I have 3 spots I love for tonight’s blockbuster Duke & Kentucky matchup. Let’s get right into it.
In the past 2 years the under has crushed during the Champions Classic. All four of the last two years games have gone under, and though I hate backing trends like this, I think this is a smash spot. Both of these teams come into tonight’s game with a lot of question marks. I know, I know, I know both of these rosters are packed with NBA talent but I think there will be growing pains for both teams. Kentucky dominated the transfer portal and each of the transfers they got were the best players on their team. It will take some time to mesh and learn how to play without the ball in their hands at all times.. plus they have to mix in the two stud recruits they snagged. Duke has its scoring question marks too even though they brought in a top notch recruiting class themselves. Did sophomore guard Jeremy Roach improve his shooting? Is Junior forward Wendell Moore going to take the step forward this Duke team needs him to? There are still a lot of unknowns. One thing that is for certain, this Duke team could be the best defensive team in the country. Roach, Moore, Keels, Blakes, and Griffin are all excellent perimeter defenders with uber athleticism. But that’s not even what makes this Duke team so scary.. Sophomore Mark Williams, Freshman Paolo Banchero, and Transfer Theo John provide ELITE rim protection. I believe the excitement and adrenaline will cause both squads to come out the gates a little shaky and we may see the scoring come later in the game, but this game still stays below the 148.5 total.
I just went on and on about this Duke team’s ability to defend and that is what will get it done tonight. I could talk about Banchero and how he could very well be the best player in college basketball, or Sophmore Mark Williams dominating the paint, or how Trevor Keels is already built to be an elite 2 way defender in the league but I won’t. Kentucky is going to get nothing easy all game, both on the perimeter and definitely at the rim. The Blue Devil’s size is going to give the Wildcats fits. The Duke guards are extremely long and incredibly strong and the big’s go 6’10, 6’10, and 7’0 (and put together). The Dukies will outrebound Kentucky all night and have opportunity after opportunity for second chance points. The tallest player on the Wildcat’s roster is 6’9. Unless this Kentucky team comes out lethal from the perimeter, Duke is going to wear them down and slowly pull away. It’s impossible to really know how teams will play to start the season, but I feel confident backing the team that can flat out play some defense.
Mark Williams O11.5 points (3 units)
If you watched the Blue Devils towards the end of last year, you are familiar with 7’0 Sophomore Mark Williams. He DOMINATED. In his last six games last year he averaged nearly 17 points per game. This will be the lowest his point total will be all year and he will clear this easily. Duke brought in one of the top forwards in the country with 6’10 Paolo Banchero and I can see the argument that he eats up Williams opportunities, but no. I LOVE this frontcourt duo.. Banchero is a highly skilled big with impressive passing ability. The one person Kentucky is not going to let beat them is Banchero and he will not be shy to give up the ball. Williams is going to benefit greatly playing next to the star freshman. Like I mentioned earlier, Kentucky’s tallest big is only 6’9. The lengthy 7 footer will eat on the boards and have plenty of second chance opportunities. This is my favorite play of the entire night… The bookie exterminator.