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Top 25: UNC No. 1, Utah Best Dark Horse for Bettors

UNC debuts at No. 1 in the Breitbart Sports college basketball rankings, but bettors should look to Utah for the best chance at a big payout. Utah is unranked in the coaches’ and sports writers’ polls, but Value Add Basketball calculates the 6-foot-10 December transfer David Collette will make them up to eight points a game better to project as the 12th best team in the country.

Coach Larry Krystkowiak, a 6-foot-9 former NBA player himself, could mold Collette into a dominant player capable of a March Madness run. I have no connection to Utah basketball, though Fox Sports detailed the Value Add projection of a breakout year for their point guard Delon Wright two years ago in their excellent explanation of the system. As noted their and in other outlets, Value Add pegs how many points per game each player is worth to his team, making it the ideal tool to determine the likely final score of games when a key player returns or leaves a team prior to a game.

While most of America waits until March Madness to place bets, it is very hard to beat Vegas when there are 16 games a day. Bets placed during the season yield much better results if you follow these simple steps:

  1. Season bets. Bet on teams winning the title or making it to a certain round of the tournament early. Below we list our rankings, and whether or not the odds Vegas gives on a title for each team is a good bet or not. We rank UNC No. 1 with the best Value Add (49.98), and Vegas was giving 15-to-1 odds on them winning the title, which means they actually thought their was only a 3.93% chance at a UNC title, giving bettors who jumped early a good bet – but not as good as the 100-to-1 odds on the dark horse Utah.
  2. Game bets. Just as so many were skeptical of our calculations regarding Trump, many do not realize your chance to beat Vegas is during the regular season when 100 games are being played a night — not when they are locked in on 16 games a day when March Madness starts. The steps are simply:
    • Go to www.kenpom.com or Sagarin’s basketball ratings to see the expected point spread between the two games.
    • Go to Don’s Bets to see if either team is missing a key player, or has someone returning. If there is a change you have a much better chance to beat Vegas by properly estimating the impact of the missing or returning player.
    • Go to ValueAddBasketball.com and look up the “Value v3.0 pts/gm” figure for that player. In most games, the player will be worth between that number and half of that number. If the player has not played yet in the 2016-17 season, you can go back to the 2003-2016 database to find his past totals and assume he improves slightly with another season under his belt.

So if Utah was a two-point underdog in a game and Pomeroy or Sagarin indicated they were just one-point worse than the opponent, but Collette was returning for the game, then we know he is worth four to eight points and Utah should actually win the game by between three points and seven points — a very good bet with Utah as a two-point underdog who should actually win by between three and seven points. In other cases Vegas often over adjusts for a returning or injured player, allowing you a good bet on the other side of their spread.

Here are the rankings of the top 25, the other teams we project to make the tournament, the four best teams forecast to miss the tournament, and one team who would have a good chance at the tournament if they were eligible.

Rnk Team Value Add Vegas title shot Notes on key injuries, Dec. transfers and if opening season title odds are a good bet
1 North Carolina 49.98 3.93% 15-to-1 was a great bet as they were Value Add No. 1 even before UNC destroyed Wisconsin and Oklahoma St.
2 Villanova 48.87 5.90% 10-to-1 odds to repeat a decent bet on Nova repeating, but remember 10-to-1 from Vegas means they really only give Nova a 5.9% chance of winning and are just taking a bigger cut.
3 Duke 49.43 16.86% 7-2 opening odds not a good bet, but Coach K makes good runs and would still rank ahead of Kansas despite 2-point loss there (single digit loss on road would have been a win at home) with great freshman waiting to suit up.
4 Kentucky 46.57 7.37% 8-to-1 was worth a shot, as freshmen are unpredictable.
5 Virginia 48.87 2.36% Austin Nichols -1.9 Memphis transfer dismissed after strong opener, making this a tough bet even though I rank them 5th.
6 Gonzaga 47.07 0.98% Could be best Gonzaga team yet. Might be worth a 60-to-1, but a solid Elite 8 bet more realistic.
7 Kansas 46.70 7.37% Would not take the 8-to-1, lack of inside pivot play could cost them at some point.
8 Oregon 42.38 5.90% Dillon Brooks +9.0 returned from a foot injury to give a chance, but 10-to-1 still not a good bet after loss to Georgetown.
9 Syracuse 46.58 1.97% 30-to-1 a good bet for a Value Add top 10 team, but take a shot at Final Four or Elite 8 bet if you can.
10 Baylor 38.99 0.59% 100-to-1 looked good to many after fairly easy wins over Oregon, VCU and Michigan State, but Value Add still skeptical.
11 Wisconsin 45.28 2.36% if 25-to-1 improves due to losses to Creighton and UNC might be worth the bet if this goes to 35-to-1 or better or you can get good Elite 8 odds, as they lost early games last year then rallied.
12 Utah 48.51 0.59% The unranked dark horse — get in an Elite 8 bet on them. I put them at No. 12 based on David Collette +8.0 Value Add’s 18th best freshman in 2015 before Utah St. tried for months to block his transfer to Utah, where ex-NBA center Larry Krystkowiak could make him another NBA center. The 100-to-1 opening odds by far the best on the board, take the bet if you can get close to that.
13 Louisville 43.05 2.95% 20-to-1 is not a good bet even though the lock down defense against Wichita State looks like a Pitino-type contender.
14 Xavier 39.20 2.36% 25-to-1 worth a bet if you are a fan – but Elite 8 realistic after Big East title in 2016 and Xavier wins at Northern Iowa, Missouri and on neutral court vs. Clemson.
15 Purdue 42.54 1.47% 40-to-1 worth consideration after near upset of Villanova.
16 Indiana 42.07 2.36% 25-to-1 Value Add never bought No. 3 poll rankings, and after upset by Fort Wayne would not take this bet.
17 Arizona 40.19 2.36% 25-to-1 not a good bet – game vs. Butler a good test for both.
18 Clemson 41.47 0.20% Elijah Thomas +2.0 former top 50 prospect transferred from Texas A&M to play in December. At 300-to-1 for title you might get decent odds on a Sweet 16 bet.
19 Butler 41.37 0.59% 100-to-1 worth a look with Big East looking good and their history, but see if you can get good odds on Elite 8.
20 Michigan 40.87 0.59% 100-to-1 after blowout of Marquette and SMU might be worth those odds, but realistic shot at Elite 8 if you can get 4-to-1 on that.
21 Florida 40.02 0.59% 100-to-1 Value Add liked them even before a nice win over Seton Hall, but try for Elite 8 bet.
22 Saint Mary’s 40.71 0.59% 100-to-1 not a great bet, see Florida.
23 Iowa St. 40.70 0.74% 80-to-1 still not worth it, but JUCO transfers are more ready than freshman for other teams to get to Sweet 16.
24 UCLA 38.77 1.47% 40-to-1 not good odds for you – Vegas is playing big fan base.
25 Miami FL 41.86 0.74% 80-to-1 not worth it.

