2023 Championship Picks: Favorites, Sleeper And Longshot

Get ready for the new college basketball season with some early value

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The Favorites

Gone are the days where the almighty Gonzaga Bulldogs were the lone team on top of the odds board to start the season. Now they share that spot with three other teams who are all tied at the top as favorites to win the 2023 NCAA Championship.

It is refreshing to see, at least in my opinion, because we finally get some parity. While Gonzaga didn't win the championship the past few years when they were the heavy favorites coming into the season, they were all anyone talked about. The talent is balancing out a bit, and now we have several teams that all are even in the eyes of the bookmakers.

Gonzaga is still there, sitting at +900 with three other teams. They may not have any incoming 5-star freshmen this season, but they still have one of the most talented rosters in college basketball, and that includes long-time star, Drew Timme. He's a consensus top-3 player in the nation, and he has more experience than almost anyone else across the country.

Tied with Gonzaga is North Carolina at +900, coming off of their loss in the Final Four to Kansas last year. UNC arguably had the best offseason of any team, getting four of five starters back for another year. North Carolina’s starting five could be the best in NCAA Basketball and the bench also has talent.

Also at +900 is Kentucky. Oscar Tshiebwe was one of the best impact transfers in recent memory, averaging 17.4 PPG and 15.2 RPG last season. It’s been over a decade since the reigning NCAA Basketball Player of the Year returned for another season, but here we are. The rebounding numbers led the nation and the big man had 10+ boards in all but two games. With his return, Kentucky is one of the best in the country.

Last but not least, we have the Houston Cougars at +900 as well. The Cougars made it to the Elite 8 last season, despite losing two of the team’s best four players early on due to injury. This is a very deep team with a load of talent, and they play some of the best defense in the nation. They'll need it against the better teams and their stars, and that may give them the advantage.

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Value play: Baylor +1500

The Bears are a team that has the potential to be No. 1 at some point this season, as they have been at some point or another over the last few years. Five-star freshman Keyonte George is one of the reasons to believe in this team in 2022. He looked very impressive in the offseason exhibition tour, and that was without his full lineup of talented teammates that he'll have when the actual season begins. This should be one of the best backcourts in the country, and that starts with how well George plays.

Another key piece will be returning leading scorer Adam Flagler, who averaged 13.8 PPG. Also back is LJ Cryer, who was scoring nearly 20 points per game at the start of last season before he was injured. There’s plenty of offense and defense for this team to contend nationally, and there is no reason in my opinion that this number should be as high as it is at 15/1. The Bears have always been there contending near the end over the last few years, and I don't think that changes in 2022.

This is probably the best number you will get on Baylor all year, so grab it now.

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Longshot play: Saint Louis Billikens +10000

To me, Saint Louis is the best non-Gonzaga mid-major team, and they are very talented. Often times that gets overlooked because of the conference they play in, but don't underestimate them. They have one of the best backcourts in the country with the return of Javonte Perkins. He missed all of last season with an injury but averaged 17.1 PPG in the year prior when healthy. Starting point guard Yuri Collins led the country in assists last season at 7.9 APG, including a career-high 19 against Boston College and at least five assists in 29 of 34 games. Gibson Jimerson led Saint Louis with 16.3 PPG last season while shooting 42% from three-point range.

There’s plenty of backcourt depth beyond them as well. Javon Pickett has 84 career starts and was a double-digit scorer at the SEC level before transferring to Saint Louis from Missouri. Returning starting center Francis Okoro is joined by Temple transfer Jake Forrester to create a great duo underneath. While there may be a lack of size whenever Okoro is out, the offensive production of this team will make up for it.

At 100/1 odds, I think it's worth some pizza or beer money.

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