In college football, the SEC reigns supreme as the cream of the crop. In college basketball, that distinction isn’t quite as clear. However, I’d argue it is probably the ACC that has at least the most recognized and the most historical distinction. We are starting here with our conference previews for who will win.
North Carolina is the favorite right now. After a trip to the NCAA Championship last year – a game they probably should’ve won – they are coming into the season with the distinction of the #1 team in the nation. They are returning four of their starters to this team and I think their rank and them being the favorite is warranted. I do have a bit of hesitation as I’m not sold that coach Hubert Davis is that good. He obviously put the team in a situation to win games, but does that mean that we need to instantly say he is a great coach? No, there was certainly some luck in the tournament. Still, a deep run can hurt a team the next season. Those expectations can be hard to live up to.
Duke is another squad that will have the attention on them this season. This is the first year in, hell, I don’t know, like 100 years without Mike Krzyzewski leading the team. For the record, it was 42 years. In any case, Jon Scheyer takes over and from what the rumblings are, he is well-prepared and the players are excited to be playing for him. It also helps that he has the best recruiting class in college basketball to come in and help him out in the first season. There are going to be growing pains for not only Scheyer as a coach, but for the Blue Devils as a team. Three freshmen in your starting lineup – no matter how good they are – will take time to adjust and gel. By the time the tournament comes along, he probably can win the tournament if everything goes correctly. I’m not sure that at +240 you’re getting enough value to wait months for a return.
Virginia is the team I’d put my money on based on the potential and pure value of the money. At +700, they have the third-best odds in the conference. It isn’t just that they are a bigger name school. They are bringing in a really strong recruiting class. If their freshmen adapt to the college game quickly, you could see a better offensive approach from the team. What I need to see out of them, though is a better defensive effort. I always thought that Virginia was a defense-first program, but last year they looked awful. I’m not sure they can get their freshmen up to speed quickly enough to improve the defense, and if they aren’t then the bench players will need to step up which could cost them on offense. They should improve from last year, and they may be a top-three team in the conference which gives us good value.
If you’re looking for a true longshot – I’ll take Florida State. They didn’t have an outstanding year last year, actually, they kind of struggled. Most of that team is gone, though. They have only five players coming back and I would guess those five guys see the court more than any other newly rostered player. Again, this is a big question mark, but I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see them as a top 6 seed in the conference and then it just takes a bit of luck. At +1600, it might be worth it to take a sprinkle on them to win the conference.
If I had to play this, I’d take a half unit on Virginia and a quarter on Florida State. I don’t like North Carolina is the favorite, but the value isn’t there. They could also regress from last season. Duke has the most talent, but again at +240, I’m not sure that is worthwhile either. If Duke plays well, you’re likely not to get this number close to the tournament.
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