NCAA

Villanova the 2018 NCAA champions? The odds are favorable

One year ago, on Tuesday, Villanova's Kris Jenkins hit "the shot" to defeat North Carolina 77-74 in the 2016 national championship game. 

This year, Villanova suffered a second-round loss to an under-seeded Wisconsin team. But 'Nova has a good chance to win it all in 2018. 

The Wildcats have 14/1 odds of winning the 2018 NCAA national championship, according to Bovada.

Kentucky tops the list with odds at 9/1. Newly-crowned champions UNC have 12/1 odds, while Duke sits at 14/1, along with Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas and Louisville.

Wisconsin, which knocked off ‘Nova this year, has 66/1 odds. South Carolina, this year’s Cinderella story, has 100/1 odds.

Rounding out the list are Temple and St. Joe’s, each given 1,000/1 odds.

Why the odds make sense
The Wildcats' roster next season will be led by four juniors: Phil Booth, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall. Booth, who was injured during the 2016 championship game, should be fully recovered from an arthroscopic procedure performed on his knee last May. Booth technically should be going into his senior year, but an impending medical red shirt would give the point guard two more years of eligibility.

Brunson may go through the NBA draft process like Jenkins and Josh Hart did last season, but it's certainly possible he returns to school. The NBA allows college underclassmen to work out for teams and go to the draft combine, but can return to school if they do not hire an agent. 

Brunson, in 36 games last season, averaged 14.7 points and 2.6 rebounds. Bridges averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 33 games. Both players shot 54 percent from the field.  

The final junior, Eric Paschall, averaged 7.2 points per game and shot 51 percent from the field.  

The Wildcats will also return rebound-machine Donte Divincenzo. The red-shirt freshman averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds off the bench in the regular season. The reserve played his best basketball during the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. 

In addition to those players, the Wildcats will also add five-star recruit Omari Spellman, who was ruled academically ineligible this past season. The forward should provide an inside presence for Villanova next season.