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Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and he writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports.

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Top 10 bets to win the 2023 NCAA men’s college basketball championship

21 Nov 2022

By Dan Ippolito
College basketball is two weeks into its season and the early-season tournaments are well underway. Teams are showing why they were in the pre-season rankings, others are proving why they deserve to be ranked, and some are giving us reasons to remove their ranking altogether.

While we have several months until March Madness, the most chaotic basketball tournament of them all, we take an early look at who we think will stand out and has the best shot at cutting down the nets at the end of the year.

All odds from Unibet Sports & Racebook

10. Kentucky
It may come as a surprise that we don’t have Kentucky (+1000) near the top of the list, however, the Wildcats have looked out of sorts at times during the early stages of the season.

It is no shock that the defending Wooden Award winner Oscar Tshiebwe is off to another impressive start to the season, averaging 16 points and 13 rebounds in his first three games of the season. Tshiebwe missed the team’s first two contests with an injury but Kentucky went 2-0.

In the team’s last three games, they are 1-2 with losses to Michigan State and Gonzaga. When Tshiebwe is on the bench for rest or foul trouble, the rest of the Wildcats struggle to maintain the lead that they have, or close the gap of a deficit they are trying to dig out of.

In the offseason, Kentucky added shooters to the roster, a luxury that had been missing for a few seasons. If consistency can come behind the three-point line, then this team becomes extremely scary again.

You can’t count them out with Tshiebwe on the roster.

9. Arkansas
The transfer portal, as it was to many teams, was a major boost for Arkansas (+1600).

The team that made it to the Elite 8 last year lost some talent to the NBA, but recovered by bringing in Ricky Council IV from Wichita State and Trevon Brazile from Missouri. Through three games, these are the team’s top two scorers.

Just the other night, Brazile was all over Twitter and SportsCenter for one of, if not the most, posterizing dunks this year.

Returning guard Davonte Davis has contributed nearly 13 points per game, and while he has struggled from behind the arc so far this season (20%), that number will rise.

Arkansas hasn’t had a tough test yet in this young season and the non-conference schedule isn’t as strong as many, but once they get into SEC play, there is never a dull opponent.

8. Indiana
It probably seems like Trayce Jackson-Davis has been playing college basketball forever at Indiana (+3000), but in his fourth season, the 6-foot-9 wingman is one to watch out for to claim this year’s Wooden Award.

In the Hoosiers’ opening four games, Trayce put up nearly 21 points per game and nine rebounds while making 75% of his shot attempts….pretty efficient, if you ask me.

But don’t get fooled, this team isn’t a one-man show. Head coach Mike Woodson has plenty of depth, with 10 guys playing at double-digit minutes.

At 4-0, the Hoosiers are scoring 89 points per game and allowing just under 60. The team had only one tough opponent in Xavier thus far, but before the month ends, Indiana will square off against North Carolina in a battle of the big men to see if its stout defense will hold up against a high-powered offense in the Tar Heels.

7. Kansas
It would be difficult to have the reigning national champs off the list when they still return a few key pieces of last year’s title team and added some others as well.

The Kansas Jayhawks (+1100) have been without coach Bill Self for the first four games due to a suspension stemming from the college basketball corruption scandal, but have managed to go undefeated, including an impressive 69-64 win over Duke.

Self will make his season debut Wednesday night and hopefully keep the team rolling. Jalen Wilson, who is scoring 24 points per game, rejoins Dajuan Harris Jr. as returning players from last year’s starting five.

Wilson can score at all three levels and is a great defender, while Harris is one of the better floor generals in the country. He gets his teammates in the best positions to score while taking care of the basketball.

The best addition to the team thus far has been freshman Gradey Dick, a lights-out shooter and an extremely impressive overall athlete, as well.

6. Michigan State
If you look at the Michigan State (+4000) non-conference schedule, it is hard to argue that a team has a more challenging one.

The Spartans are 3-1 with the only loss being just a one-point game against Gonzaga on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Armed Forces Classic. Following that loss, MSU took down Kentucky and Villanova in back-to-back games.

