College basketball may have began Friday night, but it BEGINS for REAL tonight. There are a ton of good games on the schedule, but none more massive than the double-header tonight in Chicago featuring #1 Duke vs. #2 Michigan State and followed by #7 Kentucky vs. #4 Kansas. Kentucky fell from #5 to #7 in the latest poll after two uninspiring home wins over Utah Valley and Vermont, but they can put all those concerns to rest with a big win tonight. Beat Kansas on a neutral floor, and they likely slot in right behind the winner of tonight’s Duke vs. Michigan State tilt.
I took my first L of the college hoops season last night with Minnesota heading into The Duncan Center and routing the Providence Friars. Providence pushed tempo, but ultimately, it was Minnesota’s shooting (a pleasant departure from last season’s struggles) that paced Minnesota to the pulling away 86-74 victory. Let’s try to get a better result tonight.
Today’s College Basketball Picks:
Purdue Boilermakers -5.5 at Marquette University
Purdue is one of the most undervalued team in the country. They have size, shooting, depth, defend well, and have loads of good, solid veterans. Vince Edwards is a future pro, Dakota Mathias is a knock-down floor-spacer, and Isaac Haas is a skilled giant – one of the physically biggest players in the country, but more than just big. He is a skilled passer and smart basketball player.
Purdue is really good, and I think they are going to surprise a lot of people this season. They are one of my favorite Final Four sleepers and value hedge wagers.
Marquette is none of those things except “skilled shooters.” If they knock down a barrage of threes, they can jump up and surprise some people, but they are a far cry away from Purdue on a talent, depth, and experience level. I think Purdue goes up to Milwaukee and grabs a big and convincing W tonight.
MY PICK: PURDUE BOILERMAKERS -5.5
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks -4.5
It is easy to just say “oh, they’ll be fine” when watching Kentucky’s foibles against Utah Valley and Vermont this weekend at Rupp Arena. But as I have spouted already on various platforms, this is not a vintage Kentucky recruiting class. They are devoid of an automatic Lottery Pick for the first time in recent memory (even the “bad” team had Lottery Pick Nerlens Noel) and assuming they will just “be good” even though they are playing seven freshmen and no upperclassmen. I am not sure they are “going to be just fine” and think a third place SEC finish is more than possible.
And while Kentucky might be slightly down, Kansas is still Kansas. Sure, they lost National Player of the Year Frank Mason and Lottery Pick, Josh Jackson, but the cupboard is far from bare. Devonte’ Graham will slide nicely into a leadership role, and there is a ton of talent in support with freshman Marcus Garrett joining returning Legervald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newton. Kansas will win the Big Twelve, again, likely be a #1 seed, again, and be a Top Five team throughout the entire season.
I don’t think this game is particularly close if you ignored the names on the front of the jersey. I like Kansas to roll to a victory and teach Cal’s young Cats a tough early season lesson.
MY PICK: KANSAS JAYHAWKS -4.5