As part of CBS Sports' annual Candid Coaches series, college basketball coaches took an anonymous poll this offseason and found that, by a large majority, Kansas will be the top team in the sport in 2023–2024. Looks like oddsmakers agree.
With 11-1 odds to win it all, the most-popular of NBA Expert Picks are solidly behind Jayhawks as the clear favorite to win the 2024 NCAA Tournament, trailing just Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, Purdue, and Arizona among the more than 350 Division I schools as of mid-September. Although KU had the second-best odds at 15-1 when the odds began following the end of the 2022–2023 season, they have improved substantially even though they are just slightly better now.
The starting odds were highest for UConn, the defending champion, at 12-1, followed by Duke at 15-1, the same as KU's. Now that UConn's odds have dropped to 20-1 over the past few months, I believe the Huskies could be a secret choice even though the sport hasn't produced many repeat winners over the years.
Now that the season is drawing near, which other clubs might be worth a shot? Which teams should you avoid at all costs? And which teams are some long shots worth watching? With the season quickly approaching, I've put together a list of answers to all those questions below in a futures update.
#1. UConn Huskies - Current odds: 20-1
Following their run to the national championship, UConn was the betting favorite at 12-1 when 2024 title odds were initially released earlier this year. Although no team has won the Big Dance twice since Florida did so in 2006 and 2007, UConn appears to have the Huskies, or rather, the horses, to go back-to-back. With an unbelievable amount of talent on his team, including five-star freshman Stephon Castle, Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer, and a group of returning players including Donovan Clingan and Tristen Newton, Dan Hurley is the best coach in a stacked Big East.
#2. Purdue Boilermakers - Current odds: 15-1
Yes, it is true that earlier this year Purdue became just the second-seeded team in NCAA Tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed. It was a senseless, unaccountable loss. Alright, so what? The first team to do so, Virginia, recovered from their 2108 defeat at the hands of UMBC to win the entire tournament the following year. Purdue has the skill to be just as successful as UVA. Inside, Zach Edey will be a formidable presence once more, and Matt Painter is still one of the sport's top-10 coaches. With a backcourt that is more seasoned and a ton of talent, the Boilermakers offer a great value.
#3. FAU Owls - Current odds: 50-1
It seems like Vegas doesn't really give a damn about this FAU team, who made it all the way to the Final Four and then returned all five starters. Oddsmakers, show some respect for my Hoot Owls! One of the up-and-coming coaches in the game, Dusty May, has a loaded roster this year as they prepare for another deep run. Considering that they are arguably one of the top five teams on paper, taking them at these odds seems like a ridiculously excellent deal.
#4. UCLA Bruins - Current odds: 40-1
Since taking over the Bruins program, Mick Cronin has won 19, 22, 27, and 31 games in four seasons, gradually transforming UCLA into a western powerhouse. Next season might see 34+ victories and a natty if he maintains that steady crescendo in the victory column.
Jokes aside, it's not out of the question that UCLA has the top squad on the West Coast for the upcoming season. The loss of Jaime Jaquez Jr., a first-round pick, and other important players including Tyger Campbell, Amari Bailey, and Jaylen Clark casts doubt on the team's prospects. It would be very profitable, though, if you are willing to accept uncertainty and have some blind faith in Cronin. UCLA has a winning culture, a solid system, transfers, and freshmen, therefore I think they could surprise a lot of people the next season.
The Not-so-good values
#1. Kentucky Wildcats - Current odds: 12-1
Though, excuse me, Big Blue Nation, but you deserve to be honest, John Calipari brought in the nation's top recruiting class, which included five-stars Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, and DJ Wagner in addition to important additions Tre Mitchell and Zvonimir Ivisic. Still, the atmosphere surrounding this program doesn't exactly inspire confidence. One year, in March, UK lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed to Saint Peter's.
The Wildcats' supporters are now impatient and tired of the team. In addition, a number of important players, notably Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso, are expected to be sidelined this season due to injuries, which raises serious concerns about the viability of this team's frontcourt. Can this group take home the national title? Yes, with no doubt. With the glimpses he displayed on the UK's tour of Canada, Justin Edwards could end up being the most influential player in college football next season. However, 12-1 odds seem a little high for a team with this many question marks on its roster in a plainly declining program over the past few seasons.
#2. Michigan State Spartans - Current odds: 12-1
I obsessively follow Gary Parrish's Top 25 (And 1) rankings throughout the summer to stay abreast of both big and small changes in the sport that influence the makeup of the top teams. I consider his ranking them sixth to be gospel truth. Because of this, I believe that 12-1, which are the second-best odds for any squad, is a little bit too high.
With the exception of Joey Hauser, this team returns nearly every key player, including Hall of Famer Tom Izzo, however there may be a little too much hope and blind faith placed in the abilities of standout freshmen Xavier Booker and Jeremy Fears. If I'm wrong, I'll be happy to raise my hand, but it seems like MSU belongs in its own league as the second or third best team, not the entire college basketball landscape.
#3. St. John's Red Storm - Current odds: 40-1
This is where things start to smell a little fishy in the odds profiles. At 40-1, I wouldn't waste my money on Villanova, UNC, or St. John's; but, St. John's is the team I would most strongly advise fading. Although the entrance of Rick Pitino is an interesting tale, and this program needs a lot of improvement (low bar, granted!), I can't fathom throwing money away on a team that is unlikely to even qualify for the NCAA Tournament.