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College basketball futures odds, predictions: Can Houston win it all in its hometown?

Deep, talented Cougars are worthy of a bet to cut down the nets at Final Four in their backyard

Houston guard Marcus Sasser, who shined last year before suffering a season-ending toe injury, is one of the main reasons that the Cougars are co-favorites to win the 2022-23 national championship. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Houston guard Marcus Sasser, who shined last year before suffering a season-ending toe injury, is one of the main reasons that the Cougars are co-favorites to win the 2022-23 national championship. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)Read moreDavid Becker / Getty Images

The World Series is in full swing. The NFL season is at its midpoint, while college football has entered the final month of its regular season. And the NBA and NHL campaigns are off and running.

In other words, there’s a ton of action for the sports betting consumer to sort through right now.

Well, don’t look now, but look who’s knocking on the backdoor: College basketball.

Barely seven months after Kansas cut down the nets in New Orleans, the 2022-23 college hoops season tips off Monday with a slew of nonconference contests (including 23 games involving preseason Top 25 teams).

So begins the march to Houston, where the next champion will be crowned on April 3. Who will that champion be? Which of the more than 360 teams competing in Division I this season have a legitimate shot at reaching the Final Four? And which schools are solid bets to win a conference title?

We address these questions and more with a preseason look at college basketball futures odds via FanDuel. Here are some of our college basketball best bets and sleeper predictions for the upcoming campaign.

Note: Odds are updated as of 2 p.m. ET on Nov. 1.

College basketball national championship odds

TEAM
Gonzaga
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+850
TEAM
Houston
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+850
TEAM
North Carolina
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+1000
TEAM
Kentucky
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+1200
TEAM
Baylor
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+1200
TEAM
Duke
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+1300
TEAM
Kansas
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+1500
TEAM
Arizona
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+2000
TEAM
Texas
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+2000
TEAM
Arkansas
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+2000
TEAM
UCLA
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+2000
TEAM
Creighton
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+2500
  1. Best bet: Houston (+850)

  2. Sleeper: UCLA (+2000)

No, we didn’t accidentally place those two schools on the wrong lines. Houston actually enters the season with shorter odds than the Bruins. In fact, at FanDuel, the third-ranked Cougars are the overall co-favorite to win it all, tied with Gonzaga atop the college basketball national championship odds board.

Houston, which finished 32-6 last season, is once again loaded with talent. Veteran coach Kelvin Sampson has brought in much-hyped newcomers Jarace Walker (power forward) and Terrance Arceneaux (guard), both of whom are expected to contend for Player of the Year honors in the American Athletic Conference.

Those two join multiple returning starters, led by third-year point guard Jamal Shead and prolific scorer Marcus Sasser. The latter was averaging 17.7 points last season before suffering a toe injury that ended his junior season after just 12 games.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sasser enters this season healthy, rejoining a squad that rode a top 10 offense and defense to the Elite Eight and Final Four the past two seasons, respectively.

Unless the injury bug bites the Cougars again, they’re a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. From there, they will be a serious contender to reach the Final Four back at home and be the last team standing.

Like Houston, UCLA has several key components returning to a squad that bowed out of last year’s NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 after reaching the Final Four in 2021. Coach Mick Cronin bolstered a roster that includes All-America candidate Jaime Jaquez Jr. with a pair of five-star recruits in guard Amari Bailey and forward Adem Bona.

It’s been nearly three decades since the Bruins — who are ranked No. 8 in the preseason poll — won their 11th national title. But given their depth and experience, they will be a tough out come March. As such, UCLA’s current +2000 national championship odds are enticing.

College basketball Final Four odds

TEAM
Houston
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+200
TEAM
Gonzaga
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+200
TEAM
North Carolina
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+230
TEAM
Kentucky
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+270
TEAM
Baylor
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+330
TEAM
Kansas
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+330
TEAM
UCLA
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+330
TEAM
Duke
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+350
TEAM
Arkansas
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+390
TEAM
Arizona
ODDS (via FanDuel)
+440
  1. Best bet: Kansas (+380)

  2. Sleeper: Virginia (+1000)

Fresh off its first national title since 2008, Kansas has to replace its starting backcourt and top two scorers, as Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun took their talents to the NBA.

