Before unveiling the picks, here’s something college basketball has more than any other major sport right now: a never-ending amount of parity.
There aren’t just three to five teams that can realistically win a national championship. There aren’t just seven to 10 teams that can do it.
UConn wasn’t even ranked entering last season and look at the three teams that accompanied the Huskies in the Final Four: San Diego State, Miami and Florida Atlantic.
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The point? There’s a ton of value on the board!
We’ll give you four teams worth examining as you place your futures bets to cut down the nets in April in Arizona, and I also make a dark-horse pick to make a run to the Final Four.
For the sake of being fresh, we are not including front-runners Kansas and Duke, two squads that currently sit atop the national championship oddsboard.
Here we go!
Michigan State: +1500 (bet $10 to win $160 total)
Filing your first ticket on a guy who’s developed the name Mr. March over the course of his career feels like a good starting point. And for me, it’s a no-brainer.
Tom Izzo thrives when it matters most and the biggest thing about the NCAA Tournament, in my humble opinion, is being able to get to the second weekend. Izzo did that for the 15th time in his career last season, when his Spartans took down a 29-win, second-seeded Marquette team. March Madness carries such a level of unpredictability, but Izzo and his Spartans have cut through that more than many others in his tenure.
Why should you like this Michigan State team? The Spartans return 83% of their scoring from a year ago, Tyson Walker is one of the best guards in the country and five-star big man Xavier Booker leads a top-five recruiting class in the nation. With A.J. Hoggard, Malik Hall and Jaden Akins still in the fold as well, Sparty has well-tested experience, different options for late-game possessions and a defensive identity.
Don’t pass on the Spartans.
PICK: Michigan State to win national championship (bet $10 to win $150 total)
Arkansas: +3000 (bet $10 to win $310 total)
There’s some solid value to the Razorbacks here. Why? For starters, Eric Musselman knows how to make tournament runs.
Think about this: Entering 2021, Arkansas men’s basketball had not reached the Sweet 16 since 1996. Fast-forward to now, and the Razorbacks have accomplished the feat in three consecutive years. Devo Davis and Trevon Brazile, a pair of double-figure scorers from last year’s team, are back for another season. The Muss Bus brought in the nation’s sixth-ranked transfer class in the country with Houston’s Tramon Mark, Louisville’s El Ellis and Temple’s Khalif Battle headlining the six additions. With four-star prospects Baye Fall and Layden Blocker entering the program as well, the Razorbacks will have pieces with upside.
The expectation is that Fall could be the starting center. If he lives up to the hype, this team should be well-rounded. There’s a wealth of options on the perimeter.
PICK: Arkansas to win national championship (bet $10 to win $310 total)
Gonzaga: +3500 (at time of pick, bet $10 to win $360 total)
Mark Few made two splashes in the transfer portal by bringing in point guard Ryan Nembhard from Creighton and Graham Ike from Wyoming. With Anton Watson back, as well as Nolan Hickman, the Zags have experience in their lineup and added a perimeter shooting weapon in Steele Venters.
Nembhard’s level of efficiency and understanding of how to manage games should answer the point guard questions that the Zags had last year. And while Ike missed last year with a foot injury, if he can return to the level he was on in 2021-22 — a year when he averaged 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds before being named Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year entering last season — the Zags could be really dangerous.
PICK: Gonzaga to win national championship (bet $10 to win $360 total)
San Diego State: +7500 (bet $10 to win $760 total)
To me, these odds carry ridiculous value for what I believe could be a top-15 team this upcoming season.
Looking at these long odds, you’d never know that this program made the national title game and has been a staple to the Big Dance the last three seasons. I’d say the chances are better than not that the Aztecs could play into the second weekend if not deeper in the NCAA Tournament.
Lamont Butler and Darrion Trammell return to charge the Aztecs in the backcourt, while USC Trojans transfer Reese Dixon-Waters, who averaged 10 points per game last season, enters the program.
This squad has experience, toughness, shot making — and they don’t get blown out. I’ll buy right back into the Aztecs.
PICK: San Diego State to win national championship (bet $10 to win $760 total)
New Mexico: +2500 to reach Final Four (bet $10 to win $260 total)
I am buying the Lobos to shock the world and be a dark horse.
Love the backcourt of Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. to really wreak havoc in the Mountain West and go on a magical run. It’s that time of year to make some bold picks!
PICK: New Mexico to reach Final Four (bet $10 to win $260 total)
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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