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Still Value in College Basketball Futures

By Robert Ferringo of Doc's Sports Predictions

The NCAA men's college basketball Final Four will take place this year from March 31-April 2 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, my adopted backyard. And yes, I will spend that weekend harassing college coaches, misleading tourists, stalking cheerleaders and fleecing any poor soul whose team is in the running but has no chance to win. It will be a grand time and I'm looking forward to it in the same way that I'm looking forward to 70-degree days and 18-hole golf outings in March.

But that is then and this is now. And right now I do know that while a majority of the county is either under several feet of snow or wrapped in a shroud of frigid cold one of the only signs of hope is the promise of the future. So why not put our money where our mind is?

Several sportsbooks are currently offering futures odds on who will win the 2007 National Championship. Here's a look at some of the best and worst futures bets currently on the board at Bodog:

Front-running Favorite Small odds and big dreams for these serious title contenders:

Florida (11-to-4) - The defending champions are the favorite for good reason. They are a virtual shoo-in for the Final Four, where it will take an incredible effort to beat them. At nearly 3-to-1 you're actually getting decent value on the front-runner.

Kansas (10-to-1) - Rock, chalk, beware of betting on the Jayhawk. I almost put these guys in the "Sucker Bet" column because of their shocking failures of the past two tournaments. But when you can throw three 6-foot-9 swingmen on the court at one time - as if they cloned Paul Pierce in the biology building - you have to be impressed.

North Carolina (4-to-1) - Believe it or not, I'm skeptical about these Heels. However, the General Rule is to find the team with the most potential NBA lottery picks and bet on them to win. That, or bet them to be most likely to get in a gunfight at a strip club after a loss. But they're still pretty young so that can't be expected to know all the NBA tricks.

UCLA (8-to-1) - As long as Aaron Afflalo doesn't have flashbacks of last year's national title game the Bruins should be OK. I was on record as saying that they couldn't lose what they did from last year and improve, but I wasn't counting on Westbrook's ability and Shipp staying healthy.

Wisconsin (8-to-1) - Bucky's got a great mojo working up in Wisky. With more big white men than an NRA convention, an underrated and poised backcourt, and a go-to guy, the Badgers are legit. I have them in my Final Four and think they could topple the Gators.

Sucker Bets These teams look good on paper and get a lot of love from the media, but they don't have a realistic shot to cut down the nets in April:

Arizona (22-to-1) - With absolutely no bench to speak of and a nagging history of collapsing in the early rounds of the tournament, the Wildcats would only have value at 50-to-1 or higher.

Butler (18-to-1) - The Butler didn't do it. And they won't. Ever. I understand that they've beaten some ranked teams, but this is by no means one of the best teams in the country. A Sweet 16 berth isn't out of the question, but it is questionable. These odds are about one-third of what they should be.

Duke (30-to-1) - There's a better chance of the Duke lacrosse team getting an endorsement from NOW than there is of the Blue Devils winning the national title. They might make it out of the first weekend because they will get a candy-ass draw.

Ohio State (8-to-1) - Do you really think that a team predominantly comprised of freshman has the focus and understanding to win six straight games against the best in the country? I say no. Not a chance.

Pittsburgh (14-to-1) - They have a go-to post scorer, some very good guards, and a strong scheme. However, this club doesn't scream greatness to me. They can play with anyone but this isn't a title team.

Texas (18-to-1) - Let's take a team with one great player, two good guards and a resume worthy of a No. 6 or No. 7 seed and make them a favorite? How about we don't. I think this is the worst bet on the board and the Longhorns' 8-12 ATS mark proves how amazingly overrated they are.

Dark Horses These teams offer tremendous vale for the potential they possess:

Alabama (70-to-1) - Of course, if the Bama Boys do make the Final Four someone will likely get infected with HIV, have their dorm room burn down, or watch Mark Gottfried taken away for holding illegal cock fighting matches in his backyard. You laugh, but this has been a hard-luck crew. However, they did start the season in the Top 10 for a reason. And they could find redemption in the Second Season of March.

Georgetown (20-to-1) - These odds aren't too shabby for what may emerge as the best team in the Big East. Their size and smothering defense will limit their potential to be upset, meaning that if they catch a decent draw they could wind up in the national semis.

Louisville (100-to-1) - This team is just beginning to scratch the surface of its talent and may be peaking at the right time. Pitino is just sneaky and slimy enough to wander into the Final Four yet again, and this team has played a demanding enough schedule to be battle-tested in March.

Maryland (80-to-1) - If Gary Williams can keep from drowning in his own sweat, D.J. Strawberry can keep from stealing blow out of his dad's underwear drawer and Mike Jones can stop telling people that he was better than Lebron James as a junior in high school, then I think they could be in business.

Oregon (45-to-1) - Hopefully the Ducks can avoid the Curse of Aaron Brooks. The Raiders and Saints could not, but since this is basketball we might be OK. Guards get it done in March, and this top-flight Oregon team looks like its backcourt was mass-produced from the Nike factory.

Southern Illinois (80-to-1) - You're getting fantastic value on a team that can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the nation. Their lock-down - or dreadlock-down - defensive style means that they will be tough to beat, and their experienced and talented backcourt meets the No. 1 prerequisite for winning a title.

Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at robert@docsports.com or check out his Insider Page here.

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