off Gonzaga were not facing 7-foot Chet Holmgren, whose size and ball-handling combination is unprecedented.
Look outside the WCC for other conference bets. In the nearby Western Athletic Conference, the Gonzaga of that league, New Mexico State (+ 220 BetMGM), is the favorite for the regular-season championship.
According to KenPom, the distance between the Aggies and their rivals, Grand Canyon (+ 325), is significant.
Drew Timme For Wooden Award + 550 (DraftKings)
Coming into the season, Gonzaga big man Drew Timme was the favorite for this player of the year award. After the Duke game, it looks very much like Timme is not Luka Garza 2.0.
Timme played in the shadow of Holmgren, was outscored by teammate Julian Strawther and was outshone by Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams.
Banchero (+ 400 DraftKings) is now the favorite for the award.
Sure, this could have been an anomaly for Timme, but most of his work will come against WCC opponents late at night for East Coast voters. At the same time, the Holmgren hype will increase while Banchero is playing Atlantic Coast Conference games in ESPN’s prime-time television window.
For those who have bet Timme already, there should be concern. For those who haven’t, no need to do so.
Betting Banchero is also risky without commensurate odds. He has yet to play an ACC game, and he is bound to slip up a few times against such a grinding schedule.
As for Holmgren (+ 2000 BetMGM), he will have the same game times as Timme, and only two freshmen have won the award since 2012.
Hold off on making a Wooden bet until the conference games begin. Look for the early signs of a narrative about the player who is carrying his team to a conference title. It could be Banchero, but I would prefer more than 4-1 to find out.
Keep an eye on Jaden Ivey (+ 1200 DraftKings and BetMGM) of Purdue to possibly move up the board once the Boilermakers start Big Ten play.
There is concern backing one player from Purdue, a team that relies on multiple major contributors. However, if Matt Painter’s group continues its upward ascension, someone will get most of the credit from the national media, and it is likely the one who shows the most flash.
Going even further down the board looking for more value than Timme can offer, Houston’s Marcus Sasser (+ 5000) is an intriguing long-shot candidate. The Cougars are once again highly ranked and look like the best team in the American Athletic Conference after Memphis showed some growing pains. Operating in the AAC provides Sasser the advantageous opportunity to compile wins while averaging about 20 points a game.