Zion Williamson and Duke won’t be stopped next month during March Madness, if you believe what the Vegas handicappers project. But you can’t pencil them in as the 2019 men’s college basketball champions just yet.
The Blue Devils are currently 9/5 favorites to win it all. But they aren’t the top ranked team in the country. That title goes to the Tennessee Volunteers, a surprise 22-1 team that hasn’t lost since a November 23 setback against Kansas.
Duke (21-2) is fresh off an impressive 81-71 road win against 4th-ranked Virginia, their second victory against the highly rated Cavaliers this season.
Why Duke is Favored
Duke isn’t the top ranked team in the country, but they are heavily favored. Gonzaga (23-2), one of two teams to have beaten the Blue Devils this season, is the second favorite to win the national title at 7/1 odds as of Tuesday. Tennessee (15/2), Virginia (15/2), Michigan (8/1), and Kentucky (10/1) are right behind the Zags.
The oddsmakers are so confident in the Dukies for a few reasons, mostly because they are so talented. According to most NBA Draft experts, three Blue Devils (Williamson, Cam Reddish, and R.J. Barrett) are among the top five prospects in the country.
Williamson, the freshman phenom forward who many are already comparing to NBA legends LeBron James and Charles Barkley, averages 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Reddish, also a freshman, leads the team and Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring at 23.1 points per contest.
Duke is also getting love from Vegas because of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s history of leading his team on deep NCAA Tournament runs. “Coach K” has won five national titles since 1991 and this team, albeit young, is one of his most talented.
Watch Out for Sleeper Teams
We aren’t about to just hand Duke the title. The Blue Devils, despite the 9/5 odds, are certainly no lock to cut down the nets in April.
Since you can’t win much betting on Duke, you might find better value on some other teams, starting with Kentucky (10/1). The Wildcats, like Duke, are young but extremely talented. And they have a coach, John Calipari, who is no stranger to deep NCAA Tournament runs.
Nevada, a mid-major program, isn’t a perennial power like Duke and Kentucky. And that is why the odds on the Wolf Pack are so favorable (20/1) despite the team’s 23-1 record. The front-court duo of Jordan Carolina and Caleb Martin will keep Nevada in any game.
If you’re looking for long-shot that has a legitimate shot, look no further than the Iowa. The Hawkeyes (19-5), at 125-1 odds, will make you rich if they come through. And it’s not that unlikely given the Big Ten title contenders have wins over highly-ranked foes Michigan and Iowa State.
But the oddsmakers appear to be quite confident in the Duke Blue Devils cutting down the nets.