Who Is the Best College Basketball Team? The Betting Lines, Combined With Polls, Help Sort Out This Strange Season

The 2019-20 men's college basketball season does not need March for madness. The craziness started in November, and it continued today. The season began with the top two teams playing each other on the same night, and same floor, as the preseason No. 3 and 4 teams playing against each other. Both lower-ranked teams won that night.

In the first seven weeks, five different teams ranked at No. 1 lost. The first was when No. 2 Kentucky beat top-ranked Michigan State on that opening night, and the last was when top-ranked Kansas lost at No. 18 Villanova on December 21. The Gonzaga Bulldogs moved up to No. 1 on December 23 and have remained there since then.

Until today.

Gonzaga seemed to be the only stability during an otherwise unstable season that's just over halfway through the regular schedule. That is until voters in the Associated Press poll moved Baylor into the top spot on Monday, just ahead of Gonzaga, which did not even lose last week.

Also this week, Duke fell by five spots after a loss to Clemson, Oregon dropped four spots, Butler fell from fifth to 13th, Kentucky fell five spots after a buzzer-beating loss at South Carolina and Auburn went from fourth to 16th.

For those of you who were wrapped up in college football, and perhaps those watching the NFL playoffs and other sports, here's a quick snippet of what you've missed so far:

(Nov. 12, 2019) Evansville knocked off top-ranked Kentucky, 67-64
(Nov. 20, 2019) Memphis freshman James Wiseman was told by the NCAA he must sit out 12 games and pay $11,500 to a charity of his choice. This was after the NCAA found out his family received that same amount of money in moving expenses
(Nov. 27, 2019) Stephen F. Austin went to Duke and beat the No. 1 Blue Devils, 85-83, in overtime
(Dec. 2, 2019) Michigan became the first team to in the top-25 era to go from unranked to No. 4 in one week—after the Wolverines defeated No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Gonzaga to win the Battle 4 Atlantis
(Dec. 10, 2019) Texas Tech won on the road at No. 1 Louisville, 70-57
(Dec. 19, 2019) Wiseman withdrew from Memphis, and is expected to be the top pick in the next NBA Draft
(Dec. 21, 2019) No. 1 Kansas lost at No. 18 Villanova, 56-55
(Jan. 10, 2020) Clemson beat defeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill for the first time in 60 tries
(Jan. 13, 2020) Auburn is the only undefeated power conference team with a 15-0 record and ranked No. 4
(Jan. 14, 2020) Clemson defeated Duke, marking a rare back-to-back feat of wins over Duke and UNC for the first time since 1990
(Jan. 15, Jan. 17, 2020) Auburn loses back-to-back games against Alabama and Florida
(Jan. 17, 2020) North Carolina has a second four-game losing streak, and the Tar Heels are 8-9 overall and 1-5 in the ACC, tied for last place with Wake Forest
(Jan. 17, 2020) San Diego State is the only remaining undefeated team at 18-0 and ranked No. 7

With all that said, here is the current Associated Press Top 20:

  1. Baylor
  2. Gonzaga
  3. Kansas
  4. San Diego State
  5. Florida State
  6. Louisville
  7. Dayton
  8. Duke
  9. Villanova
  10. Seton Hall
  11. Michigan State
  12. Oregon
  13. Butler
  14. West Virginia
  15. Kentucky
  16. Auburn
  17. Maryland
  18. Texas Tech
  19. Iowa
  20. Memphis

Here are the top 20 teams with the best odds of winning the men's basketball championship (as of Saturday afternoon) by VegasInsider.com:

7/1 — Kansas
10/1 — Duke
10/1 — Gonzaga
12/1 — Baylor
12/1 — Dayton
12/1 — Michigan State
14/1 — Seton Hall
16/1 — Louisville
16/1 — West Virginia
20/1 — Auburn
20/1 — Kentucky
20/1 — Oregon
25/1 — Arizona
30/1 — Butler
30/1 — Villanova
40/1 — Florida State
40/1 — Maryland
40/1 — Ohio State
40/1 — San Diego State
40/1 — Wichita State

There are 17 teams that are in both the top 20 of the AP poll and the Las Vegas odds. The three ranked teams not in the top 20 odds are Texas Tech, Iowa and Memphis. The three teams in the top 20 of odds, but the top 20 poll, are Arizona, Ohio State and Wichita State.

The next rankings are the top 17 teams (a Sweet 16 plus 1?) that are in both top 20s. The teams have points added for a total.

For example, Baylor has one point for a No. 1 ranking and four points for its standing in the odds, giving them five points. The lower the point total, the higher our ranking.

The tiebreaker is determined by the better odds on winning the title. So as Gonzaga (No. 2 ranking) and Kansas (No. 3 ranking) have the same total of 4, Kansas has better odds at winning the title, giving them the tiebreaker for top spot in these rankings.

Here is the top 17 for January 20, 2020

Rank, Team, Total Points

  1. Kansas 4
  2. Gonzaga 4
  3. Baylor 5
  4. Duke 10
  5. Dayton 11
  6. Louisville 14
  7. Michigan State 15
  8. Seton Hall 17
  9. San Diego State 19
  10. Florida State 20
  11. West Virginia 22
  12. Oregon 22
  13. Villanova 22
  14. Kentucky 25
  15. Auburn 26
  16. Butler 26
  17. Maryland 32

Are the rankings an exact science? Of course not. Baylor has won 14-consecutive games, including a 12-point win at Kansas this month. Gonzaga did not lose and fell from the top spot in the AP poll.

But some sort of formula of mixing the votes and the odds of winning seemed the only normal thing to do in an otherwise abnormal season that's too hard to predict right now.

Kansas Baylor College Basketball
Devon Dotson #1 of the Kansas Jayhawks steals the ball from Matthew Mayer #24 of the Baylor Bears during the game at Allen Fieldhouse on January 11, 2020 in Lawrence, Kansas. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images