College basketball futures: Two value bets to win the 2021 National Championship

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The college basketball season is almost upon us, and there are a couple title futures that have plenty of value — before their odds change in-season.

(Odds courtesy of BetRivers.com)

Alabama (80-1)

The Crimson Tide return four of their five starters from last season, and in a campaign that’ll be dominated by the effects of COVID-19, chemistry and experience are critical factors — especially come NCAA tournament time.

Alabama wouldn’t have made the tournament had there been a March Madness last season, and its defense was a major reason why, placing No. 114 under KenPom’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (99.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) metric. Under Tide coach Nate Oats, they present an uptempo offense with all-SEC wing John Petty and former-five star recruit Jahvon Quinerly taking the reins as their floor general, so their defense is naturally going to take a hit.

But the addition of Yale transfer Jordan Bruner, who notched the 52nd-highest individual defensive rebounding rate in college basketball last season, will help immensely for a team that generated the 53rd-lowest team defensive rebounding rate in the country. Plus, senior forward Herb Jones, one of the sport’s premier iso defenders, is fully healthy after dealing with a broken wrist a season ago.

The Tide finished with 37th-highest Adjusted Offensive Efficiency a season ago, and there’s still room for growth. The aforementioned Petty should continue to develop as a scorer (60.3 effective field goal percentage), and look for sophomore Jaden Shackelford (15.0 points per game) to improve his game off the dribble as well.

The key to their progression comes with sound point guard play. As highly coveted as Kira Lewis (No. 13 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft) was, he tallied a 20.0% turnover rate in the 2020-21 campaign.

Quinerly doesn’t have much experience under his belt — first playing in Jay Wright’s system — which doesn’t always lend itself to freshmen success. Plus, Quinerly’s strengths stem from playing in a run-and-gun offense, which Wright doesn’t run.

Sources from around the program are raving over Quinerly’s development during his redshirt season at Alabama, so there’s a lot of hype along the way.

The SEC is also more wide-open than past seasons, and the Tide have an opportunity to finish near the top of the conference, which would help them nab a higher seed for the Big Dance. Sitting at 60-1 at other books, there’s value in this number with Alabama.

Boise State (300-1)

The Broncos represent the best long-shot play on the board — surprisingly priced the same as Belmont, Davidson, DePaul, Georgetown, Georgia, Iowa State and six other programs. Even with the Mountain West representing a potential one-bid league, Boise State’s talent blends into one of the most underrated rosters among mid-major programs.

With Utah State and San Diego State losing star guards Sam Merrill and Malachi Flynn, respectively, those teams should take a step back. Meanwhile, the Broncos retained NBA prospect Derrick Alston Jr., while bringing in Arizona transfers Emmanuel Akot and Devonaire Doutrive, East Tennessee State big Mladen Armus, and Portland State guard Marcus Shaver Jr.

All four of the new additions redshirted last season, giving them experience in head coach Leon Rice’s system, and their respective skill sets deliver potential within KenPom’s projection (84th-highest AdjO). Take a shot on the Broncos, but don’t invest as much as you normally would in a lower-priced futures bet.

In-Season Strategy

Since I always add around four futures in-season, I’m waiting to tack on more in the hopes of grabbing them at buy-low points. COVID-19 throws a wrench into the market, too. One team I have circled is West Virginia (20-1) — with one of the best frontcourts in the country (Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe) and a unit which finished with college basketball’s third-lowest AdjD a campaign ago. Keep a lookout for more of my college basketball futures throughout the season!

Follow Eli Hershkovich on Bet Sweats, You Better You Bet and @EliHershkovich