The MLP Power Rankings are back, which means it’s time to dig into some futures.
Anyway, now that conference play has been going for a few weeks and the schedule strengths are starting to balance out a little more, I figured it would be a good time to check out this year’s field and see if you can find value before the prices plummet.
Remember last year Oregon was the discovery from this type of exercise a year(ish) ago. They were 80-1 at the very beginning of February and entered the tourney around 12-1 if memory serves correctly. Obviously they got bounced in the Elite 8, but getting an eventual #1 seed at that number is about as good as you can get and why it’s always best to look early.
I only evaluated teams that were in the Top 30 of KenPom. No one outside of the Top 25 heading into the tournament has won, so I didn’t extend it out much further for the sake of time. I’ve still got everyone featured in here who has lower odds than the #30 team on KenPom, which is Kansas State
Odds were taken from sportsbook.ag. The number to the left of the teams’ name are where they rank in SB’s odds list and the number in parentheses are where they rank in the MLP Power Rankings.
1. Kentucky +450 (MLPPR: 4)
They do have an obvious flaw with their shooting. It probably won’t matter for a while in the tournament, but the Louisville game is an example of the danger they’re in when Malik Monk isn’t hot against a good team.
3. Duke +850 (MLPPR: 6)
They’re a mess right now, but talent wins out a lot of times in March and nobody has more than the Blue Devils. Gonna have to play better defense than they are right now, though.
6. Kansas +1000 (MLPPR: 5)
Maybe the most polarizing – in terms of the aspects that go into the power rankings – of the top teams in the country. Their offensive shooting efficiency and interior defense are big in the plus category, but their poor free throw shooting, poor three-point defense, and proneness to fouling aren’t great. Essentially the reasons they lost to IU, although they actually shot free throws well that game, mainly due to who was shooting them (not Josh Jackson).
12. Florida State +2800 (MLPPR: 11)
There’s a lot to like about the Seminoles. They’re an athletic team with quite a bit of NBA talent and they’re really deep. Although, to refresh, teams that play their bench a lot haven’t had much success in the tournament. The Noles would be the team with the highest number of bench minutes to make the Final Four since KenPom started tracking that number (since 2007). The average team ranks 246th in the country.
18. Purdue +4500 (MLPPR: 18)
The only member of the MLPPR that ranks perfectly with their slot in the odds.
At times Purdue looks like a team that could make the last weekend of the tournament. At times they look like they’re a candidate again to get upset in the first round. The rankings hate their turnover problems and their lack of any type of shot-blocker and really just their lack of defensive disruption. Offensively, the biggest thing holding them back are those turnovers. They can score in a lot of ways and their EFG% is great. They’re match-up dependent like a lot of teams, however. They’re as bracket dependent as anyone.
24. St. Mary’s +10000 (MLPPR: 20)
Step 1 is making the field this year. They were 27-5 a year ago and analytically deserving of making the field over other at-large choices, but found themselves playing in the NIT instead. They’re capable of beating anybody with their shooting, but the defense remains a bit of a question mark.
36. South Carolina +22500 (MLPPR: 30)
The best defense in basketball held back by their below-average offense that’s only gotten worse in SEC play. Not worthy of a play here until you see some dramatic improvement in the scoring department.
7. Baylor +1800 (MLPPR: 3)
There seems to be some trepidation with the Bears as a legitimate contender. Probably because they weren’t expected to do much this year, they’re not exactly swimming in five-star talent, and probably because people don’t trust Scott Drew.
Personally, I wonder if there’s enough natural scorers when things get tight in March. But they do give themselves a lot of second chance opportunities, they’re great defensively, and at the end of the day they’re 16-1 against the nation’s 12th toughest schedule.
11. Oregon +2500 (MLPPR: 12)
Not gonna get the same type of value on the Ducks this year. Although I guess that kind of depends on how you feel about them. Their overall resume is flawed by Dillon Brooks’ lack of health so far. It may be a blessing in disguise after all. The rest of the team has developed without him, enough to the point they barely needed him to roll in two blowout wins at the Washington schools.
In Pac-12 play they’ve been the most efficient team in the league on both sides of the ball. Yes, even more efficient than UCLA. All signs point to the Ducks only improving as the season goes on and they’ll likely be in heavy consideration for a #1 seed again.
20. Notre Dame +5500 (MLPPR: 16)
I really like Notre Dame. Their offense is awesome, they’ve got a lot of experience in the tournament recently, and Bonzie Colson has played like an All-American. The biggest knock on them is their defense, obviously. It’s still not great, but it’s better than it was the past couple of years when they went to the Elite 8.
