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24 Hours of College Basketball, Champions Classic Preview and Picks

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Yeah, technically it tipped-off last night, but today is the day where you get to bet on overs before the clock hits noon. It’s one of the best college basketball days on the schedule, especially since more teams are willing to play at weird times. The Dayton/Alabama game at 1:15 is intriguing, but the real fun starts at 3:30 with Oregon heading to Baylor.

We’ll take a look at the main five games today – Baylor/Oregon, Georgetown/Maryland, Wisconsin/Creighton, Kentucky/Michigan State and Kansas/Duke. Quick note about the Purdue/Nova game from last night, the Wildcats showed their depth, which is the biggest takeaway I had. The guys 1-7 (not named Josh Hart) are all interchangeable. Jalen Brunson really struggled last night and some of the bigs were in foul trouble, yet Villanova kept the lead almost the entire game. It was an impressive win on the road, but more importantly it just solidified that this team is for real yet again.

Oregon at Baylor – 3:30 pm

Line: Baylor -1.5

I do think this Oregon team is one of the five best teams in the country, but right now they don’t have Dillon Brooks, who is the ultimate mismatch for this team. In its opening game against Army, Oregon played an uptempo game – partly because of Army’s style, but defensively it was a lot of what you expect. Chris Boucher is able to protect the rim while guys like Tyler Dorsey and Casey Benson play up top. For Baylor, I expect this game to resemble Purdue/Villanova in that it will be a crazy environment where a win for Baylor does a whole lot more than a win for Oregon. Purdue/Baylor need these wins for seeding come March. Oregon/Villanova will be a top-2 seed unless there’s a massive failure of a season. The Bears want to do two things offensively. The first is get out and run. They had 25% of possessions in transition against Oral Roberts. The second is get a spot up shooter the ball, most likely Manu Lecomte – the transfer from Miami or Al Freeman. Everyone besides one player on Baylor attempted a three against Oral Roberts, but look for Lecomte – who is known for being a knock down shooter to be spotting up as Freeman gets into the lane. Defensively, Baylor will run its traditional zone, which Oregon needs to attack by having Boucher float around the top. He’s a legit 6’10” that can shoot the ball. Between him, Dorsey and Dylan Ennis, the Ducks should be able to find open shots. I don’t love road teams early in the season, especially when they are missing their best player.

Pick: I’ll take Baylor here for that reason. I think the inclusion of Johnathan Motley into the lineup to go with Manu Lecomte’s shooting will be enough. If Baylor can rebound well out of the zone, they will win this game.

Maryland at Georgetown – 6:30 pm

Line: Georgetown -5.5

Yeah, it’s technically not part of the ’24 hour tip-off marathon’ but it’s part of the Gavitt Games and one of the best rivalries in the sport. Last year gave us a memorable game at College Park as Maryland stormed back to win, while this year they go back to Georgetown to play on campus. The Terps struggled in the first game, barely squeaking by that powerful American team. The problem with Maryland is it didn’t get a ton of supporting help, especially by upperclassmen for Melo Trimble. He went into solo mode as he had 15 of Maryland’s 38 field goal attempts. The other thing that is worrisome for Maryland is the turnovers. Trimble had four himself and as a team they had 18 against American, who is one of the worst defensive teams in the country. For Georgetown, they seemed to find its star in Rodney Pryor – a grad transfer from Robert Morris. He went for 32 in his first game for the Hoyas, including hitting six threes. It’ll be a little clash of styles as Georgetown is really balanced when you look at Pryor, Peak and Isaac Copleand  – all upperclassmen who have played in big games. Maryland desperately needs something from Damonte Dodd, Jaylen Brantley and/or Jared Nickens.

Pick: I’m taking Georgetown here. There’s too much talent on Georgetown while Maryland is still figuring itself out. I like the balance that the Hoyas have as if Pryor is off, they can still go to the other two while Maryland needs Melo to score 18+ a game to have a chance to win.

Kentucky vs Michigan State – 7:00 pm, New York City

Line: Kentucky -7.5

Kentucky Offense vs Michigan State Defense: I think this is where the biggest mismatch is, strictly because of how good Miles Bridges can be on the offensive side of the ball. But, with the backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe, I don’t know how many teams will be able to stay in front of the Kentucky guards. Fox is one of the quickest players in the country, while Briscoe uses a hesitation dribble and his upper body strength to get to the rim. The Spartans will sag into the paint, daring Kentucky to beat them from the outside, which is the smart thing to do. The only problem here is Fox is a strong enough passer that you’re giving him space to view the floor and see plays develop. When Kentucky isn’t running it’s dribble-drive, they will look to get the ball to Bam in the post, where there will be a size mismatch. With Derek Willis in the game, Kentucky should be able to keep Bridges away from the rim, as Willis is the lone shooting threat right now. The Wildcats have also been living at the free throw line, which is something to pay attention to with the short bench for Michigan State.

