The Duke basketball team and coach Mike Krzyzewski won their fifth men's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 title last season, but according to most insiders and experts, they won't even be favored to win the 2015-2016 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). That's the hard reality of playing in one of basketball's top conferences with stacked competition and talent under the direction of many of the game's premiere coaches.
When it comes to ACC basketball, it's no longer all about the Tobacco Road rivalry, University of North Carolina versus Duke, but teams like Louisville and North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Virginia. In last year's NCAA tournament, the ACC had seven teams qualify for March Madness, second to only the Big Ten, but while that conference went 12-7, the ACC's record was 17-5 with Duke winning the National Championship over Wisconsin.
The 2015-2016 season tips off on Friday, November 13th, and the debate on which team will reign supreme is already long underway. And with so much competition and last-second buzzer-beaters a given for any ACC basketball season, sports betters routinely flock to the conference for attractive bets.
Basketball Sports Betting 101
Though the NCAA has long been opposed to permitting bettors to place money on their sanctioned competitions, that doesn't stop Vegas and other places where sports betting is legal from offering lines and odds. Sports wagering is a fun and exciting way to increase your interest in games, and betting online on a NCAA game is rather easy and straightforward.
There are two primary ways to bet on a basketball game:
• The Spread
• The Moneyline
The spread is a number dictated by bookmakers that gives points to the underdog while taking them from the favorite. For instance, in its first game in the NCAA tournament last year, Duke's spread against 16th seed Robert Morris was a staggering (-22.5). If you bet on Duke, the Blue Devils had to beat Robert Morris by a minimum of 23 points to cover the spread. They won 85-56, making all Duke bettors winners.
The moneyline isn't always available, especially in college basketball where heavy favorites are common. The moneyline requires the bettor only to pick the winning team straight up with no spread. The favorite pays less than picking the underdog. During last year's Final Four game between Wisconsin and favored Kentucky, the Badgers were +210, meaning a $100 bet would award $210. The Badgers pulled off the upset, topping the Wildcats 71-64.
So which team will cover the spread most often during the upcoming season? That of course depends on many factors including the line, opposition, injuries, etc., but here's a look at the preseason favorites for the ACC.
1. North Carolina (24-11 last year, lost in Sweet 16)
The consensus favorite across college blogs and sports media outlets has Roy Williams' squad not only taking the ACC, but perhaps the National Championship. The Tar Heels will most likely be the AP top-ranked team when the preseason voters cast their votes. They get back a healthy Marcus Paige and have their entire frontline returning. The Heels have lost the last three games against Duke, but that will change in 2015-2016.
2. Duke (29-4, National Champions)
North Carolina would be smart to not let their preseason praise get to their heads as the Duke Blue Devils will be right on their heels, pun intended. Duke lost its top five highest scorers from last year, but returns Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Marshall Plumlee and most notably, Grayson Allen, a freshman who scored 16 in last year's title bout. Duke will also welcome five-star point guard recruit Derryck Thornton to the roster who could nicely replace Tyus Jones. There's a lot of questions surrounding the NCAA title defenders for the 2015-2016 season, but Coach K usually finds the answers.
3. Virginia (29-3 last year, lost second game in tournament)
The Cavaliers were perhaps the biggest disappointment in all of March Madness last year, running into Tom Izzo's streaking Michigan State Spartans in the third round. But Virginia returns nearly its entire roster for 2015-2016, and with another year of experience under their belts the team is expected to overcome last year's shortfalls.
The Rest: None of the other 12 ACC schools are likely to keep pace with the trio of frontrunners, though Louisville and Notre Dame should live in the AP Top 25 in the 15-25 range throughout the season. The Irish's departure of Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton to the NBA will be tough to overcome, the same holding true for the Cardinals who lost Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell.
While many teams use the first month or so of their schedules to basically warm-up against opponents from smaller conferences, sometimes thought as a quasi-preseason, the ACC and Big Ten waste no time in doing battle through the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The three-day tournament begins November 30th and will see the likes of Virginia at Ohio State, Maryland play at UNC, and Louisville travel to Michigan State. Duke, whose third game of the season will be against Kentucky, will get Indiana at home.
March Madness is perhaps the most exciting month in all of sports, but you don't have to wait for the bracket to experience the thrill of NCAA basketball. Follow who's hot and who's not, and with a wager small or large, the sport is captivating from the first tip-off to the cutting down of the last net.