We are past the halfway point in the 2016-17 college basketball season and there is less than two months until were are in the midst of the NCAA Tournament’s March Madness. An argument could be made that any one of 10 programs, maybe more, have a legitimate shot at winning a national title. Here are three teams that have been surprises this far and their current NCAA tournament odds.
Biggest 2017 College Basketball Season Betting Surprises
Who should be No. 1?
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 25, 2017
Duke Blue Devils (+650)
The Blue Devils were preseason No. 1 in the nation and were supposed to have the greatest freshman class ever under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. But little has gone right. The freshmen have been hurt, ineffective or both, Coach K himself is currently out following back surgery, and preseason All-American Grayson Allen has had trouble staying sane and not tripping people. Many people didn’t expect Duke to lose more than five games all season and yet it fell to 15-5 with Monday’s shocking 84-82 home loss to NC State. The same Wolfpack team that had lost four of five coming in, including a 51-point loss at rival North Carolina earlier this month. The last time NC State had won in Cameron Indoor Stadium was also the last time Krzyzewski was not on the sidelines due to back issues. The Wolfpack had lost 16 straight going back to 1994-95 season at Duke. It’s quite possible that Duke falls out of the Top 25 if it loses this Saturday at Wake Forest. Yes, Duke could evolve into a force just before the NCAA tournament arrives. But what evidence suggests they will?
Florida State Seminoles (+1500)
We stay in the ACC with FSU, which right now looks like the conference’s best team — who would have thought that over the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville? The Noles are up to No. 6 in the polls and just completed a crazy-hard six-game stretch vs. ranked foes at 5-1, losing only at North Carolina. Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team — which boasts four underclassmen among its top five scorers — has handled the adversity with aplomb. And it seems that a different player stepped up and proved to be the difference-maker on each night. Given that FSU already has seven wins against the RPI top 25 — the next closest squad only has four — a Top 4 seed in the NCAA tournament is basically a foregone conclusion. FSU’s only trip to the Final Four was in 1972 and this could be the school’s best team since. The Seminoles haven’t even made the Big Dance since 2012.
Baylor Bears (+1800)
The Bears lost nearly everyone of value off last year’s good team and started the preseason unranked yet reached No. 1 faster in a season than any previously unranked team had. The Bears only loss is 89-68 at a very good West Virginia team. They have won three straight in commanding fashion since and still are No. 5 in the AP Poll. Baylor is led by junior forward Johnathan Motley. He is a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate who has become the first player in program history to earn the Big 12’s Player of the Week award four times. Motley’s three awards this season tie LaceDarius Dunn (2010) for most by a BU player in a single season. Motley ranks seventh in the Big 12 with 15.7 points per game, second with 9.6 rebounds per game, ninth with a .514 field goal percentage and 10th with 1.2 blocks per game. His efforts have led the Bears to their best 19-game start in program history at 18-1. Circle Feb. 1 on the schedule as Baylor visits Kansas in the Big 12 Game of the Year. Then the Jayhawks visit Waco on Feb. 18. Baylor has been one-and- done in the past two NCAA Tournaments but looks like a Final Four contender this year.