College Basketball Betting: Duke-Kentucky, Kansas-Michigan State, Plus Bet to Watch
- The 2018-19 college basketball season starts on Tuesday night, highlighted by the Champions Classic on ESPN.
- We will provide two quick betting previews for Michigan State vs. Kansas and Duke vs. Kentucky, plus one other matchup.
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After waiting 216 days for college basketball to return to our gambling-ridden lives, the night has finally arrived.
In honor of opening night, let’s look at both highly-anticipated Champions Classic matchups, which each feature a battle of preseason top-10 blue bloods. I’ll finish up with a quick betting preview for another game I like tonight.
Kansas (-5.5) vs. Michigan State
7 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Jayhawks have lost their past two matchups (2012, 2015) against the Spartans in ESPN’s season-opening college hoops slate. However, Kansas got the best of Izzo and company in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, led by Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson.
Head coach Bill Self will use a two-big lineup as he did in both previous Champions Classic losses, but that should work in his favor this time around.
Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, a National Player of the Year candidate, and second-year center Udoka Azubuike should be too much to handle on the low-post for Michigan State’s big men. While Nick Ward and Azubuike battle throughout the contest, there won’t be much of a solution for defending Lawson.
Kansas lost plenty of backcourt production in Graham and Malik Newman, but there’s no shortage of talent once again, starting with 5-stars Quentin Grimes, Devin Dodson and even Cal transfer Charlie Moore. Michigan State’s guards will lead a few runs, yet the Kansas bigs should dominate defensively around the rim. Don’t forget about David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, either.
That’ll pin Michigan State’s post, which lacks depth, into foul trouble as the matchup progresses.
Kentucky (-1.5) vs. Duke
9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
These two programs split their two previous affairs at the event, with the Wildcats winning their most recent meeting in 2015.
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski needs time to determine how to plug and play three forwards that stand between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8. Duke won’t fair well against an experienced frontcourt with Stanford transfer Reid Travis, who joins the fold with sophomores PJ Washington and Nick Richards.
Plus, heralded freshman Tyler Herro should help Kentucky refine its 3-point percentage from the get-go. Don’t expect another 35.7% campaign from deep this season.
There will be talented freshmen all over, but Kentucky’s experience in the paint should ultimately make the difference.
Bet to Watch: Missouri State (-6)
vs. Oral Roberts, 8 p.m. ET
Under first-year coach Dana Ford, who arrives from Tennessee State, Missouri State isn’t expected to contend in the MVC (13-17, 7-11 projection on KenPom). The Bears lost three of their top four scorers from a season ago, but they have the potential to be a bit better than most think.
MSU will experience many growing pains, but this game looks like a decent spot to get revenge for a road loss against the Golden Eagles last December. Led by two senior guards in Jarred Dixon and Texas Tech transfer Josh Webster, the Bears should have enough firepower against a raw Oral Roberts team.
Ford has a couple other seniors to work with as he looks to implement his defensive scheme. Missouri State could struggle with depth as the campaign progresses, but that shouldn’t matter much in the opener.
Oral Roberts also lost plenty of production inside. It’s not poised to take advantage of Missouri State on the glass — an area it will likely struggle in after losing star big man Alize Johnson.
Side with Ford in his Bears’ debut in a battle of two rebuilding programs.