Just like last night, there are four more games tonight in the Big 12. The highlight of tonight is the Champions Classic, featuring Kansas facing Kentucky (and #1 Duke facing #2 Michigan State in non-Big 12 action). Before we look at tonight’s games, let’s look back on last night.
Yesterday was my best day against the spread in non-Big 12 games, finishing 4-1. I will take it! I wasn’t as successful in Big 12 games, so it’s a good thing I didn’t decide to focus my blog on the Big 12… Hold on… Wait, what? Here are those picks from yesterday. (Click image to see in new tab).
Yikes. Iowa State. It was a really rough game for Iowa State last night, as the Cyclones lost by 18 points despite being favorite by 13.5. That’s a 31.5-point swing right there. What went wrong for Iowa State? Well besides everything, they were really bad on offense again, scoring only 56 points on 0.84 PPP (points per possession). They had an assist/turnover ratio of 5/18 (Monte Morris is currently shuddering). They actually had more turnovers than made field goals, as they only made 16 shots compared to those 18 turnovers. They turned it over on 27% of their possessions against a Milwaukee team not known for forcing turnovers (233rd in the nation last season in Def TO%). And on defense, they couldn’t stop fouling, as they their Defensive FT Rate (free throws attempted/field goals attempted, or FTA/FGA) was 56%. Last year, their average on the season was 25.6% (top 10 in the nation). It was a truly terrible performance, and I’ll dive into Iowa State’s struggles thus far more in my Thursday Power Rankings feature.
Elsewhere in the Big 12, things went as expected. TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma State all recorded big wins, and each covered the spread. Baylor struggled the most, as they were only up six points at halftime before pulling away in the 2nd half to win by 24. Oklahoma State is showing some serious chutzpah on defense, as their first two opponents (Pepperdine and Charlotte) have recorded PPP of 0.67 and 0.87. It’s only two games and competitive strength is a thing, but they are playing much better defense currently compared to last season’s performance on that end.
I’m 11-14 against the spread so far this season and 4-6 in the Big 12. Let’s get to today’s games. Here are my picks (click image to expand). Lines are from VegasInsider and are as up to date as 2:00 PM CST on Tuesday.
Kansas (-5) vs. Kentucky:
• This game is being played in Chicago and opened at Kansas (-2). This isn’t a major surprise; Kentucky has struggled in their first two games, winning close ones against solid mid-majors in Utah Valley and Vermont. The problem has been their offense, specifically their shooting. They were at 43.2% and 49.1% in eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage) and went 5-15 and 3-9 from 3-point range in those two games. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to keep up with Kansas’ offense.
• Kansas has only played one game, and it was against the lowly Tennessee State, but their offense picked right back up from last year. Their PPP was 1.24 in their 92-point effort. They shot 43% from 3 on 12-28 shooting. Everyone in their 7-man rotation hit a 3 besides Udoka Azubuike (expected) and Marcus Garrett (not totally surprising). Even Mitch Lightfoot got in on the action, going 2-2 from long-range. After one game, it appears Self has maintained his coaching philosophy from last season, finally rejecting his obsession with the high-low, “get the ball in the post” offense and moving towards a more progressive offense featuring a spread court and 3-pointers galore. Besides Azubuike, Kansas’ tallest starter last Friday was the 6’8″ Svi Mykhailiuk. The spread offense is here to stay for Kansas, and I believe it’ll lead them to victory and a cover tonight.
• Marcus Garrett got the start over Malik Newman last Friday, which surprised me. I’m interested to see how each of those two guys play tonight and what the minutes for each will be. Newman scored 12 points off the bench on Friday, while Garrett had a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds on 4-6 shooting.
Michigan State (+1.5) vs. Duke:
• I know preseason rankings are a joke, but it’s still fun to have a #1 vs. #2 matchup so early in the season. #1 Duke is favored by 1.5 over #2 Michigan State. I like the Spartans to cover and win. I know it’s sacrilegious to say, because DUKE and FRESHMEN (college basketball reporters sure do love their highly-touted freshmen, especially when they go to Duke), but I like Michigan State’s traditional 3 through 5 positions more than Duke’s. I’ll take Miles Bridges-Jaren Jackson-Nick Ward over Gary Trent-Wendell Carter-Marvin Bagley. Should be a fun one tonight.
• Can we talk real quick about how absurd it is that ESPN uses the 30-minute break between games in the Champions Classic to do their College Football Playoff reveal? No one cares. Your CFP show is a joke, and taking away 30 minutes of time talking about four of the best teams in college basketball on the unofficial starting night of college basketball is maddening and oddly insulting to a sport that you provide more hours of content to than any other sport.
Purdue (-5) at Marquette:
• The 2nd game of the Gavitt Games is Purdue at Marquette. Purdue is favored by 5, and I’m taking them to cover here. Last night’s Minnesota/Providence game featured the fun PG matchup between Nate Mason and Kyron Cartwright. Here’s another fun backcourt matchup, as Purdue’s Carsen Edwards goes up against Marquette’s Markus Howard. This should be a high-scoring affair.