The Champions Classic, one of college basketball’s premier early-season events, tips off Tuesday at the United Center in Chicago. No. 9 Duke and No. 18 Michigan State will square off in the first half of the doubleheader (6:30 p.m. ET), followed by No. 1 Kansas and No. 17 Kentucky (9:30 p.m. ET).
Focusing on the nightcap, most of the early action in the betting market is on Kansas. The Jayhawks are 7-point favorites (-110) and -300 on the moneyline. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are +7 (-110) on the college basketball line and +250 to win outright. The projected total is 147.5 (-110 Over, -110 Under).
Can Kansas take care of business and notch a resume-building win? Or will Kentucky trump the odds? Read on as we break down both college basketball teams and assess the Kansas vs Kentucky NCAAB odds.
Location: United Center; Chicago
The Kansas Jayhawks were 17-19 against the spread last season, including 4-5 at neutral sites. The Jayhawks went Under the total in 52.8% of their games. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Wildcats were 16-18 ATS. The Wildcats went Over the total 61.8% of the time. Keep that in mind when assessing the Kansas vs Kentucky NCAAB odds.
Jayhawks Soar to Top of Charts
Much is expected after a busy offseason that saw the Kansas Jayhawks net two of the country’s most sought-after transfers in Hunter Dickinson (Michigan) and Nicolas Timberlake (Towson). Coupled with the returning trio of Dajuan Harris Jr., Kevin McCullar Jr. and K.J. Adams Jr., those players give Kansas a national championship caliber roster. Unsurprisingly, the Jayhawks ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll.
Accordingly, Kansas is a +350 favorite to make the Final Four and +1000 to win it all.
Kansas has coasted, with blowout victories over North Carolina Central and Manhattan. The Jayhawks were favored by 30.5 points or more in those games, and covered the spread in both.
Dickinson, a former two-time All-Big Ten center, has unsurprisingly been Kansas’ most productive player. He followed up his 21-point, eight-rebound performance against NC Central with 18 points and eight boards versus Manhattan. The 7-foot-2 senior came close to averaging a double-double in his two previous seasons at Michigan, where he was a Second Team All-American. Remember that when analyzing the Kansas vs Kentucky NCAAB odds.
The Jayhawks are also a +180 favorite in the Big 12, ahead of Houston (+350). Currently, only four schools have better than 10/1 odds.
So Far, So Good for Youthful ‘Cats
The Kentucky Wildcats are undoubtedly young, but their talent is indisputable. The Wildcats are starting two of the nation’s top-10 ranked freshmen in, D.J. Wagner and Justin Edwards. Based on that alone, there’s obvious growth potential.
Kentucky is currently ranked 17th in the AP Top 25 poll, down one spot from its preseason ranking. Oddsmakers are understandably bullish on the Wildcats, pricing them +450 to win the SEC — Tennessee is the current +300 favorite — and +1200 to win the national championship. Only Kansas has better odds at the moment.
The Wildcats tipped things off with a pair of easy wins over New Mexico State and Texas A&M-Commerce. They’re 1-1 ATS, having covered as a 15-point favorite in their opener. They also went Under the total in both games.
Antonio Reeves is one of the Wildcats’ most experienced college basketball players, and he’s been their best scorer to date. The fifth-year senior had a game-high 21 points against Texas A&M-Commerce and is averaging 16 points on 50% shooting from 3-point range through two games. He averaged 14.4 points last season, his first after transferring from Illinois State. The Wildcats are 17 of 52 from 3 (32.6%).
Handicapping the Game
Year-in year-out, Kansas and Kentucky are atop the college basketball power rankings. This season is no different. Both schools are legitimate national championship contenders. The odds say as much.
While Kansas has won five of the last seven meetings with Kentucky, it’s hard to put much stock in past results. Both teams underwent significant turnover this offseason. The Jayhawks replenished their roster through the NCAA transfer portal, while the Wildcats brought in another highly touted freshman recruiting class.
The neutral-site element makes this NCAAB matchup even more challenging to forecast. While bettors are giving Kansas the edge as the No. 1 team in the country, this spread seems a bit too large. Look for Kentucky to keep this reasonably close.