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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 men’s basketball teams to win the 2024 NCAA Championship

30 Oct 2023

By Dan Ippolito
Two weeks ago, the first AP Top 25 rankings came out for men’s college basketball with the season starting next week. Over the last few years, the transfer portal has become a major part of forming competitive rosters and this offseason was no different.

Kansas sits at No. 1 on the list, thanks to the addition of Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson. As teams enter the final week of preparation, and continue with “secret scrimmages,” we take a look at 10 teams that have a shot of making some noise and cashing tickets when March Madness begins.

All lines provided by bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook

10. Texas A&M
The Aggies’ (+5000) core looks very similar to last season. Texas A&M is returning 88.4% of its scoring from last season, good enough for second-highest rate in college basketball, only trailing Wisconsin.

After a disappointing first-round exit in last year’s NCAA tournament, Texas A&M comes into this season ranked No. 15 in the AP poll.

The guard play is where the scoring is generated from. The two leading scorers, Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford, both scored in double figures a season ago and when they get to the free-throw line, they make it count.

The frontcourt size isn’t something to overlook. Julius Marble and Henry Coleman III are back and both weigh in about 250 pounds, which will enable them to push bodies around inside. The Aggies added solid rim protection a few months ago when 6’11” UMass transfer Wildens Leveque joined the squad.

9. St. John’s
Leading scorer Joel Soriano is back for the Red Storm (+8000), but the real story are the new faces who are now with the team.

Veteran head coach Rick Pitino, who has two NCAA Championship rings and was the first coach to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the NCAA Final Four, is back with a major market team and brought with him some legit scorers to turn this program around. Jordan Dingle, who played at Penn last year, finished second in the nation in points per game at 23.4.

R.J. Luis, another UMass transfer, dropped in nearly 12 points per game as a freshman. Luis is recovering from a wrist injury and will miss a few weeks, but the athletic forward knows how to score.

Chris Ledlum, the senior who earned First Team All-Ivy honors at Harvard a year ago averaged just shy of 19 points per contest while grabbing 8.5 boards.

This is just the tip of Pitino’s iceberg of new talent playing for the Red Storm. These offensive threats join Soriano who was a double-double machine last season averaging 15 and 12 and was a force inside the paint.

It shouldn’t be long before this team is ranked.

8. Arizona
Nobody has a worse taste in their mouths than the Wildcats (+2000). In the opening round of last year’s tournament, the No. 2 seeded Wildcats couldn’t handle No. 15 Princeton, which led to their embarrassing first-round departure.

Returning players Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larson played heavy minutes last season, but they got some help coming in.

UNC transfer Caleb Love originally announced his transfer to Michigan, but not long after that announcement, he reversed course and committed to Arizona to play for Tommy Lloyd. Love plays fast and when he gets in a groove, look out because he can put 25 on you without a problem if you let him get going.

Keshad Johnson comes to the Wildcats roster from last year’s runner-up San Diego State team to add to Wildcats’ frontcourt. At only 6-foot-7, Johnson’s lengthy arms allow him to still have an influence inside the paint against bigger bodies.

Kylan Boswell, who saw bench minutes in his freshman year last season, is expected to play a major part at the point guard role. Despite only playing 15 minutes per contest last year, Boswell demonstrated he is a big threat behind the arc, making 39% of his shots from distance.

7. Purdue
Similar to Texas A&M, the Boilermakers (+1400) are returning pretty much the same core from last season.

A season ago, Purdue became just the second No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in the opening round of the March Madness tournament after Fairleigh Dickinson closed out a five-point victory.

Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 big man, averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds per game last year, and now he has some anger behind him after that tournament loss. He isn’t the only size on this Purdue roster. While it is unknown how many minutes freshman Will Berg will get, he adds some more depth to the frontcourt at 7-foot-2.

Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith and Mason Gillis, who can all shoot it from behind the arc, are other key turners. Gillis is a great player on both ends of the floor. He knows how to score when called upon, but he is a solid defender who does a lot of the dirty work like being the first to the floor to grab a loose ball.

The Boilermakers will be tested early on in the season as they will face both Xavier and Gonzaga in the opening weeks.

6. Kentucky
Kentucky (+1400) has been known for having freshman making a major impact, and this year is no different. Head coach John Calipari has been at his current position since 2009 and continues to demonstrate his capability of getting young players to the NBA. Six of the nine players who got minutes in the team’s exhibition against Georgetown College were first-year players.

Although it was a struggle for Kentucky early on as it entered the halftime break with just a one-point advantage, the team got its act together and pulled away in the second half coasting to a 92-69 win.

Rob Dillingham was arguably the most impressive freshman has he scored 16 points and added five assists.

It wasn’t all freshmen though, newcomer Tre Mitchell finished as the team’s leading scorer with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Mitchell has some miles on him after playing for UMass, Texas and West Virginia prior to his decision to come to Kentucky.

Mitchell will have to be a big presence inside after the team lost Oscar Tshiebwe to the NBA Draft after he averaged 16 and 14 last year for the Wildcats.

With the speed and athleticism this roster has, be on the lookout for it to get out and run on both made or missed shots.

