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ESPN Events Invitational Odds, Picks and Predictions: How to Bet This College Basketball Thanksgiving Classic Tournament

ESPN Events Invitational Odds, Picks and Predictions: How to Bet This College Basketball Thanksgiving Classic Tournament article feature image

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  • The ESPN Events Invitational tips off on Thursday, Nov. 25 -- Thanksgiving Day -- when Dayton (+5.5) faces Miami at noon ET to open play.
  • Dayton vs. Miami is succeeded by North Texas (+14.5) vs. Kansas at 2:30 p.m. ET, Alabama (-11.5) vs. Iona at 5 p.m. ET and Belmont (+2.5) vs. Drake at 7:30 p.m. ET.
  • Below, you'll find updated odds for all four opening-round games, plus our betting analyst's matchup breakdowns and futures recommendations for Thursday's 2021 ESPN Events Invitational.

Another November MTE takes place in Kissimmee, Florida during Thanksgiving week, as eight teams check-in for the ESPN Events Invitational.

The tournament will feature a very solid array of talent, from Alabama and Kansas to North Texas and Iona.

I can’t find a futures market for this event, but I’ll be looking to target this MTE round-by-round, as there’s value to be found.

Here’s a look at the bracket:

Here is the bracket for the ESPN Events Invitational tournament KU is playing next week:

— KU Live Tweets/News (@kutweetsandnews) November 20, 2021

Let’s dive into this game-by-game.

Top of the Bracket

Dayton vs. Miami Preview

Thursday, Nov. 25
Noon ET

I’m fading Dayton.

The Flyers are too young, as their .42 average years of experience ranks dead last in Division I. There’s talent on the roster, but not enough continuity and chemistry. Dayton has lost three straight to sub-200 KenPom teams.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are doing some things right. The shooting hasn’t been there, but the team has gotten to the line at the seventh-highest rate nationally to compensate. They’ve mostly avoided turnovers and have hit the offensive glass.

The defensive rebounding is a fear I have, as Dayton is always solid on the boards and has a size advantage.

But I don’t think that’ll be enough.

Pick: Miami 3.5 or better

North Texas vs. Kansas Preview

Thursday, Nov. 25
2:30 ET

Given UNT’s affinity for playing extraordinarily slow (353rd in tempo) and its ability to force turnovers (eighth in defensive turnover ratio), there’s a chance it’ll keep this within about 15.

However, the Mean Green are running into a buzzsaw.

This Kansas team is currently ranked second in offensive efficiency and has been shooting the lights out. The offensive balance the Jayhawks have between Remy Martin, Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack is so hard to stop.

I’m staying away from this matchup. But I would target Kansas in two ways, especially if it matches up with Miami in the second round.

Note: The Jayhawks match up well with the Hurricanes because of their ability to avoid fouls and outrun the Hurricanes in a relatively faster-paced game.

Picks: Kansas to win event (-130 or better) | Kansas over Miami in second round (-9.5 or better)

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Bottom of the Bracket

Alabama vs. Iona Preview

Thursday, Nov. 25
5 ET

We love this matchup. Nate Oats vs. Rick Pitino in a battle of undefeated teams.

Of course, Alabama is laying 12-to-13.5 points (depending on the book) in this matchup.

However, if you spot me 13.5 or more with Iona’s 3-point defense, I’ll bet the Gaels.

Iona ranked 20th in 3-point defense last season and currently ranks 14th. Last season, Iona allowed just .779 points per possession in spot-up situations, which ranked in the 95th percentile of teams. Through five games this season, those numbers sit at .787 and 74th percentile.

Iona also has the length in the backcourt, so Alabama can’t just shoot over them.

Basically, if Iona’s perimeter defense plays up to snuff, it’ll make Oats and ‘Bama play with their left hand. Alabama does pace the nation in rim-and-3 rate (per ShotQuality), so there’s some worry that the Crimson Tide can take advantage on the interior.

However, I trust Pitino’s frontcourt to contain that, considering both the power forward and center stand at 6-foot-9.

Offensively, Iona will just have to continue to get to the line. The Gaels are ninth in the nation in free-throw rate and that should be enough to keep it somewhat close.

Pick: Iona +13.5 or better

Belmont vs. Drake Preview

Thursday, Nov. 25
7:30 ET

I am sad. Because I was high on Belmont in the preseason and the Bruins have largely disappointed. They suffered a loss to Ohio, a bad loss to LSU and barely beat Furman in overtime.

Now, it’s only been three games, but Drake is a mid-major powerhouse. It returned almost its entire roster from last year’s 26-5 team and it added back Roman Penn from injury. Penn is already the team’s highest-usage player, averaging 12 points and four assists per game.

It stinks that the Bulldogs lost Joseph Yesufu but replacing him with Penn as the main ball-handler may improve their defense. Penn is the better on-ball defender in the backcourt and the effects are already showing.

Drake ranks inside the top-27 nationally in both offensive and defensive eFG% (57.5%, 42.3%). And the Bulldogs rank above the 90th percentile in both points per possession (1.041) and points per possession allowed (.744).

Perhaps more impressive: Drake ranks 37th in average possession length (15.4 seconds) and 344th in average possession length allowed (19 seconds). So, the Bulldogs often attack early and get easy buckets, while forcing longer, more tenuous possessions on the other end.

The transition numbers back that up, as Drake ranks above the 80th percentile in transition points per possession (1.184) and transition points per possession allowed (.806). 

Picks: Drake ML & -5.5 or better · Drake to win event (+550 or better)

Best Bets Summary for ESPN Events Invitational:

  • Kansas to win the tournament (-130 or better)
  • Drake to win the tournament (+550 or better)
  • Miami ATS vs. Dayton (-3.5 or better)
  • First round: Iona ATS vs. Alabama (+13.5 or better)
  • First round: Drake ATS vs. Belmont (-5.5 or better)
  • Second round (if it happens): Kansas ATS vs. Miami (-9.5 or better)

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