Champions Classic: #1 Kansas vs. #17 Kentucky Preview, Best Bets


Nov 14, 2023

An exciting doubleheader of college basketball awaits in Chicago on Tuesday night as the Champions Classic is set to get underway with four blue bloods ready to take center stage. We look at the slate’s backend as Kansas and Kentucky face off, each seeking a 3-0 start to their respective seasons. We preview the matchup and provide our best bet for this intriguing showdown.

Check out our picks for conference winners in 2023-24: Power 6 | Mid-Major

#1 Kansas vs. #17 Kentucky Game Information
  • Location: United Center – Chicago, IL
  • Time: 9:30 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN

This should be a classic battle of experience versus talent. Kansas enters the season ranking 31st in the nation in Division I experience, while Kentucky started three true freshmen in their recent victory over Texas A&M Commerce.

While the Jayhawks boast the experience, they are in a meshing period just as much as their opponent. Six newcomers make up Bill Self’s nine-man rotation, proving that it could take time for everyone to get on the same page in Lawrence. That said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a roster with more talent than Kansas.

Similar words can be said for the Wildcats, who have five true freshmen within their eight-man rotation. It’s typical of a John Calipari team, but it always leads to volatile results earlier in the season. It’s been a promising start with two convincing victories at Rupp Arena, but nothing prepares true freshmen for taking on an opponent like Kansas on a neutral court on a national stage.

More Champions Classic Picks: #18 Michigan State vs. #9 Duke

#1 Kansas vs. #17 Kentucky FanDuel Odds
  • Spread: Kansas -6.5 (-115) | Kentucky +6.5 (-105)
  • Moneyline: Kansas (-300) | Kentucky (+240)
  • Total: OVER 147.5 (-110) | UNDER 147.5 (-110)

The Jayhawks are undeniably the more well-rounded, complete roster. Players like Kevin McCullar and Dajuan Harris know exactly what Self wants from them. At the same time, the floor, while Hunter Dickinson and Nicolas Timberlake enter as savvy, experienced veterans who can make an impact out of the gate. It’s a perfect blend of talent, experience, and roster construction that rightfully has them widely ranked as the best team in the nation.

Kentucky’s ceiling of outcomes is intriguing here. The talent on this team is absurd, with Aaron Bradshaw (out vs. Kansas with a foot injury), Justin Edwards, and D.J. Wagner entering as three of the top six recruits in the nation, while four-star Reed Sheppard and three-star Jordan Burks have also seen some action. Any of them may come out of nowhere with a breakout performance on Tuesday night, something we have seen nearly every year in the Champions Classic. Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell provide enough stability as seniors in the starting lineup and guys who can get a bucket when needed in crucial spots.

This early in the season, volatility can often be your friend when betting on college basketball. It’s a sport where the market is often inefficient simply based on the general public not knowing when it comes to what to expect from teams of teenagers this early on. The Wildcats can win this game outright, and it’s an attractive price on a team that is hard to evaluate, a group budding with youth and potential. Take a stab at Kentucky to pull off the upset here.

College Basketball Best Bet

Kentucky ML (+240)

Thumbnail photo via Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

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