With Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s retirementcame the perception that losing him could forever alter the Blue Devil’s standing as a perennial power.
But as bookmakers release their odds for the 2022-23 season, it may be Krzyzewski’s spirit — like an Obi-Wan Kenobi effect—that gives the program strength.
The Force is with Duke
Despite bowing out to rival North Carolina in the Final Four meeting, both BetMGM and the Las Vegas SuperBook posted Duke as a future-book favorite next season.
BetMGM has the Blue Devils positioned alone as an 8/1 favorite, while the SuperBook lists the team as co-favorites with coach John Calipari’s young and talented Kentucky team at 10/1.
The expectation is that Kentucky will return armed with Oscar Tshiebwe — the Wooden Award winner and USA Today Sports’ national player of the year.
Duke replaced Krzyzewski with 34-year-old former assistant Jon Scheyer. The successor’s ability to maintain Duke’s success stands as the most intriguing preseason storyline.
“It might take some time before (bettors) become believers,” said Adam Pullen, Caesars’ assistant director of trading. “Duke always has the talent, and this year’s recruiting class is no different. It’s obviously going to be a tough act to follow, but Hubert Davis just almost won a championship in his first year at North Carolina.”
The Blue Devils will also have to overcome wholesale NBA defections, including projected top-three draft pick Paolo Banchero.
But in his way-too-early top 25 for next season, USA TODAY Sports’ Scott Gleeson wrote Duke has a “No. 1 class of five-star freshmen coming in.” He specifically lists Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively as reasons for Duke fans to keep the faith.
Lukewarm returning champions
Caesars Sportsbook opted to keep Kansas as the team to beat, establishing the Jayhawks as its sole 10/1 favorite, followed by Gonzaga at 12/1 and Duke, Kentucky and Arizona at 15/1.
Four starters, including center David McCormack, are likely to return next year.
“Kansas winning the title has a bit to do with (that) here, in terms of respect,” Pullen said. “They lost a lot, but they always reload with strong recruiting classes, and they obviously have a great coach. They’re pretty much always going to be in the mix just like the other top programs.
“They’re not an overwhelming favorite and there are some other teams that can be in that spot, but they win it all is fresh in people’s minds. I would say they’re a lukewarm favorite.”
Parity Party—best of the rest
Caesars places Hubert Davis’ Tar Heels as its 18/1 sixth choice, along with Arkansas and 2021 champion Baylor.
The SuperBook has North Carolina at 20/1, following its blown 16-point lead in the 2022 title game.
Gleeson placed them third on his list, expecting point guard RJ Davis to return and projecting that some top-tier transfers will gravitate toward the program that continued its aura of superiority through the change in coaching leadership.
UCLA is No. 2 on the USA TODAY Sports’ list, and the Bruins are in a three-way 14/1 grouping as BetMGM’s sixth choice with Baylor and North Carolina.
Despite its repeated missteps in pursuit of the collegiate brass ring, Gonzaga retains respect from bookmakers as a 12/1 choice at both Caesars and BetMGM. The SuperBook dropped the Bulldogs to 16/1 and placed their tournament conqueror, Arkansas, as a 12/1 third choice along with Arizona, Kansas and UCLA.
It helps that Gonzaga is expected to return with two-time All-American Drew Timme.
Arkansas, meanwhile, posted back-to-back Elite Eight showings under Coach Erik Musselman, and Gleeson noted the Razorbacks have “hauled in a top-notch recruiting class, including five-star point guard Nick Smith and Anthony Black, a 6-7 ball-handler who can thrive in all three perimeter positions.”
Caesars’ Pullen said, “With Gonzaga losing in the Sweet 16, after being the favorite the entire season, maybe there will be some Gonzaga fatigue. Gonzaga’s a top-notch destination for a lot of players. I still expect them to have a loaded roster whether Timme stays or goes. At least for this year, I’d think the days of them being the outright favorite with single-digit odds are over.
“The parity out there is ridiculous. I just don’t see any team mandating single-digit odds right now.”
Among the other contenders, Houston, which is 16/1 at the SuperBook at Caesars, brings back a strong core of players.
Creighton shifted from 50/1 to 40/1 at Caesars, following a Colorado bettor’s $2,000 wager on the Bluejays to win $100,000. Additionally, Final Four qualifier Villanova slotted in at 25/1 following the loss of several veteran players.
And the clock struck midnight for this season’s Cinderella, Saint Peter’s, who reverted back to a massive underdog at 1,000/1.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism