We have entered the stretch run of the college basketball regular season — a time when books and public opinion seem to simultaneously coalesce around a small group of true national title contenders.
This year appears to be no different, as nine teams have worked their way into the 6/1 to 15/1 payout range. But is there value outside of that cluster of contenders? Could we see another Cinderella run or two to the Final Four? Let’s take a closer look.
Oregon Ducks to win national championship (100/1 at BetMGM)
As the final horn sounded on Dec. 18, an eight-point loss to No. 1-ranked Baylor was officially in the books. Despite a valiant effort — which included a second-half lead over the Bears — the Ducks had dropped another game at home and stood at 6-6 on the season.
The narrative on Oregon’s season was all but written at that point. The Ducks were sloppy with the basketball and hadn’t found consistent scoring options outside of senior guard Will Richardson.
They had been crushed by BYU and Houston in the opening weeks of the season, and this loss to Baylor was further proof that they’d never get over the hump.
But only a foolish college basketball observer would completely write off Dana Altman. After all, Altman has been a head coach since the late 1980s, and during that time he’s won seven Coach of the Year honors across four different leagues (SoCon, Big 8, MVC, Pac-12).
He’s also reached the Sweet 16 in five of his past seven Big Dance appearances. He’s a brilliant in-game tactician whose hybrid match-up zone defense has proven time and time again to be a major problem to prepare for on short rest.
The Altman factor aside, Oregon has completely turned things around since that Baylor loss. Heading into Saturday night’s game at Utah, the Ducks were 8-1 SU and 6-3 ATS since Dec. 18. That includes a pair of top-five (at the time) wins in Los Angeles over UCLA and USC.
How have they done it? They’ve gotten their turnover issues under control, winning the TO battle in eight of their past nine games by an average margin of about three per game.
Jacob Young has also taken a major step forward as the Robin to Richardson’s Batman. The senior transfer from Rutgers has contributed 15 points and more than two steals per game in this run.
This newfound backcourt balance has helped Oregon improve to 29th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings.
On Saturday, Oregon began a stretch of six games in the next 2 ¹/₂ weeks against teams that have an average ranking of 99th in KenPom’s ratings.
If the Ducks can navigate the favorable slate and win five of those contests (three home, three away), they’d hit a stretch of games — at Arizona and home against UCLA and USC — with the chance to really improve their seeding.
As it stands the Ducks are a true bubble team, with most brackets slotting them as a 12-seed currently.
Given their schedule — which balances easy wins and opportunities to collect victories over highly-ranked programs — I foresee the Ducks entering the Pac-12 Tournament on the projected 8- to 10-seed line.
At 100/1, I’m more than happy to add a team playing great basketball with a proven winner on the sidelines calling the shots.