North Carolina, Villanova among conference tournament betting favorites

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The college basketball postseason is in full effect this week with conference championship tournaments, which are always fun for bettors who have to gauge which likely top seeds for March Madness are motivated to keep bragging rights over their fiercest rivals.

With a multifaceted attack led by conference player of the year Justin Jackson, the North Carolina Tar Heels are the +190 betting favorite on the ACC champion futures board, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Tar Heels, who are one of the toughest teams around the rim with the likes of center Kennedy Meeks and power forward Isaiah Hicks supporting Jackson, have won seven of their last nine games.

The top of the ACC board includes the Louisville Cardinals (+400), Virginia Cavaliers (+400), Duke Blue Devils (+450) and Florida State Seminoles (+650). Florida State, led by Xavier Rathan-Mayes, is the No. 2 seed and has the easiest path to the final. It’s always possible that Louisville or Duke, who are the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds respectively, could beat the Heels in the semifinal only to lose in the final. Beating three nationally ranked opponents in as many days is a tall task.

The defending national champion Villanova Wildcats (-130) are the only better than even-money favorite in a major conference, as they are 27-3 on the season and expected to roll through the Big East tournament. However, the Butler Bulldogs (+450) are responsible for two of Villanova’s three losses this season and the move to have star scorer Kelan Martin become the sixth man seems to have re-energized their lineup at a good time of year.

Without Maurice Watson Jr., who tore his ACL and was then suspended after being charged with first-degree sexual assault, the Creighton Bluejays (+550) are a team to avoid.

The Big Ten Tournament odds are topped by the Purdue Boilermakers (+200) for exactly one reason: center Caleb Swanigan is a beastly big man, a 20-and-10 threat on any given night.  In what’s been a down year for the conference’s high-profile teams, the Wisconsin Badgers (+260) are high on the board thanks to their reputation but the roster is thin beyond stars such as Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.

Anyone doubting Purdue, or wanting a better price, should consider the Minnesota Golden Gophers (+750), whose arsenal of Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy can outscore a lot of teams.

The Big 12 tournament is clearly a three-team derby, with the Kansas Jayhawks (+145) the chalk pick thanks in large part to the stability of their guards Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham.

The West Virginia Mountaineers (+190) have a better price, and with one of the country’s best defenses, led by point guard Jevon Carter, they could cause Kansas difficulty if they meet. Meanwhile, the Baylor Bears (+475) have been a .500 team over the past month and might have peaked too soon.

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

NCAA College World Series
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As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.

Kentucky to allow college athletes to earn off likeness

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday allowing the state’s college athletes – including players on the nationally renowned Kentucky and Louisville men’s basketball teams – to make money through the use of their name, image or likeness.

The Democratic governor said he took the action as a matter of fairness for college athletes. It will spare Kentucky’s colleges from being at a competitive disadvantage with rivals in other states that will have laws enabling athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness, he said.

“This is important to our student-athletes, who for decades, others – whether it’s companies or institutions – have profited on,” Beshear told reporters. “These athletes deserve to be a part of that.”

Beshear said his executive order takes effect July 1, when similar legislation passed in several other states will become law. His office said he was the first governor to make the change by executive order.

The governor’s action won praise from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. UK plays in the Southeastern Conference and UofL competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical,” Vince Tyra, U of L’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said in a release issued by the governor’s office.

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said the governor’s action “provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness.”

“We are appreciative of that support, as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted,” Barnhart said in the same release from Beshear’s office. “The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago.”

In Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, laws go into effect July 1 that make it impermissible for the NCAA and members schools to prevent athletes from being paid by third parties for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances.

The NCAA had hoped for a national law from Congress that has not come, and its own rule-making has been bogged down for months. College sports leaders are instead moving toward the type of patchwork regulation they have been warning against for months.