Championship Classic Picks

Let’s start off the season with the top four teams in the nation. Where is the edge in the blockbuster back to back games in the Mecca?

Kansas vs. Duke (-1, 152.5)  Nov. 5, 7 p.m. EST

Kansas has many familiar faces returning this year while Duke must incorporate four freshmen into their rotation. Bill Self and his squad should be able to take advantage as Coach K has historically struggled early with this task. Tre Jones and Alex O’Connell will not be able to shoulder the load against the Jayhawks if they take time to get accumulated.

Vernon Carey will have his hands full in his first college game. He will be matched up against Azubuike who has two inches on him. Expect Kansas to feed Azubuike the ball in his 20-25 minutes to see if Carey and crew can contain him in the paint. Paired with Silvio De Sousa, the Jayhawks should control the glass for second chance opportunities.

Tre Jones and Devon Dotson is the matchup of the night. They are the cornerstone of these two offenses. Devon Dotson should be taking a leap in his second season with Bill Self’s ability to develop guards. With an experienced supporting cast in Marcus Garret, Ochai Agbaji and Isisah Moss, Dotson will have this offense clicking. His playmaking ability and quickness find him at the rim or kicking out to open shooters throughout the game. For the Blue Devils, Tre Jones hopes the freshmen can adapt to the three-point offense Duke runs. Relying on the three can bring about a rocky start with four freshmen if they don’t fall early. Facing a more experienced squad, I like Kansas’ chance to win outright.

Kansas Returning Possession MinutesDuke Returning Possession Minutes

The Pick: Kansas +1 (-105)

Michigan St. vs. Kentucky (+3, 139.5)  Nov. 5, 9:30 p.m. EST

Each squad has a large question yet to be answered on offense, while on the defensive side, both of these teams will excel. KenPom projects each to be a top-5 defense this season. Michigan St. returns key players from their Final Four run while Kentucky, like usual, will complement some experience with athletic freshman.

Who will step up to replace Joshua Langford on offense? He is a 15 point per game player, so someone other than Cassius Winston will need to become a threat while he is out. It is still to be determined how much time Langford will miss. Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry are the likely candidates to fill his shoes. Both are capable scorers, but they are not on the same level as Langford. The offense could take some time to build chemistry, especially against the length of Kentucky’s defense.   

Kentucky’s question is like Michigan St.’s, but Ashton Hagans is not the same player on offense as Winston. So, who will be Kentucky’s second scorer? A cop out answer would be a team based approach but Cal’s team are usually that way. Nick Richards, Tyrese Maxey, Imanuel Quickley and Kahlil Whitney will rotate between scoring 6 to 13 points a game. Maxey and Whitney are freshman and their first game will the bright lights of NYC against a stud defense. They are expected to contribute the second and third most on offense, and I would not be shocked if they take time to find rhythm.

If Nick Richards can play for the Wildcats, that would help the under. He can limit the Spartans second chance points. 

Michigan St. Projected TempoKentucky Projected Tempo
238th  Overall248th Overall

Projections from KenPom

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