Long the forgotten stepchild to football, college basketball betting now has earned near-equal status with its formidable gridiron sibling as sportsbooks have found new and innovative ways for gamblers to wager on the hardcourt sport.
One way is to get involved with a series of future books, matching cash to conviction on which teams will win the regular season championship in a half-dozen conferences. With league play ready to tip-off later this month or in early January, let's take a look at some of the teams in those conferences:
ACC: Duke, the nation's top ranked team and defending national champion, is a -250 favorite (bet $250 to win $100) to capture the ACC regular season title. The Blue Devils are off to an 8-0 straight (SU) start (through Dec. 7) and, with signature wins over Kansas State, Michigan State and Butler, look they'll be very difficult to beat. Virginia Tech opened as the +650 (bet $100 to win $650) second choice but the Gobblers are just 4-4 SU after eight games, including a dismal 1-5-1 against the spread (ATS). FloridaState (+800), North Carolina (+800) and Miami (+1000) also have a shot but, clearly, you bet against Duke at your own peril.
BIG 12: This looks like the most competitive of all conferences with little separating KansasState (+250), Baylor (+250), Kansas (+300) and Texas (+300). The four teams are a combined 12-7 ATS but the real common theme is defense, with the "under" 12-4 for this quartet. There's no guarantee that the regular season Big 12 title will go to one of the foursome, however, with Texas A&M (+650) and Missouri (+800) also offered at single digits in what appears to be a very top heavy conference. With lethal outside shooting, OklahomaState (+1500) might be the best of the longshot possibilities.
BIG EAST: Here's another league with plenty of contenders with Pittsburgh (+250), Villanova (+250), Syracuse (+500), Georgetown, +650, West Virginia (+800) and Louisville (+800) leading the way. Heading into the conference wars, the Panthers, 9-0 SU, already have wins over Texas and Maryland, the Wildcats, 6-1 SU, have lost only to Tennessee, and the Orange, 9-0 SU, own a victory over MichiganState. The Hoyas, 8-0 SU, also are 6-1 ATS while the Cardinals, 6-0 SU, and the Mountaineers, 6-2 SU, look like they won't be easy outs. Another intriguing possibility is Connecticut. The Huskies (+1500) knocked off MichiganState and Kentucky in consecutive games and have started the year 7-0 SU.
BIG TEN: Despite three losses, MichiganState is even money (+100) to capture the Big Ten regular season title. Gamblers know that Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo deliberately plans a difficult schedule so that his team is battle-tested when conference and NCAA Tournament play begins. Ohio State (+250) which is off to a 6-0 start, returned four starters and boasts a terrific recruiting class to challenge Michigan State while Purdue (+500), 8-1 SU through Dec. 7, can't be eliminated, even with Robbie Hummel out for the season. Illinois (+650) and Wisconsin (+800) also have a chance to score a mild surprise.
PAC-10: The Pac-10 doesn't have a single team inside the Top 20 but that hardly matters when you're betting college basketball futures. Washington and Arizona, co-favorites at +250, look to be the best of the bunch with the No. 21 ranked Huskies off to a 6-2 SU start and the Wildcats out of the gate at 7-1 SU, including—and you know this is important—an impressive 7-0 ATS. Washington has lost to Kentucky and MichiganState and Arizona's defeat to Kansas hardly is embarrassing either so you can expect both teams to be around at the end. UCLA (+385), 3-4 SU needs to play better defense while ArizonaState (+500), also 3-4 SU, is suffering from a lack of production in the paint. WashingtonState, 5-1 SU, and Stanford, 4-2 SU, each at +800, are upset possibilities.
SEC:Kentucky (+125), 5-2 SU, even with five new starters, is favored to capture the SEC East with Florida (+150), 6-2 SU, the narrow second choice in that division. But the sleeper may be Tennessee (+350), 6-0 SU, which has played inspired ball despite the turmoil involving its coach, Bruce Pearl.
Alabama, 4-4 SU, and Mississippi State, 4-1 SU, opened the season as +200 co-favorites to win the SEC West but after the Crimson Tide's stumbles and the Bulldogs' home loss to Florida Atlantic, no one will blame college basketball bettors who prefer Ole Miss (+500), 4-2 SU, or Arkansas (+600), 5-1 SU, at more attractive prices.