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Value in the futures market is typically tight in the majority of sports. Barring an injury, you’re typically not going to get anything higher than 25-1 in major professional sports. The collegiate market is vastly different. There is more uncertainty with recruits and obviously there is a larger pool of teams. Shifting of odds are constant and at a considerable higher benchmark. The difficulty to make it through an NCAA tournament in March presents that variable of such expanded odds.
Those that have followed my collegiate advice over the years, have seen that I’ve picked four of the past five college basketball tournament winners. Louisville and Duke were teams that I picked before their respective seasons. I liked the returning players from Louisville’s team and the coaching factor with Rick Pitino. Duke’s scenario had more to do with their incoming recruits and also the extra edge with Coach K. UConn’s title runs, I made both picks during the season. I grabbed UConn at 40-1 during their conference slide in 2011 and I grabbed them during their tournament run at 35-1 before the sweet 16.
Heading into the 2015 season I do not have an odds on favorite at this moment. This is where I typically probe the market and grab a few value plays. The only one I’ve made so far was on the Orangemen at 200-1 a couple of weeks back. Odds that have dropped down to 50-1 just two weeks later.
Syracuse certainly will not be a top 20 team to start the season, but they have the make up of a team that will get better as the season goes on. Obviously there were market indicators that caused their price to leap to 200-1. One, their season is marked a bit by the forth coming Jim Boeheim conference suspension of nine games. That is in the appeal process and I believe it will end up being reduced. Nonetheless, their assistant coach in Mike Hopkins has been Boeheim’s aide for a long time. He has been a finalist the past several seasons for Division I positions and should be fine running Syracuse if Boeheim misses the entire nine games.
Another factor was the reduction of scholarships for Syracuse basketball. They will lose 2-3 a season for the duration of the imposed sanctions by the NCAA. As Jay Bilas noted, a school like Syracuse is not going to be effected by this. Duke just won the 2014-2015 NCAA title with only eight scholarship players. Losing BJ Johnson and Ron Patterson as transfers is not an alarming issue for depth next season. Johnson did show some promise but I did not envision him becoming capable of starters minutes. Patterson is just not an ACC player. Both made wise decisions to step down in competition to increase their presence for their collegiate careers. Similar to DaShonte Riley when he exited Syracuse for Eastern Michigan; decisions to leave Syracuse are not going to cause a seismic decline on the court for Syracuse.
Syracuse has a top five recruiting class coming in, but I won’t even delve into how they’ll help next year’s squad. Instead the focus will be on the returning group of players.
The fact that Syracuse lost Rakeem Christmas to graduation and that Chris McCullough declared for the NBA Draft was another reason odds were at 200-1 in April. Over the last eight years, Syracuse has only had three seasons where they counted on point production inside. Last year with Christmas, a few seasons back with Rick Jackson, and the combo efforts of Jackson/Onuako in 2010. Fab Melo had one semi-decent year but was more of a mirage for production.
Syracuse has always been a program that counts on offensive production from their guards and forwards. The key for their big men is the ability to defend the interior and grab rebounds in the 2-3 zone. The best decision Syracuse made last year was to not rush DaJuan Coleman back. His last game on the court came against Virginia Tech in December 2013. It’s still not known how much he will be able to provide but he is expected to return. Maybe it’ll be in a limited role but 15-20 minutes a game on defense will go a long ways. Coleman and Chinonso Obokoh should be more than capable of protecting the rim for Syracuse.
Scoring 60-65 points a game typically is going to put you in position to win games. College basketball’s pace and poor shot selection leaves plenty of teams unwatchable. Syracuse has four players that should easily put them in position every game to score in that range. Seniors in Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinje had effective seasons in 2014. Their confidence should only grow with another offseason of preparation. Sophomore Kaleb Joseph went through his freshman slump but started to turn the corner late in conference play. Sophomore guards/point guards typically rise in level of play after their freshman seasons at Syracuse. Michael Carter-Williams, Johnny Flynn, Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, and even Cooney rose to higher levels their sophomore years. Joseph will be the x-factor on if Syracuse stays around the 25-35 range of top teams or ascends into the top 10-15.
I think we’ve seen the best that Syracuse will likely receive from Tyler Roberson. He is a tough guard inside for opposing defenders but will have to earn his points as the third to fourth option on the floor for Syracuse. Designed plays are going to run through Cooney/Joseph/Gbinje. Still, Roberson has the size and aggression to be an 8-10 points a game scorer.
200-1 was an obvious mistake from oddsmakers. When UConn received their one-year post season ban they came back and played with a chip on their shoulder. It took almost the entire season for UConn to find their way, but they did right before the tournament. It took a couple of beat down losses to Louisville in conference play for that to happen.
It’ll be a long season for Syracuse fans but don’t be shocked to see them make a run when March hits. If you didn’t get 200-1 odds a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t be upset. 50-1 are still solid odds. They have 5-6 veteran players and a good group of incoming freshman to make them a viable team in 2015-2016.