However, with Bill Self running the show, it’s always about reloading not rebuilding. Self appears to have done that, as his 2022 recruiting class was ranked No. 4 by 247sports. Also, the Jayhawks check in at No. 5 in the preseason rankings. And while Agbaji and Braun are gone, big man David McCormack — who shined during last year’s national championship run — is back.

The Jayhawks have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of Self’s 19 seasons at the helm and never drawn lower than a No. 4 seed. So we’re confident this team can sufficiently plug its holes and reach the Final Four for the third time in the last five tournaments — and do so in consecutive years for the first time in exactly two decades.

As for Virginia, it seems like a decade has passed since the Cavaliers’ wild 365-day ride from first No. 1 seed to ever lose a first-round NCAA Tournament game to winning the whole enchilada. In reality, it’s only been three years, the past two being disappointing by UVA standards.

After going 18-7 in 2020-21 and once again getting bounced in the first round, coach Tony Bennett’s troops dipped to 21-14 last season and didn’t even get a tournament bid.

Why might we see the Cavaliers return to prominence in 2022-23? For starters, five of their top seven scorers from last year are back. That includes three players who averaged in double figures. Also, Bennett’s 2022 recruiting class was ranked No. 13 overall and No. 2 in the ACC (behind only Duke, which was No. 1 overall).

And in the 2022-23 college basketball conference title odds market at FanDuel, No. 18 Virginia (+650) is the third choice in the ACC behind only preseason No. 1 North Carolina (+135) and No. 7 Duke (+200).

College basketball conference championship odds

  1. Best bet: San Diego State to win Mountain West (-125)

  2. Sleeper: Penn State to win Big Ten (+5000)

Playing an odds-on favorite to win a league title in the futures market is always risky (well, unless that odds-on favorite is Gonzaga and the league is the West Coast Conference). But next to Gonzaga, betting on San Diego State to rule the Mountain West Conference in 2022-23 is about as safe of a conference championship wager as one could make in early November.

And it’s not even so much about what the Aztecs have as what the rest of the conference doesn’t. After placing four teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament, the Mountain West is projected to receive only two bids, per ESPN’s Bracketology — one of which, of course, is an automatic berth.

ESPN pegs San Diego State, which was an 8-seed a year ago, as a No. 5 seed come March. The only other projected tournament entrant from the Mountain West is Wyoming, which ESPN has slotted as a No. 11 seed.

But when you look at the conference title odds at FanDuel, the gap between the Aztecs and Wyoming is wide: The Cowboys are the second choice to win the Mountain West at +450.

Led by multifaceted two-way guard Matt Bradley (16.9 points, 5.4 rebounds per game last year), San Diego State will be one of college basketball’s best mid-major schools this season, if not the best. (No, we don’t count Gonzaga as a mid-major.)

After a disappointing third-place regular-season finish in the Mountain West last year, we expect San Diego State to have no problem cruising to its third league title in the last four years — and at least a share of its seventh since 2010-11.

Over in the Big Ten, not much is expected from Penn State in 2022-23. And that’s understandable, given that the Nittany Lions haven’t won a league title since joining the league in 1993.

So Penn State’s 50-to-1 odds — the fifth highest among the 13 squads listed at FanDuel — make sense. So why take a shot? Several reasons, starting with the fact that a bunch of the conference’s stud players from last year are gone.

Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, and Ohio State’s Malaki Branham and E.J. Liddell were among nine players taken in the 2022 NBA Draft (tops among all conferences). Also, Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn — last year’s preseason Big Ten Player of the Year choice who was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection — is gone.

That mass exodus of talent opens things up a bit for perennial conference doormats — like Penn State. Since going 21-10 in 2019-2020, the Nittany Lions have finished under .500 in back-to-back seasons while placing 12th and 11th in the league standings.

But second-year coach Micah Shrewsberry lured two solid transfers from within Pennsylvania’s borders. Camren Wynter and Andrew Funk combined to average 33.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists across 61 total games last season at Drexel and Bucknell, respectively.

Wynter and Funk join returning seniors Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy — two of Penn State’s top three scorers in 2021-22 — to form a veteran nucleus that is capable being a thorn in the side of opponents all season.

Obviously, everything would have to go right — especially in the health department — for the Nittany Lions to stun the Big Ten world. But at these long-shot odds, they’re worth a risk-a-little-to-win-a-lot roll of the dice.

The Inquirer is not an online gambling operator, or a gambling site. We provide this information about sports betting for entertainment purposes only.