It’s pretty crazy that the 2021-22 college basketball season is already upon us. It seems like just yesterday that Jalen Suggs was hitting a half-court shot in the Final Four to take the Zags to the National Championship. However, we have two games in the State Farm Champions Classic tonight, and there is some college basketball betting value to be had.
2021 State Farm Champions Classic
Another year of college basketball, and another two great opening year matchups in New York City. In the Champions Classic “undercard” for the evening, the Big 12 favorites, Kansas Jayhawks, will face off against Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans. These two teams have squared up 14 times since 1950, with the series record dead-locked at 7-7. The last time these two met, in November of 2018, the Jayhawks outdueled the Spartans to cash in on a 92-87 win. However, the Jayhawks will be without Jalen Wilson, who was suspended following a DUI arrest. Kansas is favored by 4.5, but Izzo’s crew will not fold easily. Expect this game to be a close one.
In the main event of the evening, we have John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski. The Duke Blue Devils open the season ranked ninth in the polls, while Kentucky rounds out the top 10 in 10th. In Coach K’s year one of his retirement tour, he will get a big boost from sensational freshman Paolo Banchero. The versatile forward was ESPN’s fourth-ranked recruit in the class of 2022. He will get help from fellow freshman wing, A.J Griffin. Kentucky is coming off of one of its worst seasons ever. Calipari brought in reinforcements this year by the names of TyTy Washington and forwards Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins. I would be surprised if Kentucky put up another season like last year. However, we should all be happy, as Madison Square Garden will host and kick off the 2021-22 college basketball campaign.
Michigan State vs Kansas | State Farm Champion’s Classic Picks
Spread: MSU +4 (-105) | KU -4 (-115)
Moneyline: MSU (+160) | KU (-190)
Total: 140.5 — Over (-110) | Under (-110)
We can look at this game as the decision in a 15-game series. With the all-time record between the two schools even, at 7-7, this game should be a dog fight. Both of these coaches have opened the season with an early game versus a top-10 team since 2016. Kansas won when they last met in 2018, 92-87. However, Bill Self is 3-2 in those matchups, losing last year to Gonzaga and the year before to Duke. Tom Izzo, on the other hand, beat Duke last year at Cameron, but he is still 1-4 in those early season top-10 matchups.
Kansas will be without Jalen Wilson, as I mentioned earlier, but it will be the debut of Remy Martin, a transfer from Arizona State. Martin was selected as the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. On the other bench, Paolo Banchero is out to prove he’s the best freshman in college basketball. In these early season games, I like the more veteran-laden teams. Remy Martin will have a big night, and Self will get another early-season victory.
College Basketball Betting Pick: Kansas -4
Duke vs Kentucky | State Farm Champion’s Classic Picks
Spread: DUKE -3 (-110) | UK +3 (-110)
Moneyline: DUKE (-160) | UK (+140)
Total: 148.5 — Over (-110) | Under (-110)
These two blue blood programs would like to forget that 2020 ever happened. Duke didn’t make the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, and neither did Kentucky. The Wildcats had a worse season, finishing 9-16. However, just like Calipari always does, he has some elite-level players coming to Lexington this season. Guard TyTy Washington and forward Daimion Collins are both explosive players that will be important pieces of Kentucky’s success. However, this is indeed the most veteran-laden team Calipari has ever had at Kentucky, so that could bode well for a team that usually relies on 18-year-olds.
As for Duke, Paolo Banchero and Coach K’s retirement tour will be the talk of the season. Many around the country think Banchero will eventually surpass Chet Holmgren to be the first pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. He’s a big, strong 6-9, but is very quick and versatile. His shooting has also impressed. I’m not even going to get started about Coach K’s first half of his retirement tour, but it will be a major headline most nights. A.J. Griffin is another wing to watch for Duke. In the times we’ve seen him on tape, he’s incredible. However, injuries and the pandemic slowed down a lot of his hoops playing, so going into tonight, I don’t know what to expect from him.
With all this being said, I already said I like veteran-laden teams in these games, so I will be taking Kentucky and the points.
College Basketball Betting Pick: Kentucky +3