March always roars in like a lion for college hoops junkies. It’s the time of year we crave and, if my trembling hand is any indication, it’s arriving just in time!
The tourney – especially the early action – is going to be a tough one for so-called “experts”; that’s just the nature of increased parity in the middle of the pack. But March is also when the nation’s stars stake their claims to individual honors, and the race for the Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and the All-American slots are a little easier to handicap.
Plenty of hardware is likely to end up in Norman and East Lansing. Lon Kruger (Oklahoma) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State) are the frontrunners to be named Coach of the Year. Meanwhile, Buddy Hield of the Sooners and Denzel Valentine of the Spartans are one-two in the Player of the Year Odds. The sharpshooting Hield and all-everything Valentine lead a shortlist of potential first-team All-Americans.
When Selection Sunday rolls around, the sports media will inundate us with countless cliches. In blissful ignorance, talking heads will repeatedly mumble “anybody can win” and “wide open field.”
It’s true, many teams could catch a few breaks and make a short, magical run. Cinderella always finds a way to shine in this dance. She’ll get a couple favorable match-ups, make a few miracle shots, and capture the heart of America.
However, her slipper will then shatter while getting dunked on by superior athletes.
Not many schools are capable of winning six games in this tournament. Only a handful possess the coaching, talent, and chemistry to have a reasonable shot of winning it all.
Below is a list of the 25 teams most likely to cut down the nets at the Final Four, and the current odds for the NCAA’s individual accolades:
2015-16 NCAA Basketball Futures
Odds to win the NCAA men’s national championship:
Michigan State: 6/1
Miami, FL: 15/1
North Carolina: 25/1
Iowa State: 50/1
Wichita State: 50/1
West Virginia: 75/1
Odds to win Player of the Year:
Buddy Hield (Oklahoma): 2/3
Denzel Valentine (Michigan State): 17/3
Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia): 12/1
Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa): 15/1
Brice Johnson (North Carolina): 22/1
Odds to win Coach of the Year:
Lon Kruger (Oklahoma): 2/1
Tom Izzo (Michigan State): 5/1
Bob Huggins (West Virginia): 7/1
Dana Altman (Oregon): 12/1
Bill Self (Kansas): 15/1
Fran McCaffery (Iowa): 15/1
Shaka Smart (Texas): 15/1
Odds to be named a First-Team All-American:
Buddy Hield (Oklahoma): 1/19
Denzel Valentine (Michigan State): 1/9
Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia): 2/3
Brice Johnson (North Carolina): 1/1
Jakob Poeltl (Utah): 3/2
Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa): 2/1
Grayson Allen (Duke): 7/3
Perry Ellis (Kansas): 3/1
Georges Niang (Iowa State): 3/1
Josh Hart (Villanova): 4/1
(Photo credit: Adam Glanzman, Michigan Daily [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)