Michigan State Offense vs Kentucky Defense: Get a whole lot of Miles Bridges here. Whenever Derek Willis is in the game and playing Bridges in man, the Spartans need to iso him. As good of a shooter Willis is, he can’t guard a chair. Bridges is the opposite of the chair. Willis also can struggle rebounding the ball. Bridges tries to murder the rim whenever he goes up for an offensive put back. It’ll be interesting to watch how quick Kentucky goes to Wenyen Gabriel. The Spartans did run five possessions of iso ball for Bridges against Arizona, in which he scored on two of them. This is a design out of a baseline out of bounds call. Bridges catches the ball in the corner, while Michigan State clears out. Despite not having a ton of size advantage, he uses his body to back the defender to where he’s comfortable then uses that athleticism to beat him on the spin and dunk. That will happen a lot with Derek Willis tonight. The second play is a design as well as Bridges is able to get the running start, showing off some handles. The cross screening down low has the help defenders occupied before clearing out, giving him more room to work with. He again finishes thanks to his athleticism. I expect at least 10 possessions of Bridges iso tonight.

Pick: I’m going to take Kentucky by 9 here tonight. I think the guard play and ability to get Michigan State in foul trouble will be too much. If Ben Carter and/or Gavin Schilling were healthy this would be a lot different. De’Aaron Fox should have another big game and the ability to give Eron Harris different looks on defense should frustrate him.

Wisconsin at Creighton – 8:30 pm

Line: Pick em

Another true road game this early in the season is awesome. Creighton has one of the most underrated home courts in the country as it fits 17,000 and sells out every home game. This will obviously be no exception with Wisconsin in town. It is two massive clashes in style as Creighton is a shorter team that wants to run. Its adjusted tempo is 50th in the country while Wisconsin is one of the slowest at 346. It makes sense when you realize that Creighton has an explosive guard in Mo Watson who is at his best in transition. Surrounding him with a scorer like Marcus Foster and shooters in Isaiah Zierden and Khryi Thomas makes it that much easier to run. Wisconsin will run its motion offense, getting the ball to Ethan Happ in the paint as he should take advantage, especially when Justin Patton isn’t in the game. One of the differences you’ll notice with this Wisconsin team though is the willingness and want to shoot the three. They attempted 29 shots from deep in the first game as Bronson Koening got 10 up himself.

Pick: I don’t love this, but I’m going Wisconsin here even though it’s a true road game. The Badgers are extremely good at dictating the tempo of the game, which will frustrate Creighton. On top of that, they don’t turn the ball over a ton which limits the ability to run even more. I think Wisconsin wins this one by five, led by Ethan Happ’s rebounding. Creighton gives up offensive rebounds so for look for Happ and Hayes to crash the glass there and get a couple free points.

Duke vs Kansas – 9:30 pm, New York City

Line: Duke -2.5

Duke Offense vs Kansas Defense: You know what Indiana did against Kansas on Friday right? Push the tempo, shoot a lot of threes and set high ball screens? Yeah, expect a lot of that tonight. With Duke expected to miss Tatum, Giles and Bolden tonight, it will be Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard looking to run the show with the help of Frank Jackson. Allen will be the James Blackmon, where Duke will have Jefferson come up and set a ball screen, trying to draw Landen Lucas on the hedge, giving Allen the chance to get past him and to the rim or while the hedge is happening, he can spot up and shoot. Duke will run as much as possible, as they don’t hold on to the ball for long on the offensive side of the ball. Right now they are averaging just 13 seconds a possession. The other play Duke will run? Letting Allen drive into the lane and kick to the shooters. Kansas graded out as ‘poor’ per Synergy on 22 possession of spot up plays against Indiana, allowing 1.31 points per possession.

Kansas Offense vs Duke Defense: Offensively for Kansas it’s going to be a lot of Frank Mason again. He’s looking the part of an All-American as they ran the pick-and-roll for him against Indiana to help the comeback to force overtime. With a depleted roster for Duke, they should look to do that again, putting Jefferson and Chase Jeter into spots where a foul is likely to happen. Kansas also wants to get in transition and run. They had 27 points in transition against Indiana and with Duke not being a great defensive team that is possible again. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Duke go a little 2-3 to avoid the high pick and rolls, but they will need to kepe an eye on Graham and Svi when he checks into the game. With the pick and roll, the improvement of Mason’s midrange game has been tremendous. Here are two plays from Friday, the first he realizes Bryant isn’t going to step up to challenge him. So instead of driving wildly to the basket, he calmly takes a dribble and pulls up from the elbow. The second play, you can almost see Mason salivating. As the ball screen comes at the 3-point line, he sees the hedge too far outside, trying to force him to come back. He takes the hesitation dribble, something bigs aren’t used to defending to get Morgan to bite before taking a straight line to the hoop to draw a foul. Again, a lot of this tonight.

Pick: I’m taking Kansas and the points here as I think Kansas wins straight up. Duke missing three players combined with Kansas absolutely needing this win will be too much. I think Josh Jackson settles down and doesn’t force as much as he did on Friday, allowing him to get in a groove. Mason will look to attack early and I can see Jefferson or Jeter in foul trouble pretty quick. I’ll take Kansas by 4.