2023-24 College basketball predictions: NCAA Tournament winner picks and best bets: Creighton crowned the champs
It’s shaping up to be another exciting season in college basketball! With 362 Division I teams, there’s never a shortage of storylines in the sport. Last season, we saw a #1 seed lose to a #16 seed for just the second time ever and the Final Four had no #1, #2 or #3 seeds for the first time ever. We’ll likely see more craziness in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but we have an entire season before then.
In this article, I will be looking at some of the NCAA Championship futures odds at FanDuel Sportsbook and picking a few teams whose odds are worth a bet, including a longshot at +7500 odds. Last season’s longshot pick of San Diego State made it all the way to the title game before losing to UConn, so let’s see if we can go one better this time!
2023-24 College Basketball NCAA Tournament Contenders
Listed below are the top ten contenders to win the NCAA Championship, with odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.
Michigan State +1500
As you can see, Duke, Kansas and Purdue are the co-favorites with odds of +1100 at FanDuel. None of these come as a huge surprise, as they are the top three teams in the AP Poll. Purdue and Kansas are one and two at KenPom as well, but Duke ranks ninth. Purdue returns the National Player of the Year with Zach Edey and most of the team that earned a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. They infamously lost in the first round to Fairleigh Dickinson, but the only other #1 seed that lost to a #16 seed, Virginia in 2018, went on to win the National Championship the following season.
The trio at +1100 odds are followed by Michigan State (+1500) and Kentucky (+1800), each of which ironically lost to Kansas State in last season’s NCAA Tournament. Kentucky lost in the second round, while Michigan State lost in overtime in the Sweet 16. Michigan State adds three top-50 freshmen to a large crop of returnees, while Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves is the only returning Wildcat to start a game last season. However, they have a talented group of newcomers, including transfer Tre Mitchell and three of the top six recruits in the country per 247 Sports.
Next on the list are Creighton, Marquette, Tennessee, and Houston, who all have odds of +2000. All four squads reached the NCAA Tournament last season, but only Creighton made it past the Sweet 16. The final team inside the top ten at FanDuel is the defending champion UConn Huskies at +2200. UConn lost the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player with Adama Sanogo, as well as Andrew Jackson and Jordan Hawkins, but still have a ton of talent on the roster.
2023 NCAA Tournament Winner Best Bet: Creighton Bluejays (+2000)
I am picking Creighton at +2000 to win the 2023-24 National Championship. The Bluejays were one of just eight teams last season to rank inside the top 25 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency and were just a few bounces away from beating San Diego State to reach the Final Four.
This season, they open as BartTorvik’s fourth-ranked team, despite losing two starters Arthur Kaluma and Ryan Nembhard. Nembhard is a big loss, but Utah State transfer Steven Ashworth is a more than capable replacement. Ashworth shot 42.9 percent from three and is as steady as they come with the ball. Kaluma averaged 11.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last season for the Bluejays, but according to HoopLens, there was a negligible drop-off from when Kaluma was off the court.
Ryan Kalkbrenner will keep the defense elite and the offense should be extremely potent once again thanks to Baylor Scheierman and Trey Alexander. The Bluejays lost in the Elite Eight by just a single point to San Diego State, despite shooting 2/17 from three. With a little better luck this March, Creighton could be cutting down the nets.
2023 NCAA Tournament Winner Best Longshot Bet: Texas Tech Red Raiders (+7500)
For my longshot pick, I am going with Texas Tech at +7500 for reasons very similar to last season’s longshot, San Diego State. Grant McCasland takes over the Texas Tech program after six seasons at North Texas and the fit could not be more ideal. McCasland is a defensive mastermind who is coming to Lubbock following three straight seasons with a KenPom top-50 defense. Texas Tech and defense are two peas in a pod, as the Red Raiders led the country in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2019 when they lost in the National Championship game.
We can be fairly certain that Texas Tech will be elite defensively this season and sometimes that can be all you need to make a run in March. Look at San Diego State last season, who ranked just 75th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. The similarity between San Diego State’s defense and those typical of McCasland’s North Texas teams is their average defensive possession length. San Diego State ranked 344th in average defensive possession length, meaning two things: they typically forced tough shots and they significantly shortened the game. North Texas has ranked outside the top 300 in each of the last two seasons.
By limiting the number of possessions in the game, you increase the variance. In a 40-minute, single-elimination tournament, increasing the variance for a team with lesser talent is ideal. Texas Tech’s offense could be a struggle, but San Diego State proved that can still be okay and make a deep run in the postseason. Per BartTorvik, Texas Tech has only a 58.3 percent chance of making the NCAA Tournament and it’s very possible McCasland needs a season under his belt before making headway. However, if they make it in and their defense is as stifling as anticipated, you never know what can happen.
Read our college basketball predictions for the big games all season long!