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Betting opens for 2020-21 college basketball season

Updated March 31, 2020 - 6:52 pm

April means betting on the Final Four, but in this year of the coronavirus pandemic, the only Final Four to bet on is 12 months away.

The college basketball season was abruptly halted March 12 in the middle of conference tournament week, meaning no March Madness and no Final Four. However, William Hill has turned the page and released futures odds for the 2020-21 season.

Four familiar faces — Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Kentucky — were installed as 10-1 co-favorites. Virginia, the 2019 champion, is next at 12-1, followed by Baylor (14-1) and Michigan State (18-1).

Handicapping the 2021 season now is a difficult exercise. Players have until April 26 to declare for the NBA draft and until June 15 to decide whether to withdraw and return to school, and several top players could transfer.

The halted 2020 season was marked by long shots Baylor, Dayton and San Diego State turning into true title contenders.

In that vein, handicapper Brian Edwards (@vegasbedwards, Majorwager.com) peered way down the betting board and landed on Alabama at 150-1 as a possible surprise contender.

The Crimson Tide finished 16-15 in their first season under coach Nate Oats, who previously led Buffalo to three NCAA Tournament berths in four seasons.

“Oats is about to turn the Tide into a juggernaut,” Edwards said via text message.

Guards Kira Lewis Jr. and John Petty Jr. have declared for the NBA draft, but Edwards said there’s a “decent chance they return.” Oats landed an oral commitment from five-star guard recruit Josh Primo and will add Villanova transfer guard Jahvon Quinerly and forward Juwan Gary, who was injured all of last season.

Edwards also likes Iowa at 30-1 if center Luka Garza returns. The Hawkeyes are a “legit Final Four contender” who could have made a deep run this season, he said.

Handicapper Bruce Marshall (Goldsheet.com) agrees on the Hawkeyes as long as Garza returns. He said Wisconsin (30-1) should be a solid contender and also expects improvement from Arkansas (150-1) under second-year coach Eric Musselman.

San Diego State is 30-1 after a surprising season in which the Aztecs opened at odds of 1,000-1 but went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were slated to be a top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament.

UNLV is 750-1 after a strong finish under first-year coach T.J. Otzelberger. Mountain West tournament champion Utah State is also 750-1, and UNR is 1,000-1.

Marshall said the Rebels should be much improved next season and that transfer guard David Jenkins Jr. “could be the best player in the Mountain West.”

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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