5. Duke
Major news came out this morning for the Blue Devils. The 2024 consensus top recruit Cooper Flagg committed to Duke for next season. The team is already in great shape for 2024, but first let’s turn our attention to this upcoming season.

Duke (+1100) is the favorite to cut down the nets in April. The reason behind that is the Blue Devils’ three-headed monster of Tyrese Proctor, Jeremy Roach and Kyle Filipowski.

The top three scorers from last year’s team only managed to win one tournament game and eventually lost to Tennessee by 13 in the second round.

Proctor, a solid sized 6-foot-5 guard, led the Blue Devils in assists last season with 3.3 per game and scored just under 10 points per game. He is great at attacking the basket and when he gets fouled, he is excellent from the line at 87%.

Roach finished right behind Proctor in the assist column with 3.1 per contest, but bested him as a better scorer with 13.4 points per game. With both Roach and Proctor in Duke’s backcourt, it will be difficult to find a better one in the ACC or even the NCAA.

Then you move to the frontcourt that is led by Filipowski who led the team in scoring (15.1) and rebounding (8.9). He struggled behind the arc at 28%, but look for that to be an area of improvement for him in the upcoming season.

4. Houston
When you play against Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars (+1600) be prepared to see a swarming defense with relentless effort and hustle.

It has always impressed me, that no matter which player Sampson throws into the mix that they will have a motor that seems to never slow down.

This year’s team is going to look very different. Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker, the two leading scorers a year ago, went to the NBA, while Tramon Mark, who transferred, will also feel his presence missed.

However, Jamal Shead, one of the best facilitators in basketball, returns as a senior. Emanuel Sharp, J’Wan Roberts, Ja’Vier Francis and Terrance Arceneaux are other notables returning from last year. All of these players know how to play for Sampson and can help the newcomers learn the way.

The biggest addition to this Cougar lineup with be LJ Cryer, who transferred from Baylor. He was a member of the 2021 Baylor team that won it all and he can really score.

Shooting 41% from three last year, Cryer will be a great compliment to Shead in the backcourt.

3. Kansas
The biggest transfer of them all is probably none other than Dickinson, who joins the Jayhawks (+1200). After a crushing one-point loss to Arkansas in the second round of the tournament last year, Kansas, which cut down the nets as the 2022 champion, lost its top two scorers to the NBA Draft in Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick.

Because of this, Bill Self needed to get some help for his roster, and that became Dickinson. The 7-foot-2 center averaged 18 and nine for Michigan last year, but he made a major improvement to his game. After shooting just 32% from three in the 2021-2022 season, Dickinson increased that number to 42% in 2022-2023 making him an even bigger problem for defenses.

Put him in a ball screen with returning guard Dajuan Harris and good things will happen. Harris dished out over six assists per game and also improved his shooting over the last year.

Another big returning piece for the Jayhawks is Kevin McCullar Jr., who scored 10 points per game and seven boards last year, is another big returning piece for the Jayhawks. While he isn’t the best three-point shooter, he makes up for it with his ability to score inside and his defensive skills.

Preseason No. 1??…

…that’s it. That’s the whole tweet.

— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) October 18, 2023

2. UConn
The Huskies, the reigning champions (+1400), were nothing short of dominant in last year’s tournament, with their lowest margin of victory coming in the Final Four against Miami with a score of 72-59.

The Huskies’ roster will look different this season as Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. all went to the NBA.

UConn will still have a great inside game with provided Donovan Clingman’s foot strain is completely healed at the start of the season. The 7-foot-2 center scored seven points and grabbed nearly six rebounds per game in just 13 minutes as a freshman backing up Sanogo. Expect big things from him this season with starter minutes.

Another sophomore on this team is sharpshooting Alex Karaban who is going to get more looks with Hawkins gone as well.

A more experienced player in Tristen Newton will help lead this team as the senior is the only double-figure returning scorer from last year.

Despite being a younger team, those returning know what it takes to win and have the capability of being as powerful as they finished a season ago.

Iced out Champs ??#HU5KIES

— Uconn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) October 13, 2023

1. Michigan State
If you watched the Spartans (+1500) play last year, you are going to see almost all of the same faces on the floor for them this year. Tom Izzo’s Spartans lost Joey Hauser, but that is about it.

The team’s leading scorer, Tyson Walker, is back after scoring nearly 15 per game and so is his backcourt partner A.J. Hoggard who can score but is also the team’s distributor with just shy of six assists per game.

On the wing, Jaden Akins is an athletic left-handed guard who is great at getting his hands in the passing lanes and causing problems for ball-handlers.

In the frontcourt, Malik Hall is an NBA-sized forward at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds. He can score at all three levels, but is best with his back to the basket or driving to the rim. Center Mady Sissoko, who can clean up misses and is not easily moved by defenders, joins Hall in the paint.

This team can really shoot the ball too. Akins and Walker both shoot the three-ball at 40% or better, while Hall and Hoggard both hovered around 33%.

The Spartans, who have been to eight Final Fours under Izzo, including a national title in 2000, lost in the Sweet 16 last year, but with returning nearly all of their core, this team will only be better and a force.
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