Maui Invitational Odds, Picks for 3 First-Round Games
Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images. Pictured: Sebastian Mack (UCLA)
There's nothing like Feast Week, where the enjoyment of all-day college basketball is only topped by March Madness.
And the highlight of this week is always the Maui Invitational. This year certainly isn't an exception, and with that being the case, we have Maui Invitational odds and picks, including how to bet three first-round games on Monday, Nov. 20.
Maui Invitational Odds & Picks
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Tennessee vs. Syracuse
The Maui Invitational is a loaded field, as usual. In a battle of orange, the Tennessee Volunteers hook up with the Syracuse Orange in Honolulu in a 9:30 a.m. local time tip-off.
The winner of this game will face whoever escapes the Purdue/Gonzaga matchup in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Both Tennessee and Syracuse have each started 3-0 on the season and haven’t met since 2002.
The Volunteers sit ninth in the country in KenPom, while Syracuse, in the post Jim Boeheim era, ranks 116th in the nation heading into this tournament.
Tennessee’s offense has clicked so far, topping the 80-point mark in all three victories over Tennessee Tech, Wisconsin and Wofford.
The Volunteers have been good on the defensive end too, owning several stout numbers. Rick Barnes’ team has limited opponents to less than 25% shooting from 3-point range and hasn't given up more than 70 points in any game.
The Vols' signature victory came at Wisconsin as three-point favorites. Tennessee led the entire game and hit 59% of its 2-point attempts. Dalton Knecht led the Vols with 24 points.
Only three Volunteers scored in double figures in an 82-61 home win over Wofford, but seven players put up at least seven points, highlighted by Knecht’s 18 points. Tennessee opened things up in the second half by outscoring the Terriers, 46-30. However, the Vols failed to cover as heavy 31-point favorites.
Last season, the Vols compiled a 3-6 ATS record in neutral-site games, but Tennessee won its Thanksgiving week tournament by capturing the Battle 4 Atlantis title against Kansas.
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Eventually Boeheim was going to hang it up, and he did so before this season after 47 years at the helm. Former Syracuse guard Adrian Autry succeeded Boeheim and is looking to bring the Orange back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2021.
Syracuse has won all three games it's played this season, but has failed to cover the spread each time.
The Orange jumped out to a 32-9 lead in the opener against New Hampshire, but couldn’t grab the cover as 18-point favorites in an 83-72 victory.
In their second game against state rival Canisius, the Orange led from wire-to-wire as they picked up an 89-77 triumph. However, Syracuse failed to cash again as 13.5-point favorites, even though Judah Mintz scored a season-high 26 points.
The biggest scare came from Patriot League power Colgate, which built a 24-point second half lead last Tuesday. Syracuse rallied to outscore Colgate 49-21 in the final 16 minutes for an improbable 79-75 victory.
The Orange couldn’t pull out the unlikely cover as seven-point favorites, falling to 1-7 ATS in their last eight regular season games.
We’ll see what Syracuse is made of in this tournament before it travels to Virginia for its ACC opener in a few weeks.
Tennessee vs. Syracuse
Betting Pick & Prediction
Tennessee, once again, has Final Four aspirations and should be in the SEC title mix this season.
Although Syracuse still has work to do to climb back towards the top of the ACC, this seems like too many points to pass up with the Orange, especially in a game with this early of a tip-off.
Let's back Syracuse with the points and play it to +12.
Pick: Syracuse +13.5 (Play to +12)
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Purdue vs. Gonzaga
Feast week gives us plenty of marquee matchups, but there may be no bigger one than this — the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers will take on the No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Maui Invitational.
The Boilermakers have gotten off to a dominant start, which features a double-digit win over Xavier. While this matchup is their first real test, they appear to be up to the task from what we've seen thus far.
However, getting a win over Gonzaga in this spot may be much easier said than done. The Zags may have a very different roster this season, but Mark Few's long track record of success has attracted some great talent from the transfer portal.
So, which side should you be on for this clash of titans?
When you look at the Purdue Boilermakers, it's clear where it all starts. The big man Zach Edey is the reigning National Player of the Year and opened this season as the favorite to take home the award for a second consecutive season.
Edey is the most imposing force in the nation, standing at 7-foot-4. The senior has only added to his game each year.
However, what makes this Purdue team special is not Edey but the guys who help run the offense around him.
Sophomore point guard Braden Smith has been the facilitator in a Boilermaker offense that ranks fourth in assist-to-field goal ratio and No. 1 in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency thus far.
Purdue has exhibited excellent ball movement thus far. Edey gets plenty of touches in the post, but the backcourt has executed from the extra attention he needs on the low block. In turn, the Boilermakers are fifth in 3-point percentage and 11th in effective field goal percentage.
They should continue their offensive success in this matchup, as Gonzaga lacks the size to contend with Edey and it's also shown it's susceptible from beyond the arc.
While I gushed over the Boilermakers' big man, Gonzaga continues to be a big man factory. Out is Drew Timme, and in steps freshman Braden Huff.
Huff has stepped into the dominant center role at Gonzaga, as he's averaging 21 points per game on 75% shooting through his first two career games. Now, it goes without being said, but facing off against Edey is a massive step up in competition, and it's likely that Huff may be contained in this matchup.
