Let’s be clear about the odds to win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship for a second. This is one of the most exciting seasons we’ve ever seen at this level. The flood of freshman talent has compounded an electric year. But the teams that win the national title don’t always have the best players in the country. It sometimes seems that way, but there’s a difference between being a great college basketball player and a scintillating NBA prospect. Let’s keep that lens on while we grade five of the best teams to bank on in the upcoming tournament. (Click here to see the Round of 64 March Madness schedule)
Odds To Win the 2014 NCAA Basketball National Championship Analysis
The Arizona Wildcats can win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship if they can show the resolve they’ve lacked in years past (+400).
Head coach Sean Miller has a heavy task ahead of him. The Wildcats are performing like the best team in the country right now (it’s them and Syracuse). However, under his watch, Arizona has been bounced from the Elite Eight in 2011, the first round of the NIT in 2012 and the Sweet Sixteen in 2013. They’re also coming out of their first loss of the season against California.
This is still one of the best defensive teams in the country and they have an impact player in the paint with Aaron Gordon who dominates the glass and the scoreboard equally. There’s a ton of talent here outside of Gordon as well, including Nick Johnson (16.1 points per game) and T.J. McConnell, a hyper athletic guard. Arizona could be the “team to beat”, but they could also be a team that peaked too early. Only time will tell. You’ll be able to figure out if their 4-to-1 odds are going to be worth taking in the next two weeks after they prove what they’re made of after their first loss of the season.
The Kansas Jayhawks can win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship if Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins are as talented as advertised (+600).
The biggest misconception with Embiid and Wiggins is that they’re the next versions of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Durant. Those are absolutely ludicrous statements because those are two of the most unique players to ever play in the NBA. And that’s the problem facing Wiggins and Embiid, the two players who are expected to go as high as first and second in the NBA Draft this year. There’s so much hype. Wiggins is especially erratic despite possessing all the potential in the known world, and while combining him with Embiid seems like the perfect combination, it hasn’t been a flawless tandem throughout the year.
This team has seemed precariously vulnerable against the strangest of opponents, like when they were spanked 69-81 against Texas. We’ve seen this before with players focusing on their pro careers more than their college careers, and it’s hard to blame either, but it doesn’t make me feel comfortable investing in Kansas long-term. And the thought that Embiid and Wiggins aren’t trying is equally ridiculous. This is more so a case of too many cooks in the kitchen than a lack of effort. If they figure it out get out of the way. Until then…stay away.
The Syracuse Orange can win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship if they’re as allergic to losing as they seem to be (+800).
Syracuse has been victimizing the ACC all season and are one of just two ranked teams that remains undefeated. What I love about this team their defense, which allows just 59.1 points per game and they dominate on the boards with 36.0 per game offensively and another 26.6 defensively on average. They don’t have the starpower that other teams in this post do, but C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis are as polished as they come and the Orange have one of the best coaches in the country as well. Quite frankly, their 8-to-1 odds are a steal in terms of value.
The Wichita State Shockers can win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship if they just stay exactly the same (+800).
Make no mistake, the Missouri Valley Conference juggernauts are a legitimate threat in the tournament. Last year, they made it all the way to the Final Four as a ninth seed, and this year they’re positioned to have a much easier path to the semifinals given their incredible ranking and their undefeated record (which is in no serious jeopardy). This is virtually the same team that stomped their way past Gonzaga, Pittsburgh and Ohio State before losing by four points to the eventual champion Louisville Cardinals. Even with a massive target on their backs, the Shockers are one of the best defensive, rebounding and scoring teams in the country. Experience is part of the package. Plus they also have a Wiggins of their own – Andrew’s older brother Nick. Could this team be any more likeable? Probably not.
The Kentucky Wildcats can win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship if Julius Randle ever turns in to the player he was supposed to be in the next three months (+1200).
Let’s put it simply: Randle was a potential number-one pick based on his potential. He remains a probably top-ten pick because of that same potential but scouts and gamblers aren’t liking what they’re seeing out of the main cog in the Wildcats’ offense. Randle has scored 16.6 points and 10.5 rebounds on average this year, but he’s completely vanished against competitive opponents that have athletic frontcourts. There’s a reason that Kentucky is losing to teams like Arkansas and LSU. And there’s simply no justifiable argument for making Kentucky a long term investment. I know I criticized Wiggins-Embiid earlier with pretty much the same problems, but Randle doesn’t have another star to turn to. Until he shines like he was supposed to, there’s nothing here worth banking on.
The Duke Blue Devils can win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship if Jabari Parker cares about being the best as much as he seems to (+1000).
There have been rumors floating around that Parker is tempted to stay in school, and when you play for the Duke Blue Devils it’s easy to understand why. There have been other players of Parker’s caliber – like Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin – that haven’t “brought it” when it comes to March Madness. But Parker seems to value his development more than others. He’s making it easy to love him as a player and a person, and if he’s as committed to improving as the stories indicate then the Duke Blue Devils will remain focused and dialed in. Rodney Hood and Coach K are also invaluable pieces to this puzzle. Duke’s odds should probably be closer to +1500 but they’re reduced because of the public factor. That doesn’t make them any less of a contender. Duke can win the 2014 NCAA basketball national championship if Parker and Hood set the one for the rest of the roster that business comes before glory.