College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions: 7 Best Bets for Tuesday’s Champions Classic
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images. Pictured: Dereck Lively II (Duke)
- Four of the top programs in college basketball take center stage in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening.
- No. 4 Kentucky faces off against Michigan State in the early game while No. 7 Duke duels No. 6 Kansas is the night cap.
- Our staff is providing you with seven best bets across the two games.
One of the best early-season college basketball events tips off tonight from Indianapolis, as four blue bloods take center stage in the Champions Classic.
Obviously these two showdowns are intriguing from just a pure fan perspective, but how can we bet these matchups?
Our staff has you covered below — and not just with the regular spread.
Our Staff’s Champions Classic Best Bets
The picks in the table below represent the Champions Classic bets that our staff members are targeting on Tuesday. Click on any of the following picks to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
Kentucky vs. Michigan State
Per the Lexington Herald-Leader, John Calipari said Oscar Tshiebwe would be back at practice on Monday for the first time since last month. He also said that even if Oscar does return for the Michigan State game, it would be in a limited capacity.
Kentucky’s Daimion Collins, meanwhile, is expected to be fully available Tuesday night.
So, the best case scenario for Kentucky is that both join a team that has played two games without them, and in all honestly, I don’t think that helps the Wildcats much. It might even hurt them.
They’re up against their first real competition of the season, and they’re playing with a lineup that not only hasn’t been able to practice together, but with Tshiebwe back, their roles change considerably from the first two games.
I expect the defensive pressure of Michigan State to be another issue for Kentucky.
The Wildcats have consistently struggled in the past in their first real test of a season after opening up with inferior opponents. Last year, after losing to Duke, they didn’t play a single team ranked better than 125th (per KenPom) before they went to Notre Dame and lost.
That’s why I’m backing the Spartans to — at the very least — keep this game close. I was able to grab Michigan State at +6.5 on Monday afternoon, but I feel comfortable backing the Spartans here at +5 or better.
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A.J. Hoggard Over 10.5 Points
By Doug Ziefel
A.J. Hoggard only played 16 minutes in Michigan State’s season opener, but was incredibly efficient, as he scored nine points and had eight assists.
His performance made an impact, as his minutes and usage skyrocketed against Gonzaga. Hoggard only made 25% of his shots against the Zags, but still scored 12 points.
He leads the Spartans in usage by a wide margin and should be a big part of the offense tonight, as he will be a weapon around the rim and could wind up at the free-throw stripe quite a bit.
The word is that Oscar Tshiebwe will play a limited role for the Wildcats tonight. It would not surprise me one bit to see Hoggard challenge him around the rim. If the big man gets into foul trouble, it will only lessen his impact and give Hoggard even better opportunities around the rim when he’s off the floor.
Also, Hoggard is due for some positive regression shooting the ball. He enters this matchup with an effective field goal percentage of 33%.
However, he had an effective field goal percentage of over 45% last year. If he continues to lead the Spartans in usage, he may lead them in points tonight.
Pick: A.J. Hoggard Over 10.5 Points
Michigan State 1H +3.5
Michigan State and Kentucky come into Tuesday’s Champions Classic matchup after very different starts to their 2022-23 campaigns.
Michigan State was immediately tested by Gonzaga in the Armed Forces Classic. Although the Spartans came up short — losing 63-64 — the early experience against a physical Gonzaga unit will be invaluable on Tuesday night.
Most notable for the Spartans was their physicality in the frontcourt. F Malik Hall and C Mady Sissoko combined for 25 points and 16 boards against an uber-talented Gonzaga frontcourt led by All-American Drew Timme.
For the Wildcats, their biggest question mark comes with their physicality they will have down low on Tuesday night. John Calipari hopes to have C Oscar Tshiebwe back in the lineup, but it is reported that he will only be able to play in four-to-six minute intervals at a time.
With Tshiebwe in a limited role, Lance Ware and true freshman Ugonna Onyenso will have to match the physicality of the Spartans head on.
Given the limitations of Tshiebwe and the experience the Spartans gained against Gonzaga, I see value on the Spartans early on Tuesday night.
Pick: Michigan State 1H +3.5 (Play to +2)
Michigan State +6.5 & Kansas +1.5
Last year, when I previewed one of the Champions Classic games, I pointed out that underdogs in the event were 3-8 ATS (with one game in the six-year history listed as a pick ‘em).