23. Florida +8500 (MLPPR: 19)
They have good guards, which is always a plus when it matters, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to go on a real deep run. They’re really dependent on offensive rebounds on offense and steals on defense. If they’re not getting those, they’re fairly mediocre. Not sure they’ve beat a tournament team yet.
39. SMU +25000 (MLPPR: 22)
There’s obviously a wide gap in their odds and their ranking, but the best win they have is TCU at home and they’re just an okay team so far away from Moody.
54. Clemson +40000 (MLPPR: 23)
Tigers have played a really tough schedule and their biggest issue will be making the field after going through the gauntlet that’s still ahead in the ACC.
Not Listed: Kansas State (MLPPR: 29)
Racked up a lot of wins against a baby-poo soft non-con schedule. Still a decent chance of making the field, though, which is strange they don’t even have odds when you consider some of the teams featured later that do.
4. Villanova +850 (MLPPR: 9)
They’re the defending champs, so it makes sense to believe in them a little bit more than the numbers say. It would help if they could get Phil Booth back.
5. UNC +900 (MLPPR: 10)
They don’t shoot great percentages, but they give themselves so many second and third chances that they end up being an efficient team. They’re not really incredible at anything defensively, but they’re good at about everything. For all their length, they don’t block a lot of shots, though.
They’re a very good team, but probably not as good as last year.
9. Louisville +2000 (MLPPR: 14)
The offense leaves a lot to be desired, but it wouldn’t be the first time Rick Pitino got to the Final Four with a suspect O and fantastic defense. This year’s team looks like the Warriors compared to the 2012 Cardinals.
21. Butler +6500 (MLPPR: 25)
The defense is just okay right now. Still worth keeping an eye on, though. They’ve already racked up a few really good wins.
21. Xavier +6500 (MLPPR: 27)
They’re on a tough stretch right now, but Edmond Sumner alone makes this team really dangerous. Myles Davis is now back and has yet to hit a shot in three games. Once he gets going, it’ll help out with their poor perimeter shooting they’ve had so far this year.
7. Gonzaga +1800 (MLPPR: 2)
I know the rhetoric around Gonzaga, but they’ve also won four games against the KenPom Top 25 (three of them on a neutral floor) and Mark Few has never had a team that was this good on both sides of the ball. Also, Nigel Williams-Goss is probably the best guard they’ve had here since John Stockton. All due respect to Kevin Pangos and Dan Dickau.
12. Arizona +2800 (MLPPR: 7)
They’re really good as they are, but maybe, oh I don’t know, an Allonzo Trier-type player away from being a real contender. They don’t have the strongest ones, but they’re killing people right now.
14. Virginia +3000 (MLPPR: 1)
The rankings loved Virginia last year too, which has a lot to do with their interior defense and their efficiency shooting the ball. In reality, they lost a close game to Syracuse in the Elite 8. Blew a 16-point lead actually. If that goes the other way, they get UNC in the Final 4, a team they had already beat and possibly Villanova in the championship, another team they had already beat.
Probably won’t come as a big surprise that the Cavs at 3o-1 is my favorite bet.
16. Wisconsin +3500 (MLPPR: 8)
They haven’t beaten anybody really good yet, but they’ve got a lot of tournament experience on this team and the Badgers – at least lately – seem to make it further than you think they will in March.
27. Cincinnati +15000 (MLPPR: 13)
Yeah, probably not, but they’re an exceptional defensive team.
31. Iowa St. +20000 (MLPPR: 17)
A lot less buzz around this team than those they’ve had in recent past and they don’t really have a signature win at this point, but Monte Morris is one of those guards that could put the team on his back for a little while.
2. UCLA +600 (MLPPR: 15)
A little more sizzle than substance at the moment. The only team worse defensively to make the Final Four in the KenPom era would be 2011 VCU, which was really just the worst team to make the Final Four in general. 2013 Michigan was close, though.
UCLA’s good and could definitely go on a deep run, but you’re betting against history if you take them to win it all right now and you’re getting zero value in return.
9. West Virginia +2000 (MLPPR: 24)
Once again, the ratings hate West Virginia just like last year, although not as much. Basically there’s not a lot of precedent for a pressing team that plays 1,000 dudes.
The difference between last year and this year is that they’re currently turning teams over at a much higher rate, fouling less, and their offense is better.
We’ll see as they go on though. The Mountaineers SOS is still lagging after playing one of the easiest non-con slates in the country.
