Trying to find an edge on who will win it all in 2022 – or even which teams have a chance – is extremely challenging, but the past can be our guide. A trend that has emerged the past five years is the impact of the transfers market.
As the market has exploded, so has the number of transfers starting games in the Final Four. In 2016, there were two; in 2018, there were five. In 2021, there were eight, including four in Monday’s title game (three of those from Baylor).
Given the absurd number of transfers this year, a few teams stand out as worth backing a year in advance. It should be noted that many transfers still haven’t declared, so we’ll have to update the list later this month. For now, here are my best 2022 futures bets for college basketball, from the teams with the longest odds to those with the shortest (with all odds via FOX Bet).
COLORADO STATE: +95000 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $9,500)
You want a dark horse that could end up paying off big-time? The Rams could be Loyola in 2018 or Wichita State in 2013. Everyone returns from a 20-8 CSU team that had no seniors, and coach Niko Medved is a sharp offensive mind dating to his days at Furman.
The Rams beat two 2021 tourney teams and won a couple of games in the NIT. Given the losses for San Diego State and Utah State, the Rams should win the Mountain West next season, and despite the conference’s recent ugly history in the NCAA Tournament, David Roddy (15.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG) and Isaiah Stevens (15.3 PPG) seem destined for the Sweet 16.
At these odds, who could resist?
ST. BONAVENTURE: +5000 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $500)
A top-25 team defensively, St. Bonaventure will have to be better offensively to make a deep tournament run. But George Mason and VCU have made runs to the Final Four from the A-10, and the Bonnies could be next.
MARYLAND: +4000 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $400)
Maryland’s two-decade Final Four-less streak should be snapped in 2022. The top three scorers return, led by Eric Ayala (15.1 PPG), who might be a preseason All-American. Adding two double-digit scorers via transfer — Georgetown center Qudus Wahab (12.7 PPG) and Rhode Island point guard Fatts Russell (14.7 PPG) — is massive.
If the Terps are not the Big Ten favorites, they have to be No. 2. Anything short of the Sweet 16 would be a colossal disappointment for this team.
IOWA: +4000 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $400)
But the Hawkeyes will be much more flexible next season, with a wing-heavy team led by rising sophomores Keegan Murray (7.2 PPG) and coach Fran McCaffery’s son Patrick. They also have two strong guards in CJ Fredrick and Joe Toussaint.
The perception will be “same old Iowa” after this team lost in the second round as a 2-seed, which means there will be tons of value on the Hawkeyes next year. If second-leading scorer Joe Wieskamp passes on the NBA and returns to Des Moines, this will be a top-15 team all season.
ARKANSAS: +3300 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $330)
Eric Musselman did a terrific job getting the Razorbacks to the Elite Eight, and his formula seems to work: Get transfers, then coach ‘em up. He took Nevada to the Sweet 16 with a transfer-heavy team, and I expect Musselman to scoop up a couple more for next year’s Razorbacks after recently adding Pittsburgh’s Au’Diese Toney (14.4 PPG).
Arkansas will lose three starters (two seniors and freshman Moses Moody to the NBA), but with the nucleus of JD Notae (transfer from Jacksonville), Connor Vanover (transfer from Cal) and Davonte Davis (8.5 PPG), another deep run in March is possible.
PURDUE: +2800 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $280)
The Boilermakers went 18-10 without a senior on the roster, and as long as forward Trevion Williams (15.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG) and electric guard Jaden Ivey (26 points in first-round loss to North Texas) return, they have the makings for a long March run.
Add two top-50 recruits joining the fold, and Matt Painter has the talent to reach his first Final Four. He just missed it in 2019 with Carson Edwards, losing an Elite Eight classic to eventual champ Virginia.
KENTUCKY: +2200 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $220)
The train wreck 9-16 season and no Final Four trips since 2015 make one wonder if the changing landscape of college basketball will impact John Calipari.
His first move was to grab the best transfer on the market, Davidson’s Kellan Grady (four-year starter, 17 PPG). Combine that with the return of Keion Brooks (11 PPG) and another strong recruiting class (led by forward Daimion Collins), and the Wildcats will win 20-plus games and be tournament-bound once again. Keep an eye on WVU transfer Oscar Tshiebwe as well.
This is as good a buy-low opportunity on Kentucky as you’ll find.
UCLA: +2200 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $220)
The Bruins‘ magical Final Four run is likely just the beginning for Mick Cronin in Westwood.
With no seniors in the rotation, UCLA’s only expected loss is Johnny Juzang to the NBA. Second-leading scorer Jaime Jaquez (12.3 PPG), point guard Tyger Campbell (5.4 APG) and big man Cody Riley (10.0 PPG) will be joined by the highest-ranked prospect in California, forward Peyton Watson.
The Bruins were 6-0 ATS in the tournament, including their First Four win, and they’ll be a bet-on team next season.
DUKE: +1800 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $180)
Coach K is 74, and the Blue Devils went 13-11 – but before you pour dirt on their grave and declare the run over, know that Duke has landed the most five-star recruits in the country (three).
Although a freshman-led team hasn’t won the title since Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones did it in 2015 (though five other players from that team also made the NBA), the Blue Devils will return to blue blood status in 2022. If there’s going to be any value betting on Duke, it’s early, before Paolo Banchero & Co. rise to the upper crust of the ACC.
GONZAGA: +850 at FOX Bet (bet $10 to win $85)
The Zags will almost certainly lose their three leading scorers to the NBA, but the cupboard isn’t empty.
Junior guards Andrew Nembhard and Joel Ayayi will form one of the best backcourts in the country, and Gonzaga is the front-runner to land the No. 1 high school player in the country, 7-foot wing Chet Holmgren, who, like Jalen Suggs, hails from Minnesota. Gonzaga also secured a commitment from the top point guard in the class of 2021, Hunter Sallis.
They won’t go undefeated in the regular season, but the Bulldogs will be really, really good and contend for the title.
Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports gambling analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, “Coming Up Winners,” in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.