A look at the contenders, pretenders and sleepers for the 2023 NCAA College Basketball season, including a look ahead to March Madness.
The 2023 college basketball season is already underway, with teams getting a jump on the rush to March Madness with preseason tournaments, nonconference showdowns, and the start of league play.
One of the best things about following sports is how one season ends just as another hits its stride.
College basketball is no different – conference play will be in full swing once the College Football Playoff is over, and the stretch run to March Madness begins just after Super Bowl 57.
But bettors looking for an edge would be wise to pay attention to these December games as well, because there are some awfully tempting prices on contenders right now!
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2023 NCAA Championship Contenders
Houston Cougars (Preseason Odds: +1000 for NCAA Title; Current Odds +750)
According to the oddsmakers, it’s Houston’s title to lose after a 9-0 start fueled by a suffocating defense allowing only 47 points per game.
This past Saturday’s loss to Alabama provides the only blemish on the Cougars’ mark thus far, and while it may cost them the top spot in the polls, figures to provide a valuable lesson about killer instinct (the Cougars lost a 15-point lead in the game).
The Cougars figure to be overwhelming favorites in the American Athletic Conference, meaning the path to a No. 1 seed in March appears crystal clear. It sets up well for a berth in the Final Four on April 1. And where is this taking place? You guessed it – Houston, Texas.
Texas Longhorns (Preseason Odds: +2500 for NCAA Title; Current Odds +1100)
What a spring it could be in the Lone Star State, with the Cougars, Longhorns, and No. 12-ranked Baylor all among the betting favorites for the title!
The Longhorns might be the name that surprises fans among that group, but they’ve proven themselves early with top-10 wins against Gonzaga and Creighton. Their only blemish being an overtime loss to Illinois.
As mentioned in the Kansas section, the Big 12 season will certainly separate the contenders and the pretenders this season, with half the league’s teams currently ranked in the Top 25.
Gonzaga Bulldogs and North Carolina Tar Heels (Preseason Odds: +900 for NCAA title; Current Odds +2500 for Gonzaga, 3000 for UNC)
A funny thing happened to the co-preseason favorites in the first month of the season. They each dropped numerous early games, dropping the Bulldogs to No. 18 in the current rankings and sending North Carolina all the way out of the Top 25.
The result? We approach the New Year with some incredible prices available for these two teams. They still have veteran leaders in Gonzaga’s Drew Timme (who seems like he’s been in college forever at this point) averaging 20 points per game, and UNC’s double-double machine, 6-foot-11 senior Armando Bacot.
Pick your favorite – or both – to make a turnaround, because once they do these lofty odds won’t be around for long.
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March Madness Sleeper Picks
Now, let’s dive into our 2023 March Madness sleepers.
Purdue Boilermakers (Preseason Odds: +7000 for NCAA Title; Current Odds +1700)
Well, they were sleepers anyway. But Purdue upended West Virginia, Duke, and Gonzaga in one weekend, and haven’t stopped since.
With a 10-0 record, the Boilermakers enjoy a unique weapon in 7-foot-4 junior Zach Edey. He’s averaging 23 points and 13 rebounds a game and can alter a team’s entire offensive game plan with his shot-blocking ability. Freshman Fletcher Loyer’s shooting will be a key for Purdue as they embark on their challenging Big Ten schedule.
Alabama Crimson Tide (Preseason Odds: +4000 for NCAA Title; Current Odds +3000)
This one looked even better at 50:1 before last week’s win over No. 1 Houston. It still makes no sense to us.
The Tide average 84 points per contest, with Brandon Miller’s 19.5 per game leading the way. They’ve topped No. 12 Michigan State and outlasted then No. 1 UNC in the Game of the Year (so far) on November 27, a 103-101 four-overtime classic. And that was before they topped Houston and became only the fourth team to beat two different No. 1-ranked squads in a season.
And it’s only December!
They’re ranked No. 8 in the country, have a great young coach in Nate Oats, and still haven’t seen the best of St. Bonaventure transfer Dom Welch due to injury. Also, Jahvon Quinerly continues to play himself back into shape after last season’s ACL tear, while freshman Noah Clowney had a breakout game with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Houston.
Even down to 30:1, these odds look awfully good to pass up.
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Florida Atlantic Owls (Preseason Odds: +50000 for NCAA Title; Current Odds: ???)
Like advanced stats?
Cool, because the numbers LOVE these guys. An early upset over Florida and a close loss to Ole Miss have the Owls at 7-1.
More impressively, they’re No. 11 in the respected NET rankings – higher than Duke, Texas, Kansas, and many other powerhouses.
The NET considers:
- Game results
- Strength of schedule
- Game location
- Scoring margin
- Net offensive efficiency
- Net defensive efficiency
- Quality of wins and losses.
They’re no fluke either – four of the top five teams in NET are also in the top five of the coaches’ poll.
That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s awfully hard to find NCAA Championship Odds on Florida Atlantic. The closest thing on FanDuel right now is +480 to win Conference USA – not a bad deal – but many small schools are listed at +50000 to win the title, so that’s probably your starting point.
Is Florida Atlantic going to win the 2023 NCAA Championship?
Probably not. But the same can be said for most teams on our list. After all, only one team can cut down the nets on April 3, 2023, in Houston.
But it’s called March Madness for a reason. There will be surprises, upsets, emerging superstars, and unfortunate injuries along the way. As we’ve seen already, the 2023 college basketball season will be nothing if not unpredictable.
Will the Jayhawks Retain the NCAAB Championship?
(Preseason odds: +1400 for NCAA Title; Current Odds +2000)
A repeat was always going to be a challenge for the 2022 champion Kansas Jayhawks, after losing leading scorers Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun along with several other key contributors.
But paced by high-scoring junior Jalen Wilson and sharp-shooting five-star recruit Gradey Dick, the Jayhawks are off to a 9-1 start with wins over Duke, NC State, and Wisconsin to their credit.
The Big 12 looks like the nation’s strongest conference this year, with high-ranking Baylor and Texas near the top of the national rankings, so the defending champs will be plenty battle tested come March.