Nick Bogdanovich was sitting at his desk at the William Hill Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas on Thursday when a customer approached the window with a question the veteran bookmaker wasn't expecting.
The customer wanted to know the odds preseason No. 1 Kentucky would go unbeaten this college basketball season.
Happy to accommodate the bet but unsure how to determine what the odds should be, Bogdanovich asked the customer to wait for 10 minutes while he and a colleague perused Kentucky's schedule and came up with a number. The odds Bogdanovich and his colleague settled on were 400-1 that Kentucky's latest cast of immensely talented freshmen could become the first team ever to finish 40-0.
"There was a little math, a little gut, and we studied their schedule pretty closely," Bogdanovich said Friday. "When you're talking about a number that high, it's pretty arbitrary. It probably could be anywhere from 200-1 to 5,000-1. We decided on 400-1, and if those kids jell early, who knows? He might get his money."
Though no college basketball team has gone undefeated since Indiana's 1976 national title team went 32-0, Kentucky coach John Calipari has invited talk of an unbeaten season the past couple years. He mentioned that going 40-0 was a goal of his after winning the 2012 national championship, and he brought it up again last spring after wrapping up a recruiting class some have lauded as the best since Michigan's Fab Five.
"We’re chasing perfection," Calipari said in May. "We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game. What I like about that, people say, ‘Pressure!’ Man, pressure brings out the best.
"Now, I’m not sitting there saying, ‘If we lose a game, it’s not a successful season.’ No. But you’re chasing greatness. What’s wrong with that?"
Kentucky may only have slim hope of surviving unscathed against a schedule that includes Louisville, Michigan State and North Carolina before SEC play begins, but the Wildcats have a great chance to cut down the nets in April for the second time in three seasons. According to Bogdanovich, Kentucky is a 3-1 favorite to win the national championship, ahead of Kansas (5-1), Duke (8-1) and Louisville (8-1).