The NCAA basketball tournament might be over two months away, but with conference play underway the contenders will face tough competition and the rankings could be quickly shuffled each week.
With conference play now fully underway, the true contenders will begin to separate from the rest of the pack.
No one doubts the Kentucky Wildcats are the best at this point. On Bovada and betonline, the Wildcats are 4 to 5 to win the national championship. Duke at 8 to 1 and Wisconsin at 10 to 1 are also legitimate contenders for the national title, but conference play presents night after night of tough competition not seen when playing a non conference schedule to start the season.
Many people are wondering if the tough games each night will be enough to knock Kentucky off the top. The Wildcats enter SEC play at 13-0. Kentucky is coming off another big win of 58-50 on the road at Louisville. Of course, some see that the win was only single digits, but a team cannot play at such a level game in and game out that allows them double-digits routs each game.
There are some strong teams the Wildcats will face in SEC play, but only one ranked opponent remains on Kentucky’s schedule. They will play Arkansas, which is now ranked No. 23, on February 28 at home.
A great deal will change between now and the end of February, but the seemingly soft Kentucky schedule provides an idea of how attainable an undefeated regular season is for the Wildcats under the tutelage of John Calipari.
Kentucky is not favored to end the season unbeaten, though some sites such as topbet and sportsbook.com are offering a prop of will Kentucky go unbeaten with the yes price currently at +400 and the no priced at -500.
The ACC schedule is so strong it preempts any talk of Duke remaining undefeated, even though the team has looked as strong and as confident as Kentucky at different times during the season.
Duke must face seven opponents that are ranked including St. John’s a non-ACC opponent.
The toughest on the schedule appears to be visits to both Virginia and Louisville, not to mention home and home games with Notre Dame, Syracuse, and North Carolina.
Wisconsin’s road is similar to both Kentucky and Duke’s. The schedule in the Big 10 gives only two ranked opponents for the Badgers to play, but other teams that are not ranked will step up their game during conference play.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP FUTURES
KENTUCKY WILDCATS 4 to 5
DUKE BLUE DEVILS 8 to 1
WISCONSIN BADGERS 10 to 1
ARIZONA WILDCATS 12 to 1
GONZAGA BULLDOGS 12 to 1
TEXAS LONGHORNS 15 to 1
VIRGINIA CAVALIERS 20 to 1
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS 25 to 1
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS 30 to 1
KANSAS JAYHAWKS 30 to 1