If that's the case, I talked about the experience that's come to the Zags, and we may see the likes of Graham Ike and Ryan Nembhard get leaned on here.
The Zags haven't exactly been tested through their first games of the season, so we'll learn a lot about them in this matchup. However, we'll likely come out of this matchup thinking far less of Gonzaga.
The Boilermakers have the size to shut down the paint and have shown to be excellent at contesting shots from the perimeter.
Purdue vs. Gonzaga
Betting Pick & Prediction
DraftKings has opened up the market for this matchup at the time of writing, and while KenPom has the Boilermakers as two-point favorites, they have the chance to make a statement here.
They have the size to control the paint on both ends and the outside shooting to make the Zags pay on the perimeter if they over-commit to Edey in the paint.
Back the Boilermakers.
Pick: Purdue -3.5 (Play to -4)
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UCLA vs. Marquette
Aloha from Hawaii! To conclude a terrific Monday slate, we have an intriguing powerhouse matchup between the UCLA Bruins and Marquette Golden Eagles.
Not only is this a powerhouse matchup on the court, but this is a terrific coaching duel. Mick Cronin is going through a ton of roster turnover from last season, whereas Shaka Smart has one of the most experienced teams in the country.
This is one of the best sports weeks of the entire calendar year, and these two teams shouldn't disappoint.
I haven't watched much of the Bruins thus far this season, so I'm excited to see how they fair against one of the best teams in the country. There's no hiding the fact that this is not the typical loaded Bruins rosters of the past.
With four of their five key starters gone from last season, the Bruins are 337th in minutes continuity this season. They're counting on a lot of new faces to fill a lot of production.
The one returning piece from last season who's extremely important to this frontcourt is big man Adem Bona. Bona suffered a shoulder injury during last year's Pac-12 Tournament and he didn't participate in the NCAA tournament.
Alongside Bona in the frontcourt is 7-foot-3 freshman Aday Mara, who provides a physical presence inside. Marquette is going to have a tough time attacking inside, despite its own talent and experience.
What has stuck out to me while digging into the Bruins' statistics thus far this season is that they've been struggling to find their groove from beyond the arc. 24% from 3 does suggest some positive shooting regression should be imminent, but we still don't know what type of identity the Bruins have.
Besides the 3-point shooting, the Bruins have been excellent inside the arc. They're shooting 56% on non-3-point attempts.
The Marquette defense has been pretty solid defending 2-point shots, but this will be the first legitimate test the Golden Eagles have faced all season. Due to their height advantage, I would expect the Bruins to find some offensive success on the inside.
I'm intrigued to see freshman guard Sebastian Mack on the offensive end, only because he's attempted just four 3-pointers on the season. I would expect him to start firing more of them moving forward, as this is a lethal part of his game.
Defensively, the Bruins have the chops to contain this explosive Marquette offense, especially on the inside, as I mentioned above. It's no surprise that a Cronin-led squad prides itself on defense, but this will be the biggest test the Bruins face until conference play begins.
It'll be really telling early on in this game if the Bruins can hang in this one, but I definitely expect some positive offensive regression.
Being straight forward, Marquette has the chops to win it all. Smart has a reputation for not being capable of winning the big game, but if he's going to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, this is the roster to do it with.
Tyler Kolek, Oso Ighodaro and Kam Jones form one of the most lethal trios in the entire country, and there's no shortage of offense with this group.
So far this season, the Golden Eagles are top-20 in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. Of course, this is based upon very limited data. But considering how excellent this group was last year, I think the Golden Eagles be able to repeat that success.
Crashing the boards is something that needs some work, as this group is amongst the bottom 50 in the country in offensive rebounding to start the year. I don't see many opportunities for extra possessions in this particular matchup.
The free-throw shooting hasn't been great to start the year, as Marquette is 62% from the charity stripe. I would assume this will improve as the year goes on, though.
Defensively, I have some concerns about how the Golden Eagles will contain the Bruins' interior scoring. This wasn't the best defensive team last season, but it remains to be seen if the returning experience will help them on that end of the floor.
I also worry about their ability to block shots, so I think the Bruins will get a lot of clean looks in this game. This could be trouble, but I think the Golden Eagles have enough offensive talent to overcome some inefficiencies on the defensive end of the floor.
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UCLA vs. Marquette
Betting Pick & Prediction
KenPom makes this spread Marquette -5, which is about right given the circumstances of both of these teams. The market also agrees, as I see a lot of -5.5 and -5s out there.
However, I'm going to take an unpopular approach and take an over in this game. It's a bit scary given how slow the Bruins go on offense, but I have a few things working in my favor that leads me to this conclusion.
First off, the Bruins are due for some positive 3-point shooting regression. I specifically expect Mack to be more aggressive in this department moving forward.
There's also too much offensive talent for Marquette, even if it struggles to score inside. The Golden Eagles are also due for some positive free-throwing shooting regression, which will be key in what's expected to be a closely-contested contest.
I feel much more comfortable with the over than backing either side, so let's hope both of these teams come ready to play.
Pick: Over 138.5 (Play to 139)
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