College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: Michigan State vs. Kentucky, Duke vs. Kansas

College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: Michigan State vs. Kentucky, Duke vs. Kansas article feature image

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan State Spartans forward Xavier Tillman (23).

  • The college basketball season gets underway Tuesday with a pair of top-4 matchups: Duke vs. Kansas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) and Michigan State vs. Kentucky (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
  • Below you'll find odds for each game, as well as a breakdown of how mismatches could present value in the betting market.

Eli Hershkovich is an Action Network contributor and hosts the You Better You Bet Podcast on RADIO.COM Sports.

Screw Christmas. College basketball is back, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I’m excited to be back with The Action Network, where I’ll be writing a weekly column, as well as adding to the staff’s best bets piece once we get deeper into the season. You can also hear my college hoops betting breakdowns on RADIO.COM Sports’ You Better You Bet — the first-ever nightly sports betting podcast.

Chad Millman and oddsmaker Bob Scucci host The Action Network’s Countdown to Kickoff on RADIO.COM — Sundays from noon-1 p.m. EST.

With my college basketball long-shot future set, let’s dive into the Champions Classic matchups — No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 4 Duke — to see where the value lies.

Before we jump into the game analysis, an interesting note from The Action Network’s Darren Rovell: One bettor at the New Jersey sportsbook PointsBet wagered $110,000 on Kansas -2.5 to cover and $110,000 on Michigan State -3. Both bets would profit $100,000.

If you’re in New Jersey, be sure to check out PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Kansas vs. Duke Odds

  • Spread: Kansas -1.5
  • Over/Under: 152.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

This line opened at Duke -2.5 on Saturday, garnering two-way action before Kansas money flipped this line and made the Jayhawks a favorite.

Although Blue Devils lost Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish to the NBA, they’ve reeled in college basketball’s No. 3 recruiting class, led by five-star big Vernon Carey.

Carey has a smooth low-post game that should translate well in Mike Kryzewski’s system, but he struggles with defending the pick-and-roll. Kansas’ frontcourt, led by Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa, will be able to expose his biggest liability.

Jayhawks point guard Devon Dotson will go toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best defensive guards in Duke’s Tre Jones. Even if Dotson struggles, Kansas’ bigs should have their way on the block against Carey, fellow 5-star Matthew Hurt, who’s more known for his offensive repertoire, and senior Javin DeLaurier.

Despite the Jayhawks losing their top-two scorers from last season (Dedric Lawson, Lagerald Vick), they’ll be better off defensively with Azubuike and De Sousa’s rim protection, as well as Ochai Agbaji and Iowa transfer Isiah Moss’ sound perimeter defense (though Moss is questionable with a hamstring injury).

Couple that with the Blue Devils’ unknown offensive identity, including an unproven 3-point shooting unit, and Kansas should control the glass and pace.

Both of these games deserve a look towards the under, thanks to the NCAA extending the 3-point line by an inch-plus and Madison Square Garden’s unique shooting backdrop. But because of the likely quick tempo in this one, it’s more of a live betting angle.

I bet Kansas +1.5 on Saturday, expecting closing line value with the Jayhawks primed to be the favorites come tip-off.

There’s still value in Bill Self’s experienced bunch, but I’d live bet it if you’re unable to get the number below. Self is 3-1 against the spread in his career versus Kryzewski (via Bet Labs) — his last ATS win coming against Coach K in the 2018 Elite Eight (+3).

The Pick: Kansas -2 or better [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]

Michigan State vs. Kentucky

  • Spread: Michigan State -3
  • Over/Under: 138
  • Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

Just when Michigan State was primed to bring back the majority of its key contributors, senior guard Joshua Langford was ruled out until at least January with a persisting foot and ankle injury. Although Langford missed much of last season with the same issue, he’s one of their top two-way threats.

Some will expect this contest to come down to senior point guard Cassius Winston — last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year — versus another elite defensive guard in Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans. But what Winston struggled with most last season was opponents’ stellar ball pressure, showcased by Texas Tech in the Final Four, which isn’t the Wildcats’ specialty.

Despite losing bigs Nick Ward and Kenny Goins, the Spartans return with breakout candidates Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry, who will give Kentucky big E.J. Montgomery and 5-star forward Kahlil Whitney issues with their physicality at both ends. Wildcats sophomore forward Nick Richards is day-to-day with an ankle injury, and his absence would force John Calipari’s unit to play more small-ball.

Tom Izzo’s bigs (Tillman, Thomas Keither) are typically adept at hedging ball screens and rotating back, so freeing up Montgomery or Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina will be a tall task.

But the Wildcats should have an edge via 5-star guard Tyrese Maxey — with fellow freshman Rocket Watts likely matched up with him.

Unless Watts can keep up with Maxsey’s athleticism, Izzo could be forced to switch Henry onto Maxey, creating mismatches for the rest of Kentucky’s attack. Langford’s absence will prove meaningful there.

I’m aiming to bet the Wildcats live if and when Michigan’s State goes on one of its signature runs. Despite the Spartans’ experienced core, Maxey’s skillset should allow Kentucky to hang around.

The Pick: Kentucky +7.5 live or better [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]

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