The Duke Blue Devils may have ended their most recent campaign with a disappointing 82-68 loss to the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA tournament, but they are already looking forward to next season as the consensus favorites to win their second national title in three years.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and William Hill sportsbooks in Nevada are in agreement on Duke being the top team heading into the 2016-17 season, making them 9/2 and 5/1 to win the 2017 NCAA tournament, respectively.
On Wednesday, the Blue Devils received good news that guard Grayson Allen is coming back for his junior year after averaging a team-high 21.6 points per game. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Jacksonville was a key player on the 2015 national championship team coming off the bench as a freshman before becoming a starter.
Allen’s return is combined with one of the top recruiting classes in the nation featuring forwards Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum and point guard Frank Jackson. Reminiscent of that 2015 squad with a pair of Top 5 freshmen in Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones plus two more Top 25 freshmen in Justise Winslow and Allen, next year’s Duke team is loaded.
After the Blue Devils, there is a logjam of potentially great teams that will challenge them for the 2017 national title, including the defending champion Villanova Wildcats. Despite losing seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, the Wildcats should be poised to make a run at repeating thanks to the return of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson in addition to other key reserves.
Jenkins won Villanova’s first-ever national championship on a three-pointer as time expired, helping validate the school’s first-ever No. 1 ranking earlier in the season. The Wildcats are tied with the Kentucky Wildcats as the 7/1 second choice at William Hill with 8/1 odds at the SuperBook.
Kentucky is the 6/1 second choice to win the national championship at the SuperBook behind another stellar group of incoming freshmen recruited by head coach John Calipari. Even though Kentucky is losing point guard Tyler Ulis, shooting guard Jamal Murray and forwards Skal Labissiere and Alex Poythress, Calipari worked hard as usual to bring in what many believe is the best recruiting class in the country.
Led by De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo and Wenyan Gabriel, these Wildcats should be even better next season and give Calipari a solid shot at winning his second NCAA title.
Other schools considered to be top contenders to win the 2017 national championship in the eyes of Las Vegas oddsmakers include the usual suspects like the North Carolina Tar Heels, Kansas Jayhawks and Michigan State Spartans.
The Tar Heels (12/1 at William Hill and 15/1 at the SuperBook) lose two key pieces to their runner-up team that stayed with Villanova until the final seconds of the national title game in seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige.
The Jayhawks (10/1 at the SuperBook and 12/1 at William Hill) lost to Villanova 64-59 in the South Regional Final and will lose forwards Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Cheick Diallo to the NBA.
The Spartans (12/1 at the SuperBook and William Hill) will be without senior Denzel Valentine, but like fellow head coaches Calipari at Kentucky and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is bringing another Top 3 recruiting class into East Lansing next season.