Kansas NCAAB game vs Emporia St
Kansas' David McCormack (33), Ochai Agbaji (30) and Mitch Lightfoot (44) watch from the bench during the second half of an exhibition NCAA college basketball game against Emporia State Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


Patrick Werkmeister

It is finally the dawn of another college basketball season, which marks the beginning of buzzer beaters, Cinderellas and March Madness. For this jam-packed Tuesday college slate, pretty much every school in the country will get some action. However, the real action is in New York City at Madison Square Garden for the annual Champions Classic. As these four historic programs do battle, it will be interesting to see how much they differ in ability and if one is able to win it all again. Nevertheless, here is what I’m going with on the opening night for NCAA basketball.

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Kansas (-3.5) vs. Michigan State
This line opened favoring Kansas by four and a half-points but they are currently listed as three and a half-point favorites. With the Jayhawks suffering a second-round defeat last NCAA tournament, they will be anxious to get out to a fast start in preparation of their regular season matches with the defending champion Baylor Bears. Although they couldn’t put together the run they wanted, they are fully reloaded for this season. They returned four starters and filled in the gaps with some nice additions via the transfer market. While they are usually the perennial top dog in college basketball to win it all, this year’s Kansas squad seems like a solid futures bet. Last year, Michigan State got off to a dreadful 8-7 start and could not turn a corner once they barely got into the NCAA tournament. Following their first-round loss during March Madness, the Spartans will no longer have their 2021 leading scorer for this season and will have only a few places to look for offense. Right now, they look like a second-tier Big Ten team let alone a national title contender. Although they are well coached by Tom Izzo, hard effort will only get them so far against this highly skilled team. Take Kansas to win comfortably.

Kentucky vs Duke (-1.5)
The opening line for this contest had Duke as one and a half-point favorite, and that is where this spread currently stands. Dating back to last season’s awful John Calipari squad, the Wildcats are 3-11-1 ATS in their last 15 games. Last year, the Wildcats had a down year where they went 9-15 with a roster full of LA Fitness members whereas Duke was unable to participate in March Madness due to COVID-19 restrictions. With this being Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final year on the sidelines, his players will be extra motivated to get him one last championship. That path to a title starts here where Kentucky is the first team to stand in their way. Although this is just a non-conference matchup, these two programs actually have an ancient rivalry that started with a Christian Laettner kick to the chest. The Blue Devils will be returning three starters from their 2020-2021 campaign and have also brought in some solid transfers. On the contrary, the Wildcats have an entire new roster composed almost entirely of transfer recruits. With so many new players from many different schools across the country, this team will inevitably have growing pains, starting vs the Blue Devils. Take Duke to handle coach Cal and Kentucky.

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