It’s hard to really say the ratings were correct about the Mountaineers last year, as much as I’d like that to be true. It didn’t really confirm anything because 1) SFA was maybe the greatest 14 seed ever 2) SFA played the same style, so WVU really just got beat at their own game which doesn’t really prove anything about the press not working.
14. Creighton +3000 (MLPPR: 21)
I started putting this all together on Sunday night. As I write this, it’s Monday night and the difference between now and then is Mo Watson potentially had a season-ending knee injury on Monday afternoon.
If the worst comes true, there’s really not much of a point in considering the Jays. Watson is so important to them. They played well in the second half in his absence, but that doesn’t mean it’s sustainable the rest of the year.
Even if he is okay, there’s a lot of question marks for this team. They get killed in the rankings because they’re a really poor rebounding team and their interior defense isn’t good. You’d love to see them get a chance with a backcourt with Watson, Foster, and Thomas. They’re one of the best in the country and those teams always seem to do well.
17. Indiana +4000 (MLPPR: 26)
Fairly straightforward with the Hoosiers. They’re not good enough defensively and they turn the ball over too much. It’d be tough for anybody to win a NC with Josh Newkirk at point guard. He just doesn’t give them much offensively and he has the highest TO rate of the first eight guys in their rotation.
19. Michigan St. +5000 (MLPPR: NR)
You always have to keep your eye on an Izzo team, but this team hasn’t showed close to the consistency they need to string together six straight wins against the best teams in the country.
Didn’t actually run the numbers, but I can tell you they’d grade out poorly based on their offense overall, turnovers, average rebounding, and really poor free throw shooting.
Irrelevant At This Point
24. Syracuse +10000 (MLPPR: NR)
They’re 11-7 with losses to Boston College, St. John’s, and UConn. I don’t care what happened last year. If you’re betting on this team to win it all, you’re a dummy.
24. Virginia Tech +10000 (MLPPR: NR)
I like the Hokies, but that Duke win is about the only guaranteed plus on their resume right now. Gotta make the tournament to win it.
27. Michigan +15000 (MLPPR: NR)
They’re actually not good. Defense is atrocious.
27. Minnesota +15000 (MLPPR: NR)
Got off to a hot start, but they’re fading a little bit and Richie Pitino doesn’t exactly instill a ton of confidence.
27. USC +15000 (MLPPR: NR)
Best -and only relevant – win is at home against SMU.
31. Maryland +20000 (MLPPR: NR)
Respect to the Terps for grinding out wins, but that doesn’t mean they have any chance of winning it all.
31. NC State +20000 (MLPPR: NR)
I’m pretty sure they’d be the first team to ever lose a game by 50 and then go on to win a national title.
31. Oklahoma St. +20000 (MLPPR: NR)
Being 0-5 in the Big 12 doesn’t scream national title contenders.
31. Wichita St. +20000 (MLPPR: 28)
Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet are not walking through that door.
36. Northwestern +22500 (MLPPR: NR)
Seems like the odds of making the field for the first time in program history and then rattling off six straight wins ought to be higher.
36. Seton Hall +22500 (MLPPR: NR)
They were the “dangerous” 6 seed last year and they lost by 16 in the first round.
39. Auburn +25000 (MLPPR: NR)
They haven’t beaten a team that’s a lock for the tournament and they’re 102nd in KenPom. It’s wild they’re even listed.
39. Miami +25000 (MLPPR: NR)
A common theme with this group: they haven’t beaten anybody good.
39. Rhode Island +25000 (MLPPR: NR)
There’s a lot to like with the Rams when they’re fully healthy. The problem is that they’re never fully healthy and they’re taking losses that’ll hurt their opportunity to even make the field.
39. Texas A&M +25000 (MLPPR: NR)
They’re 9 and freaking 7.
39. Utah +25000 (MLPPR: NR)
45. Arkansas +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
45. California +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
They can’t score.
45. Dayton +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
Neither can they.
45. Ohio State +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
Currently 1-4 in a mediocre Big Ten.
45. Stanford +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
45. Texas Tech +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
Gotta say, no one would be psyched to play the Red Raiders if they make the dance. Unfortunately for TTU, they don’t get to play any postseason games in Lubbock.
45. VCU +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
Chances of winning the title are slim-to-none, but I’d keep an eye on the Rams for bracket/gambling purposes. They’ve started to play pretty well. Five seniors in the rotation.
45. Washington +30000 (MLPPR: NR)
This is so dumb. They’ll be lucky to make the CBI.