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College basketball makes it’s triumphant return tonight with a pair of games that feature former champions. Yup, that’s all the thinking that the event needed to do in regards to it’s name. Regardless, the four teams battling tonight are all very different. Let’s discuss the money.
#3 Kansas -4 vs. Michigan State
First up, it’s the return of the Jayhawks hellbent for Big 12 domination after Baylor and Texas squashed their hopes to get the crown back. They are in good shape to do so especially with two absolute units returning. Ochai Agbaji returns for his senior season and the 6’5″ guard was money last season, averaging 14.1 points per game and scoring in double digits in 25 of the team’s 30 games last year. Let’s add to the list the team’s 6’10” forward, David McCormack who also enters his senior season and last year saw nearly a doubling in his points scored per, at 13.4 per and averaged those 13.4 points and a sprinkle over 6 rebounds a game in a scant 23 mins a game.
Michigan State is a very, very different team this season. The Spartans lost four players to the transfer portal, Josh Langford decided not to come back for a sixth season and leading scorer Aaron Henry is a pro, in fact he was just called up for the 76ers a couple days ago. This number feels small to me. State is a complete unknown and I am not so sure they really expect to win this game. I think the Spartans are just trying to figure themselves out and they’ll have some tests to do it. In their first six games they have these Jayhawks, Butler and Loyola-IL and Louisville. I’m pumping the ‘Hawks -4 tonight .
#10 Kentucky @ #9 Duke (-1.5)
There is literally zero way to sugar-coat what Kentucky was: an unmitigated failure of epic proportions. Blame it on whatever you want, they couldn’t score in important moments and it was primarily because they didn’t have a scorer. They needed someone that could handle the big moments and shots consistently and they struggled for large swaths of the season because they lacked all of that. Davion Mintz is the team’s leading returning scorer, bringing back 11.5 points per. Kellan Grady makes his season debut and his 2,000 points scored at Davidson are going to be key. He’s a 36.6% shooter from three and it’s going to be massive for the Wildcats’ season.
Duke is loaded, but younger. Paolo Banchero is about as hyped a player you are going to get this season. This freshman is big (6’10”, 250 pounds) and very, very strong and in his lone appearance of the exhibition season tallied 21 points and 9 rebounds. Speaking of big, the Blue Devils also have a 7-foot, 240-pound Mark Williams that really came into his own in the final games of last season. Kentucky is known for their length, the Duke can definitely match this season. I am siding with the Wildcats to start this season. It’s a fantastically even matchup and I am so glad it’s the last of the two games on the Classic slate. This could be an all-time classic, but I lean with what is newer to Kentucky… returning experience and a hungry team. Keion Brooks could explode this season at forward and Oscar Tshiebwe (6’9″, 255-pounds) is a fascinating transfer option for UK. This smells like a special team. KENTUCKY MONEYLINE +100