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College Basketball is finally back. Yes, it has been on for a week, but it honestly hasn’t felt like it’s back. Tonight that changes. After tonight, we are on the precipice of one of the most historic sports weeks in history. In recent years, the Champions Classic has been the opening night game (which I prefer), but this year we have an idea of what teams we are seeing. This will be a heavy Duke preview, as you probably thought.
For those who did not watch Duke vs. Jacksonville and USC Upstate, this Blue Devils team is way different from last year. Last year was electric with absurd NBA talent on the roster, but this team is solid. Jeremy Roach has not skipped a beat since his great stretch last March. The most eye-opening thing you’ll notice about this Duke team is they defend hard.
Obviously, Jacksonville and USC Upstate stink, and they are not Kansas, but Duke’s opponents are averaging 41 points per game. Those are Tony Bennett numbers right there. Duke is out without their top recruit Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively seems to be on limited minutes as he returns from injury. I’m not sure if that affects this Duke team.
I want to give a quick shoutout to Ryan Young. A surprisingly solid addition to this team is the big man from Northwestern. He’s every big white guy that plays pickup ball at an LDS church on a Monday night that happens to play on Duke. He’s unselfish, has excellent footwork, is a solid finisher, and is remarkably unathletic, but he’s perfect. He knows his role, will never do something he shouldn’t and is always in the right position. Most will glance over him, but he’s going to play such a significant role for Duke this year down the stretch. Now let’s get to the game.
This feels like it’ll be one of those memorable Champions Classic games. Not entirely on the level as Zion vs. Kentucky, but this game won’t disappoint. If we are talking about the line, Duke opened at +1.5, and the line has moved to -1.5. I could see this line getting up to -2.5 before tipoff. The line movement, a lower-ranked team, being favored, and the bets are roughly 50-50, but the line moving towards Duke tells me to bet Duke, which I was going to do regardless. I was able to get the money line at -110, but I would take the spread at -1.5. Shout, Dylan Wilkerson; I also love the under. People will see both teams scored 80+ in their opening games and assume they’ll hit 150+. Both teams play solid defense, and the nerves will be high as it’s the first big game this season in an NBA arena.
Another reason I like Duke in this one is because Bill Self is not coaching in this due to suspension. Kansas looked solid in their first two matchups, but they do not return many of their impact guys on their title-winning roster besides Jalen Wilson. They are still phenomenally talented and will give Duke a tough test, but Jeremy Roach will be the difference in this one.