There are about 200 games involving at least one Division I college basketball team on Monday, as the season begins. There's not one that would get casual fans excited, unless you're looking forward to Memphis at Vanderbilt.
The season's first game between two Division I teams? Mississippi Valley State at Baylor at 11 a.m. CT. KenPom.com projected Baylor to win by 38.
College basketball has never mastered the art of opening day, but that's OK. The diehard fans and people who love betting on the sport know that there won't be much attention paid to the sport in the first few days. But there are a lot of games with a lot of point spreads.
Let's take a look at 10 things to know from a betting perspective for the college basketball season:
No more Coach K at Duke
Mike Krzyzewski was an institution at Duke and in college basketball itself since the 1980s. It will be odd to see Jon Scheyer take over, but Duke isn't planning on a transition season. Duke had by far the top recruiting class in Rivals' rankings, including four five-star players. Dariq Whitehead, one of those five-stars, will miss the start of the season after suffering a fractured foot in August. But Duke will have a ton of talent. Just beware that between their age and a new coach, it could be a bit of a slow start for the Blue Devils.
A player of the year back at Kentucky
The last national player of the year to return to college was Tyler Hansbrough in 2009. North Carolina won the national title his final season. Oscar Tshiebwe swept the national player of the year awards for Kentucky last season, but because of NIL money and the NBA shifting away from traditional bigs, he's back in school. Kentucky brings back talent and adds Rivals' No. 5 recruiting class, so there's plenty of talent for Tshiebwe to finish his career just like Hansbrough did. Kentucky is +1000 to win the title and it's unlikely you'll regret having that ticket on this Wildcats team in March. Those odds might be shorter if it weren't for the tournament disaster last season, losing to St. Peter's in the first round. Kentucky is my preseason title pick.
Overreactions to Miami, TCU
Every year, some team makes an unlikely run in the NCAA tournament and is overrated to start the following season. St. Peter's doesn't really apply because their run as a No. 15 seed was so wild, and they lost coach Shaheen Holloway to Seton Hall. But TCU and Miami might be those teams. TCU was a good team last season, but still a No. 9 seed in the tournament. They got on a lot of radars after nearly upsetting top-seeded Arizona in the second round. Now they're No. 14 in the AP poll. Miami went to the Elite Eight as a 10 seed. They barely beat USC in the first round. They're just outside of the top 25 heading into this season. Maybe those teams are going to build on those tournament runs and will be worth betting on all season, but keep in mind their true level a season ago wasn't top-25 caliber. Make them prove it.
North Carolina is legit
North Carolina could be in the "overrated due to a tournament run" bin too. They were a No. 8 seed. Before a win over Duke in the regular season finale, their resume was not tournament worthy (they would have gotten in because they're UNC, but would a non-blue blood have been in with the same resume? Likely not). Then they made a great tourney run before losing in the title game. The Tar Heels are No. 1 in the AP poll. Isn't that an overreaction? Maybe a little, but UNC's roster is loaded and it seems their true level was what we saw in that Duke win. The Tar Heels are the co-favorite to win the title at +900 and that seems fair.
Creighton is a media darling
Creighton is one of those teams that might be overrated because it has most of its roster back and our last glimpse of the team was when it gave eventual champion Kansas a great game in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Bluejays buzz got strong over the offseason and went to a new level when they added transfer Baylor Scheierman, a fantastic shooter, from South Dakota State. However, Creighton was 53rd in KenPom.com's rankings before last season's tournament, and now it's No. 9 in the AP poll. Talk about a leap. If the Bluejays are treated as a top-10 team by oddsmakers early this season, it might be worth fading them until they prove they've made that kind of a jump.
Which mid-majors might be good bets?
Three mid-majors made the top 25: Gonzaga at No. 2 (but they don't even count as a mid-major anymore), San Diego State at No. 19 and Dayton at No. 24. SDSU is great defensively but I'll need to see offensive improvement before betting them regularly. I do like Dayton, though keep an eye on guard Malachi Smith's ankle injury if you're betting them early in the season. UAB isn't in the top 25 but it's a team you'll want to back most of the season and in March too. St. Louis is another interesting team to keep an eye on and don't sleep on Furman, which could break an NCAA tournament drought that dates back to 1980.
Big Ten, good not great
The Big Ten hasn't won an NCAA championship since 2000 and it doesn't seem like that streak will end. There are good teams and you'll see your typical 7-9 teams in the tournament from the Big Ten. Just no title contender. Michigan has the best odds to win the national title among Big Ten teams, at 35-to-1. There are 13 teams above the Wolverines. Feel free to fade the Big Ten against truly elite competition, and definitely in March.
Texas is home to quality teams
The Final Four this season will be in Houston. That could be really fun because there are many teams from Texas who could make tournament runs. Houston seems to be everyone's chic pick to win it all. Marcus Sasser comes back to the Cougars from an injury that wiped out last season, and he's an All-American candidate. Houston has built a strong program. Baylor is going to be good again and at 16-to-1 to win the title it's not a bad bet. Texas starts the season ranked No. 2 at KenPom, which seems a bit high (it's 25-to-1 to win the title, if you believe the spreadsheets can spot a value team) but the Longhorns are good. TCU could end up building off its late-season surge. Texas Tech is also a top-25 team in the AP poll and at KenPom. Even North Texas is a sleeper from the mid-major ranks. There's a good chance at least one team from Texas will be playing in Houston at the end of the season.
Is Arkansas going to surprise?
Most 2023 NBA mock drafts have Arkansas freshman Nick Smith Jr. either third or fourth overall. Some have freshman teammate Anthony Black as a lottery pick too. Forward Jordan Walsh is another five-star recruit and McDonald's All-American from the No. 2 ranked recruiting class. Eric Musselman can coach. There are a ton of new faces on the Razorbacks, but it's a team that has as much top-end talent as anyone and could be a great bet, especially late in the season.
No super team
Gonzaga is down just a little bit, though Drew Timme is back again. Just maybe more like top-10 Gonzaga rather than No. 1 all season, as we've gotten used to. Duke is young and has a new coach. North Carolina and Kentucky are good, but with a few questions. Houston is good too, but not a typical blue blood. Kansas lost a lot from its national championship team.
There's a reason no team has shorter than +900 odds to win the championship. No team stands out. Gonzaga and North Carolina are +900; Kentucky and Houston are +1000; Arkansas, Kansas and Tennessee are +1400; and everyone else is +1600 or longer. It could be one of those seasons in which multiple teams find themselves atop the AP poll. And if you feel good about any team separating from the pack and winning a title this season, you'll get good odds on them.