Matchup: #5 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #1 Kentucky Wildcats
Date/Time: November 18, 9:00 p.m. ET
College Basketball Betting Odds From Sportsbook.ag
Spread: Kentucky -5.5
The annual 24 hours of basketball on ESPN marathon reaches a crescendo on Tuesday night with an outstanding doubleheader in Indianapolis at the State Farm Champions Classic. The first game features Michigan State against Duke. The second game features Kansas at Kentucky. The Wildcats are an overwhelming favorite to win the National Championship with an impressive mix of incoming freshmen and returning talent. The Jayhawks are very young with just one senior on the roster for Bill Self’s team. This should be a great early season indication of where both of these teams are. The Wildcats are a #-point favorite.
Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are gone from last season’s Big 12 champion Jayhawks, but Bill Self always fashions a quality team and this season should be no different. The Jayhawks have two of ESPN’s top 11 incoming freshmen from the class of 2014, with #2 Cliff Alexander and #11 Kelly Oubre. Self decided to start slow with the freshmen in a 69-59 win over UC Santa Barbara. Alexander had nine points in 12 minutes and Oubre failed to register any points in four minutes. It was freshman Devonte Graham that provided the spark off the bench with a team-high 14 points in 26 minutes.
Perry Ellis, the returning top scorer from last season, had 13 points and 10 rebounds to register the first double-double of the season for the Jayhawks. It was a rather sloppy offensive performance with just two three-point field goals and 16 turnovers against just 11 assists. Offensive efficiency is something that can evade teams with a lot of roster turnover early in the season. The Jayhawks may have been looking ahead or underestimating their opponent against UC Santa Barbara, but the only way to find out will be to see how they look on Tuesday.
The Wildcats have a comfortable win and an uncomfortable win so far this season in their first two games. The Wildcats trailed Buffalo at half in their last game before pulling away for a 19-point win. Expectations are high for the Wildcats as the consensus favorite to win the National Championship as the preseason #1 team. The Cats wound up with four of ESPN’s top 25 incoming freshmen from the class of 2014. One of them, Trey Lyles, leads UK with 13 points per game. Tyler Ulis is second among freshmen with 8.5 points per game, with Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns chipping in with limited minutes.
Not only do the Wildcats have one of the best freshmen classes in the country, but they returned quite a bit of talent from last season’s team. The Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, are still around, along with juniors Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. John Calipari arguably has the best collection of talent in the country and he has some veteran leadership to go along with it, unlike some of the teams that have good freshmen classes. That may be an advantage for UK going up against a very young Kansas team.
Free College Basketball Picks: Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats seem to be in a better position entering this game against Kansas. They retained a decent amount of last season’s production, even though Julius Randle and James Young moved on. The Jayhawks have only had one game to iron out the kinks and they showed more kinks than expected. The freshmen aren’t playing big minutes yet, which means that Kansas doesn’t have their most talented five on the floor most of the time. That gives that advantage to Kentucky for this one.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.