Just over a week remains before the Hoos kickoff their 2016-17 campaign on the road against UNC-Greensboro. Coming off of the program’s first Elite Eight appearance in two decades, expectations are about as high as they’ve ever been for the Cavaliers. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at how Las Vegas handicaps the Hoos NCAA title odds, along with the odds of their ACC rivals.
Tier 1: The Overwhelming Favorite
Outlook: At +350, Duke isn’t just Vegas’ top-choice to win the NCAA crown this season, they’re the favorite by a huge margin. The next closest teams are Kansas and Kentucky, both at +900. A gap like that is absurd. Duke has an unparalleled mix of upperclass talent (Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones) and freshmen sensations (Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum), so the expectations are deserved. While a bit of learning curve could be expected early, this team may be the most complete group since Kentucky’s 2014 squad, which famously lost their perfect season in the Final Four.
Tier 2: Title Contenders
North Carolina (+1600); Syracuse (+2000); Virginia (+3300); Louisville (+3300)
Outlook: A couple levels below Duke we have the rest of the ACC’s upper echelon and that seems to make sense. Last March two of these schools reached the Final Four, one reached the Elite Eight, and, based on why they had to institute a postseason ban, Louisville probably had some fun too. From a gambling perspective, I think North Carolina is overrated a bit here. They relied heavily on Brice Johnson last season and I’m not sure Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks can simply step into increased roles and replace that lost production. For the Hoos these odds are about in line with past year’s preseason predictions, but given the influx of freshmen and the tough early season slate, I’d wait until January when the team is starting to coalesce before placing any wagers.
Tier 3: Bracket Busters
NC State (+6600); Miami (+7500); Florida State (+15000); Notre Dame (+20000)
Outlook: These four schools are all long shots to win a title, but the ACC has a legitimate chance at getting 9-10 schools in the tourney this year and based on their odds Vegas views these four as the ones most likely to take advantage of the conference’s strength. Of all of these NC State’s odds make the least sense to me. Early mock drafts have freshman guard Dennis Smith as a possible top 3 pick in 2017, but thanks to Ben Simmons’ debacle last year we all saw how hard it can be for a single transcendent player to lift a poor supporting cast. At its core this is still the same Wolfpack that went 16-17 last year and Mark Gottfried is still their coach, I wouldn’t be shocked if they ended up NIT bound.
Tier 4: Tournament Hopefuls
Pittsburgh (+25000); Georgia Tech (+30000); Virginia Tech (+30000); Wake Forest (+30000)
Outlook: Now we’re entering the section where you might as well just go buy a lottery ticket. None of these teams appear likely to pose any remote threat at a national title in 2017. Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech both downgraded their coaches and while Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are on the upswing, their likely each a year or two away from national relevance. As much as it pains me, if I had to pick a dark horse from this crew it would be the Hokies. Buzz Williams’ squad made huge strides last season and with Seth Allen, Zach LeDay, and Justin Bibbs, there’s some real talent on the roster that could translate into a tourney appearance. Plus, if the unthinkable happened and VT somehow won the title, you’d win enough money to move far far away from their fanbase.
Tier 5: Nope
Boston College (+50000); Clemson (+50000)
Outlook: These teams have the same odds as UMass and Valparaiso. I have no idea how Brad Brownell is still employed.