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Men's College Basketball Champions Classic Betting Primer: Lines, Picks and Analysis

Men's College Basketball opens Tuesday with Kansas facing Michigan State and Duke battling Kentucky in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The men’s college basketball season begins Tuesday afternoon, and is back on schedule after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the 2020-21 season and cut short the prior season before the NCAA Tournament started.

Dozens of games featuring top-25 teams will be played throughout the day, but the focus is on the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.

No. 3 Kansas vs. Michigan State and No. 10 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Duke. The Spartans, though unranked, are on the cusp of the top 25.

Every Monday on SI Betting, you’ll find a breakdown of some of the biggest games of the week ahead complete with betting lines, analysis and picks.

Check College Basketball Lines at SI Sportsbook

Kansas coach Bill Self

No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks vs. Michigan State Spartans

Time: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Spread: Kansas -4.5 (-110) | Michigan State +4.5 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 144.5 (-110) | Over 144.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Kansas (-200) | Michigan State (+165)

Kansas retains much of its starting lineup from last season’s Round of 32 team.

The Jayhawks bring back four starters and added graduate transfer Remy Martin, a guard who averaged 19.1 PPG at Arizona State each of the past two seasons.

Martin, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, will start alongside fellow guards Christian Braun and All-Big 12 selection Ochai Agbaji. Jalen Wilson and David McCormack, yet another All-Big 12 nominee, man the frontcourt. With all of that talent, it’s no surprise Kansas is picked to win the Big 12.

Kansas averaged 73 PPG (122nd in the country) and allowed 67 PPG (82nd) last year, and won nine of its last 11 games before getting blown out by USC in the tournament.

There was much more turnover in East Lansing, Mich., in the offseason.

The Spartans lost their top-two scorers—forward Aaron Henry and guard Joshua Langford—from a team that lost to UCLA in the First Four.

To replace their scoring and production, Tom Izzo brought in Tyson Walker, a junior guard from Northeastern, who averaged 18.8 PPG last season. The Spartans have two new faces handling the ball with five-star freshman Max Christie joining Walker.

The frontcourt is a bit more static for Michigan State, but also potentially more of a concern. Senior forwards Gabe Brown and Joey Hauser return for one more campaign. Brown is the leading returning scorer, but with Walker and Christie joining the team he will not be asked to do too much. Brown is a knockdown shooter who could get more open looks courtesy of Walker. Marcus Bingham Jr. mans the five after starting six games last year and playing sparingly.

MSU scored 69.4 PPG (230th) and allowed 71.1 PPG (202nd). The Spartans did not fare well in the Big 10, finishing below .500 in conference play.

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Continuity is important early on in the season and Kansas has Michigan State beat in that regard. It helps to have the best player on the court, and the Jayhawks have the Spartans beat there too. If MSU can slow down Kansas’ perimeter scorers, it has a chance. Still, Kansas should cover this spread with relative ease.

OVER/UNDER: Under 144.5

The Jayhawks return a solid defensive core that should be able to disrupt the new-look Spartans enough to keep them from scoring in droves. First-game jitters and good defense on both sides keep this game under 144.5

Coach K and a referee

No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 9 Duke Blue Devils

Time: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Spread: Kentucky +1 (-110) | Duke -1 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 148.5 (-110) | Over 148.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Kentucky (+105) | Duke (-125)

Duke and Kentucky, two mainstays at the top of the college basketball world, missed the NCAA Tournament last season. As the bluebloods tend to do, they both reloaded in the offseason and enter the season with high expectations and top-10 rankings.

The Wildcats return only one starter from the worst UK team John Calipari has coached: forward Keion Brooks, who led the team in rebounds.

Calipari signed highly touted freshman TyTy Washington and brought in three transfers—guard Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia), guard Kellan Grady (Davidson) and forward Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia) to right the ship.

Kentucky barely had a positive point differential in 2020-21, averaging 70.4 PPG (197th) and allowing 70.2 (179th). The Wildcats lost both of their neutral-site, non-conference games last season.

This season is Mike Krzyzewski's last and he has a much-improved team to make sure his storied career doesn’t end without an NCAA Tournament run.

As with any signature Duke team, freshmen will be integral. The Blue Devils brought in five-star forward Paolo Banchero, who’s already garnering Conference Player of the Year buzz. A.J. Griffin, another five-star forward and son of former NBA player Adrian Griffin, also signed on for Krzyzewski's last ride. If this season goes the way Griffin and Banchero hope, it will also be their last season in Durham, N.C.

Duke retained guards Jeremy Roach and Wendell Moore Jr. and center Mark Williams. The Blue Devils saw their three top scorers from last season leave at the conclusion of a 13-11 season, which resulted in their first time not making the NCAA Tournament since 1995. Duke scored 76 PPG (62nd) and let up 71.3 PPG (203rd) last season.

The last three times these teams met was in the Champions Classic and Duke won the last meeting in 2018, a 118-84 win.


Duke was the better team last season and improved with the addition of two top freshmen. Kentucky got better through the transfer portal and freshmen signees, but Duke seems to have the better team overall and it’s hard to see Krzyzewski losing this game. He has bested Calipari in two of the three Kentucky-Duke matchups.


Both teams' offseason additions help put this game over the projected point total. Duke's incoming freshmen can score and Kentucky's offense will hum with Wheeler running the show.

Other big games this week:

Nov. 10, 6:30 p.m. ET, BTN, Buffalo vs. No. 6 Michigan
Nov. 12, 11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: No. 4 Villanova vs. No. 2 UCLA
Nov. 13, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: No. 5 Texas vs. No. 1 Gonzaga

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