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Over 129 St. Mary's/Wisconsin
North Dakota State +11.5
Betting Process: I actually hate betting day 1. College hoops is weird and you have people making a bunch of jumps in terms of minutes and roles. So for the first week I tend to go small and use a combo of KenPom's numbers vs Vegas number plus my own insight. Then come Thanksgiving tournament time, it's time to start really betting. I've tend to noticed that if a KenPom number is off the Vegas number by 5(ish) points it's worth looking into.
We get things kicked off with game 1 at Champion's Classic. Last year Duke became Duke because of what it did to Kentucky here. This year? I couldn't love Kansas more. I'm not a huge Udoka Azubuike fan, but what he does well is finish around the rim and draw fouls. The fact that he's going up against a freshman in Vernon Carey who isn't known for defense is a bit terrifying for Duke. I've talked about it before too - their roster just doesn't fit well. I like Tre Jones, I like Carey and Hurt is an offensive freak. But the lack of defense from Carey and Hunt are glaring and then the wings are one-dimensional. They either have an offensive or defensive lineup out there with no in between. The one thing that can help Duke here is if Kansas runs too much De Sousa at the 4 (or McCormack) with Azubuike at the 5. Hurt will take advantage of that. However, I think Kansas is a much better team right now.
Pick: Kansas -2.5
This is one where the KenPom number is way off. He has the total being 136. I know both of these teams are super slow paced and limited possessions - but they also are super efficient. Throw in the fact that Happ and Iverson are both gone from Wisconsin's defense and I don't love that defense. I trust St. Mary's offense here. We just need 130.
Pick: Over 129
All aboard the Jalen Pickett train here. American is without Sa'eed Nelson (their best player) who is suspended for a game. Yes, I know Siena had a coaching change but they did the smart thing of just bumping their top assistant (with great recruiting connections) to the head job. Again, Pickett is one of the best players in the country so I'm laying two here.
I don't love this game, but here's the thing. Louisville is opening up on the road against a decent team while Louisville is missing Malik Williams and David Johnson. I wish I grabbed that line when it was 7, but I trust Chris Lykes to be able to shoot over the packline defense. Throw in that Louisville is still trying to figure out the point guard spot with Fresh Kimble transferring in, I think Miami can keep it close.
Was really hoping that total would be in the low 140s. If that was the case the under is the play. I still think the under has potential, but 138 is a bit too low for my liking. On the other side you have Michigan State with all the hype coming in the year and preseason NPOY Cassius Winston. They are going to put him in a million ball screens to try and attack Kentucky's bigs. That's terrifying for sure. The one thing Kentucky can do though is put different guard looks on him whether it's Hagans, Maxey or Quickley. He'll get different looks - something that bothered him at Illinois last year in a loss. Both teams have some injury problems - Kentucky has Nick Richards with a sprained ankle and Michigan State is for sure without Joshua Langford while Kyle Ahrens is banged up too. Biggest question is will either team embrace small ball? MSU will be at its best with Aaron Henry running the 4 although that backcourt is SMALL. UK is 100% going to be at its best with any 4 playing around Montgomery/Richards. Playing Kentucky real small here.
Pick: Kentucky +3
Pretty simple here. Kansas State loses its entire offense from last year. NDSU made the NCAA Tournament and returns everyone. With that lack of offense gone, Kansas State will likely run a lot of clock, slow the game down and play games with limited possessions. That means extra points is where we go.