Other projected tournament teams:
26, BYU: 300-to-1 worth a shot, but Sweet 16 bet more realistic.
27, West Virginia: 60-to-1 not a good bet.
28, Wichita St.: Blown out twice over Thanksgiving, makes even 100-to-1 a bad looking bet.
29, Oklahoma: Dante Buford +1.0 coming off suspension after some action as a freshman, but even 200-to-1 not a good bet.
30, Cincinnati: 100-to-1 not good enough odds.
31, VCU: 200-to-1 not a bad bet.
32, Michigan St.: 18-to-1 is based on the best coach in the business, but do not see this team making a run.
33, Rhode Island: 100-to-1 Value Add not sure they should be ranked, but a solid team.
34, Seton Hall: 200-to-1
35, Colorado: 200-to-1
36, Ohio St.: 200-to-1
37, Maryland: 60-to-1
38, Creighton: 100-to-1 solid bet after double digit wins over Wisconsin, NC State and Mississippi.
39, Texas Tech: 300-to-1
40, Notre Dame: 200-to-1
41, California: 100-to-1
42, Virginia Tech: 200-to-1
43, Kansas St.: 300-to-1
44, Florida St.: 100-to-1
45, TCU: Alex Robinson +4.0 a number of double digit outings at Texas A&M before transfer.
46, Princeton: 300-to-1
47, Wake Forest: 300-to-1
55, Ohio: 1000-to-1
57, East Tennessee St.: Vegas gives no chance.
58, UNC Wilmington: Ambrose Mosley +2.5 at UNCW for senior year after being leading three-point shooter for 27-8 ODU team.
63, Cal St. Fullerton: Khalil Ahmad +7.0 conference freshman of the year missing semester for academics, Riley Dearring +1 hit a couple of shots for Wisconsin’s tourney team two years ago.
80, San Diego St.: 200-to-1
89, North Dakota St.: 1000-to-1
93, Valparaiso: 1000-to-1
94, Charlotte: Austin Ajukwa +1.5 two seasons at Clemson and should contribute at Charlotte.
102, Belmont: 2000-to-1
113, Stephen F. Austin: 1000-to-1
121, Winthrop: Vegas gives no chance.
124, Vermont: Vegas gives no chance.
126, UT Arlington: 1000-to-1
127, Siena: Vegas gives no chance.
128, Florida Gulf Coast: 3000-to-1
135, Texas Southern: Tevon Saddler +3.5 led UNCG in scoring and assists before transfer. Vegas gives no chance.
137, Boston University: Vegas gives no chance.
166, New Mexico St.: 2000-to-1
167, Montana: 2000-to-1
206, Wagner: Vegas gives no chance.
239, Norfolk St.: Vegas gives no chance.

First Teams Out (Just missing tournament)
48, Houston: 300-to-1
49, Dayton: 200-to-1
50, Marquette: 300-to-1
51, SMU: 300-to-1
86, Incarnate Word: Could win Southland Conference, but cannot go to tourney yet as new D1 team.

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