North Carolina 2017 NCAA Basketball Title Betting Odds

Posted by Jordan Walters on Wednesday,May 18, 2016 10:58, EDT in

Fans of the University of North Carolina basketball team are probably still crushed from that April night in Houston where Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit perhaps the most clutch shot in NCAA history as he gave the Wildcats the national championship game over the favored Tar Heels. But UNC has actually been blessed with some pretty good news since then and Coach Roy Williams’ squad should contend for the title again in the 2016-17 season. They are +2400 on college basketball odds to cut down the nets next April in Glendale, Ariz.

An Inside Look at the North Carolina 2017 NCAA Basketball Title Betting Odds

When the Heels entered the offseason, it wasn’t even clear if they would get a chance to play in the 2017 NCAA Tournament because of an academic scandal at the school that involved the athletic department. The first Notice of Allegations from the NCAA included the football and basketball programs. But the amended one in late April, strangely, did not. Thus that makes it unlikely that the basketball program suffers major penalties like not being allowed postseason basketball next season.

From an on-court perspective, the Heels do lose two of their best players in All-American forward Brice Johnson and senior point guard Marcus Paige. Johnson (16.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG) finished second for ACC Player of the Year honors. Paige (12.1 PPG, 3.7 APG) was a leader for the Heels for four years, though his numbers went down from his junior season.

But the Heels have gotten great news with two other top players, Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson, recently taking their name out of the NBA Draft. Both are allowed to return to school because they didn’t sign with agents. Underclassmen have until May 25 to withdraw their names from the draft in order to maintain their NCAA eligibility.

The 6-foot-10 Meeks, a three-year contributor and frequent starter for the Tar Heels down low, didn’t have the breakout season many expected in 2015-16. A knee injury forced him to miss seven games, and he saw a slight decline in points per game (9.2), rebounds per game (5.9) and shooting percentage (54.0) from his sophomore season. He still has major upside.

This week, Jackson also took his name out of the draft. The 6-foot-8 junior-to-be averaged 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists this past season, but concerns about his lack of strength and inability to consistently sink outside shots hurt his chances of being a first-round pick this June. When Paige was out early last year, Jackson put together three consecutive games of more than 20 points each. Paige himself never had three straight 20+ games in his decorated UNC career.

With returnees Meeks, Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt and Joel Berry II, the Heels look strong and will be a preseason Top-10 team but a second-favorite in the ACC to Duke. Berry can score from the perimeter. Meeks and Hicks can score in the paint. And Jackson can score everywhere in-between. The starting lineup should be seniors Meeks and Hicks, juniors Jackson and Berry, and either junior Theo Pinson or senior Britt. That means no matter which way Williams chooses to go in the backcourt, the Tar Heels will start all juniors and seniors for the first time since the 2008-09 team.

Coach Williams also will bring in a top-10 recruiting class headlined by big man Tony Bradley and guards Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods. Bradley, at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds could immediately help compensate for Johnson’s departure.

North Carolina’s 2016-17 schedule should be out soon. The Heels will participate in the stacked Maui Invitational.