The difficult schedule doesn’t end there as the team plays Alabama next followed by a solid Notre Dame team. If the non-conference schedule wasn’t enough, once that ends, they jump into Big Ten play in one of the hardest conferences in college basketball.

So, it is safe to say that Tom Izzo and his team will be seeing tournament teams all season long. However, the Spartans might be one of the more experienced teams. Their top six scorers this season all played for Izzo last year and know how to play with each other.

With the talent it will face this season and a familiar roster, Michigan State is a team not many will want to face come March.

5. Gonzaga
We just talked about Gonzaga’s hard-fought win against MSU. The Bulldogs (+900) did have a tough outing against Texas just a few days later that resulted in a 93-74 loss and many began to doubt how legit they are.

Well, they answered many of those doubts last night with a resounding 16-point win over Kentucky and they did it in convincing fashion. Going up against Tshiebwe, Gonzaga’s star, Drew Timme, put up 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting.

In order to be successful though, this team can’t solely rely on Timme in the post. Gonzaga will depend on a pair of upper-classman guards in Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther. These two guards are both shooting 50% from three, which has really stretched out defenses and given more one-on-one chances down low for Timme to go to work around the rim.

The Bulldogs face a big test in early December with a meeting against Baylor, which has experience and great guard play as well.

4. Texas
In their win against Gonzaga at home, the Texas Longhorns (+1400) looked like a top team in the country and it sounded like the roof was going to blow off with how loud the crowd got behind them.
Last year, the transfer portal was a major part of forming the Longhorn roster and it was that the same again this year.

The team’s leading scorer, Tyrese Hunter, has been nothing short of impressive scoring 18 points per game in his first year with Texas after leaving Iowa State. Sir’ Jabari Rice from New Mexico State is also scoring in double figures per game and shooting the ball well from three-point land.

Texas also returns Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen who were the go-to guys on the offense last year.
Currently at 3-0, Texas will be taking on nationally ranked Creighton and Illinois over the next couple of weeks. These games will be a good test to get the Longhorns ready for Big 12 play where they’ll face Baylor and Kansas.

3. Baylor
Speaking of Baylor (+1400), the Bears have arguably the best backcourt in the country.

LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler combine for nearly 36 points per game and can both shoot it form behind the arc.

Flagler at 6-foot-3 and Cryer at 6-foot-1 are fearless and will drive hard to the basket and create contact against the 6-foot-10 players of college basketball.

The big man on the team, Flo Thamba, may not fill up the stat sheet but does a lot of good things for this Baylor team. He sets great screens to get his guards open, and does a great job affecting shots with his size and length.

2. North Carolina
The North Carolina Tar Heels (+900) must still have a sour taste in their mouth after blowing a healthy lead in the National Championship game last year to Kansas, 72-69.

Well, it seemed that taste definitely stuck with them because four out of five starters returned to play this year. RJ Davis, Leaky Black, Caleb Love and Armando Bacot are all back looking to claim what slipped through their fingers less than a year ago. Bacot is a dominant force inside averaging a double-double.

The team got Northwestern transfer Pete Nance, who has contributed 10 points per game, to fill the remaining starting spot.

Without a true test so far, UNC has to be eyeing its matchup with Indiana in just nine days to see where it matches up against a ranked opponent.

1. Houston
He’s back. Marcus Sasser is back to playing for Houston after missing most of last year due to injury. Many thought Houston could have pushed for a title last season if he was healthy, but instead the Cougars were knocked out by Villanova in the Elite 8.

This is the most entertaining team to watch in my opinion. They are extremely fast, play intense defense and LOVE to get out and run in transition. If you throw a pass at the top of the key that isn’t perfect, you better start sprinting back on defense because this team gets its hands in the passing lanes and forces a lot of turnovers.

Sasser is joined by fellow returning players Tramon Mark, Jamal Shead and J’Wan Roberts. The freshman class has been nothing short of impressive either. Terrance Arceneaux and Jarace Walker can both shoot and finish at the rim while keeping the reputation of Houston’s defense true.

Just last night, the Cougars played at Oregon and while they didn’t look their best offensively they still managed to win by double digits because they can always rely on their defense.

As the favorites at +800, this is a team that not many coaches will be able to figure out how to attack and be effective.
 
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