The 2019-20 NCAA basketball season has finally arrived. Buzzer beaters, elite defense, crazy overtime battles, and conference rivalries. They’re all back, ready to take over your television set as we begin a torrid pace to another beautiful date with March Madness.
It’s going to be quite some time before we can even think about betting on March Madness, but for now, there’s plenty for sports bettors to soak up in the college basketball betting arena.
Obviously, you can bet on individual games in numerous capacities, while some NCAA basketball betting websites will host conference championship odds and odds for which team will win the national title.
But those can be pretty tough to predict. I mean, who saw a Texas Tech vs. Virginia championship game coming? Yeah, pretty much nobody.
Something a bit more predictable (yet something that still offers solid betting value) is the race for the Naismith Trophy.
It’s not always easy to see the best team in college basketball coming, but it’s pretty rare that the top player in college basketball comes out of nowhere.
Let’s take a look at the top contenders and the NCAA Player of the Year odds before I make my pick.
Odds to Win 2019-20 College Basketball Player of the Year
Cassius Winston +150
Jordan Nwora +550
Cole Anthony +600
James Wiseman +600
Markus Howard +800
Myles Powell +850
Devon Dotson +900
Tre Jones +900
Kerry Blackshear Jr. +1000
Sam Merrill +1800
Michigan State Spartans guard Cassius Winston leads the way per SportsBetting.ag, and just about any other NCAA sportsbook you come across will probably say the same.
However, it isn’t unanimous that Winston is going to take this thing. In fact, the public has spoken, and they voted for a guy who isn’t even handed odds to be named the college basketball player of the year.
That’s none other than Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey, who won in Andy Katz’s fan bracket.
Perhaps it’s because Winston is more established or because Maxey is starting his college career playing off the bench, but something tells me the next time NCAA player of the year odds pop up, the Wildcats star will be included.
Maxey erupted for 26 points off the bench and hit a clutch three in his first game of college ball, and it stands to reason that he’ll be a key part of John Calipari’s crew.
Knowing the talent that Calipari gathers each year and the potential of Kentucky going on a deep March Madness run, Maxey shouldn’t be ignored like this.
Katz did hand Winston the #1 overall seed in the bracket, too, while the Spartans star also made it to the “championship” where he fell to the rising Maxey.
But it’s arguable it shouldn’t have been close. Winston is on a more established team that has a history of making deep runs during the greatest sports tournament known to man. Look no further than last season when Winston played a huge hand in pushing the Spartans to the 2019 Final Four.
Obviously, Winston is on the radar due to his ability to elevate his teammates, while his numbers last year (18.8 points per game, 7.5 assists per game, and 39% from deep) certainly have the look of a contender for this coveted award.
Winston didn’t have much of a chance with the storm of Zion Williamson circling the college ranks, but he may very well be the top favorite now.
Maxey got the best of Winston’s team in the first game of the year, but Winston still showed up with 21 points and four dimes. If he keeps it rolling and Michigan State makes another run at the Final Four, he’ll be every bit the favorite the top NCAA basketball sportsbooks are making him out to be.
Who Is Cassius Winston’s Main Threat?
It may end up being Tyrese Maxey that skies up the college basketball player rankings, but we can’t lean too hard on one game. That, and Maxey literally isn’t even an option for you to bet on at SportsBetting.ag and other college basketball betting websites at the moment.
So, let’s just look at the other top contenders we need to take seriously.
Um, how about Cole Anthony?
Anthony dropped 34 points and snatched 11 rebounds in a 76-65 win over Notre Dame. There’s an argument that production like that isn’t really sustainable — and it’s not — but that’s quite the first impression.
You could certainly make a strong case that Anthony is the better overall talent than Winston — and he is — and that his +600 odds are borderline robbery.
But let’s not ignore James Wiseman or Jordan Nwora, who would both qualify as legit contenders for the 2019-20 Naismith Trophy. Both are highly touted prospects for the next level, and neither has disappointed so far.
Nwora averaged 17 points per game last year and is already crushing again, putting up 23 points and 12 rebounds in his first game. Ditto for Wiseman, who was even better (28 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks) in his first game with the Memphis Tigers.
Playing at a smaller school may negatively impact Wiseman in this race, but the numbers and his status as a top-five lock for the 2020 NBA Draft may sway bettors eventually.
NCAA Player of the Year Sleeper Bets to Target
After those first few players, you start inching toward the sleeper range.
I don’t know if a drop from +600 to +800 is substantial enough, nor am I certain that guys like Markus Howard, Myles Powell, or Devon Dotson aren’t legit threats as much as the other prospects.
Howard was a scoring phenom for Marquette last year (25 points per game) and has started off 2019-20 with a bang (38 points). Yeah, I’d say he’s in the running.
Powell doesn’t exactly benefit from playing for Seton Hall, but he dropped 27 points in his first game of the year. Dotson is one of the better NBA prospects in the running, too, and he didn’t let anyone down with 17 points against Duke.
Howard might lead the way for me when you talk sleepers and pricing, but much like Maxey could rise up later when odds are refreshed, I think it’s likely we get a much bigger field with a lot of deserving options.
Who Will Win College Basketball Player of the Year?
The winner of this award is not always the best player in college basketball. He’s not even always on the best team, and past Naismith Trophy winners suggest they don’t have to be elite pro prospects, either.
Zion Williamson bucked those trends last season and was the top pick in the draft. However, before Mount Zion swallowed up our basketball world, guys like Jalen Brunson, Frank Mason III, Frank Kaminsky, Doug McDermott, and Trey Burke were winning this award.
Since 2000, only Williamson, Buddy Hield, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Durant stand in as truly elite NBA prospects that won this award. The jury is still out, and it’s entirely possible Zion Williamson will be a bust, but the other stars have panned out.
This all plays into why someone like Winston — currently projected by many to be a day two pick — could snag the award.
I note Winston as the favorite, but I don’t like him to win the trophy. I have two massive reasons; his price isn’t that inviting, and the competition is absolutely staggering.
Winston’s main selling point will have to be his team’s success. He is way behind a lot of these guys already from a statistical perspective, while his Spartans are starting off the year at 0-1.
If Michigan State isn’t among the best teams in the nation and Winston isn’t putting up elite numbers, he will not be the lock the experts are suggesting.
For now, why not ride the wave of Cole Anthony? He’s a lock to be in the lottery of the 2020 NBA Draft, and there’s an argument for him to go #1 overall. Maintaining his absurd debut pace and leading the Tar Heels deep into March Madness would certainly go a long way to ensure he has a shot at accomplishing that.
And at +600, what do bettors have to lose this early in the NCAA National Player of the Year betting process?
Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at play-casino-games-now.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.
When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.