Of course, the year I pointed that out and attempted to profit off that phenomenon, both favorites won and covered, with Duke and Kansas taking care of business.
That was bound to happen eventually, but I still believe in the process here. It’s early in the season and there is plenty to learn about these teams. With limited background information, I’m willing to take Tom Izzo and Bill Self’s staff getting points on a neutral floor.
Izzo’s Spartans battled Gonzaga last week, pushing the Bulldogs to the brink on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Sparty’s returning core looked better than expected and should be more of a factor in the Big Ten than previously believed.
Self, meanwhile, won’t be on the sidelines due to suspension, yet surely has the reigning national champs ready for their first test of the year.
In Jon Scheyer’s first big game leading the Blue Devils, I’ll trust the Jayhawks’ infrastructure.
Give me both dogs, and I’ll take my chances.
Pick: Michigan State +6.5 & Kansas +1.5
Duke vs. Kansas
By D.J. James
Duke and Kansas coming together for the Champions Classic on Tuesday night should be a battle.
Duke hasn’t allowed more than 44 points in its first two games while Kansas has been solid on the defensive end, as well.
The difference here going into this game is Kansas ranks 10th in Defensive Efficiency. Duke ranks fourth in Offensive Efficiency, so this should at least somewhat negate Kansas’ major strength.
The biggest reason for betting the first half for Duke is its size. The Blue Devils rank first in offensive rebounding at 48.6%. Kansas has struggled in this regard a little bit, ranking 41st in offensive rebounds allowed.
Neither of these teams get to the line much, but Kansas currently sits at 121st in allowed free throw attempts. Duke is only shooting 64.9% at the strike, but this should include some positive regression.
Kansas ranks 87th in 3-point percentage and 130th in 2-point percentage. Duke ranks 34th and 23rd, respectively.
The thing that jumps off the page here is that Duke should prevent Kansas from scoring in the paint, as Kyle Filipowski and Ryan Young have helped boost the Duke frontcourt.
Mark Mitchell and Gradey Dick should cancel each other out.
Jalen Wilson might have some trouble on the block against Duke’s big men. If this is the case, Duke has a massive leg up in the post.
This will come to fruition in the first few possessions. If the Blue Devils set the tone, they should win the first half outright.
Pick: Duke 1H +0.5 (Play to -1.5)
Duke 1H +0.5
Duke lost four players to the first round of the NBA draft, highlighted by Paolo Banchero. Most would expect a bit of a letdown this season, but not for the Blue Devils. They bring in the top recruiting class in the nation, highlighted by three of the top four players in the class.
Two of those players are in for a big night in Duke’s first true test against Kansas. 6-foot-11 Kyle Filipowski and 7-foot-1 Dereck Lively II are going to own a significant height advantage over the Jayhawks’ undersized frontcourt.
Despite Filipowski’s size, he is a modern-day big man. He can stretch the floor with his ball-handling, he’s a great passer and he’s an improved shooter.
When he shares the floor with Lively, they present an incredibly difficult challenge for opposing defenses. Lively owns the paint and is an elite rim-protector on defense.
The two are also joined by 6-foot-10 sophomore Ryan Young, who is averaging 12 points and eight boards through two games.
The tallest player in the Kansas lineup stands at 6-foot-8, and he will have his hands full in this matchup. This size mismatch will prevent Kansas from having second-chance opportunities. Duke already ranks first in the nation, snatching offensive rebounds on nearly 50% of its misses this season.
The Blue Devils will have plenty of extra possessions in this matchup and should have a comfortable lead at half under new head coach Jon Scheyer.
Pick: Duke 1H +0.5 (Play to -1)
Duke/Kansas 1H Under 70.5
When diving deeper into this matchup, the theme that continued to arise was change and youth. The first instance of a nationally-televised game in a stadium with an untraditional shooting backdrop will present a challenge to even the most polished freshmen for both Kansas and Duke.
I would certainly expect talent to eventually overcome nerves. However, don’t be surprised to see the nerves show early.
I expect to see some anxiousness early from the youthful pieces on both sides. Poor shooting, sloppy passes and generally choppy offense will be a theme until the flow of the game is established.
I am on the first half under, mostly to avoid any potential defensive pressure from the trailing team and free throws leading to additional possessions and points late.
Shaky play tends to show up more on the offensive end early.
I would feel comfortable playing this 1H total at 68.5 or above.