Kansas vs. Michigan State Betting Odds
College basketball is back. Thank goodness.
In this season’s Champions Classic matchup, Bill Self’s Jayhawks will take on Tom Izzo’s Spartans.
Both teams are running with brand new point guards this season. Kansas picked up Arizona State transfer Remy Martin after losing Marcus Garrett to the pros, while Michigan State grabbed Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker.
Those two matching up will be the big thing to watch in this game. Both are good scorers who averaged nearly 20 points per game with their former programs. However, both are sure to see decreases in usage with their new blue-blood programs.
Kansas is ranked #3 in the AP’s preseason poll, while Sparty garnered votes but was ultimately left unranked. As such, the Jayhawks are laying four points on the road.
But is that too many against Izzo and Co.?
Kansas Jayhawks Odds
While Martin will likely define the Jayhawks ceiling, lest we forget the other big Jayhawk transfer: Joseph Yesufu.
When Roman Penn went down for Drake last year, Yesufu stepped in and showed his ability as an elite floor general. He filled it up from anywhere on the floor (58.5% FG at rim, 40.6% FG on 2-point jumpers, 39.3% FG from 3) and averaged 22.4 points in his seven starts down the stretch.
Overall, Martin and Yesufu are going to give Self something he lacked last season: A dynamic offense. Garrett will long be remembered in Lawrence, but mostly for his defensive prowess, and he faltered when asked to step in as a lead guard.
Kansas finished 54th in KenPom offensive efficiency last season, the lowest mark of the Self era. Their 48.9% FG from 2-point range finished outside the top-200 college ball teams.
But now, Self has an embarrassment of riches with his two guards. The only question is how they co-exist.
But whoever is on the court, it’ll take the scoring pressure off the Jayhawks’ four returning starters. Obviously Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson, who both had to up their usage last season. But the biggest change will be seen with David McCormack.
Both Yesufu and Martin are some of the best pick-and-roll ball-handlers in the country. Last season, Martin was in the 80th percentile of college players in those situations (with .908 points per possession) and Yesufu was in the 88th percentile (with .965 points per possession).
McCormack had an unreal season last year, but most of his scoring came in back-to-the-basket, post-up situations. He’s going to benefit mightily as a pick-and-roll partner with his two new guards.
The defense will take a step back, but only at the point guard position. Last year’s Jayhawks finished 12th in the country in KenPom defensive efficiency, and their offensive upside and team chemistry (again, four returning starters) will more than compensate for that drop-off.
Kansas is a consensus top-3 college basketball team.
Michigan State Spartans Odds
Izzo and the Spartans nabbed their 23rd-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance last March, barely sneaking in at-large after a couple of top-5 wins to close the season.
However, the year was largely a wash. Like other top-notch programs, the Spartans struggled.
One of the biggest issues was having Rocket Watts run the point. Watts is a tremendous basketball player, but not a pure point guard and not a good fit for Izzo’s system.
So, in steps Walker, who averaged over 18 points per game last season on 44%/35% splits. He’s also a true point guard and floor general, who averaged almost five assists per game and logged six or more five times.
The infusion of Walker will immediately boost the Spartan offense, especially after they finished 257th in effective FG% last season.
But Walker can’t carry the Spartans. Izzo needs to see improvement from other players in his roster. Specifically, Marcus Bingham Jr. and Joey Hauser.
The X-factor is likely to be Max Christie. He’s a top-20 prospect and McDonald’s All-American who will start immediately at the 2. If he can be immediately productive as Walker’s back-court partner, Michigan State will quickly hop into the top-25.
Hopefully, Izzo irons out his lineup quickly. The Spartans started slowly last season before figuring it out in February, but now have some significant roster turnover to deal with.
Prediction and Pick
My Pick: Under 144.5 (-112 at Unibet)
Kansas is the far-better roster, and on paper, they should win this game easily.
However, I love Izzo in this spot. In non-conference play last season, Izzo took down Notre Dame and Duke handedly on the road. Even as the team faltered, they came out strong. Plus, as a neutral site underdog, Izzo is 12-6 against the spread (ATS) in his career.
Therefore, instead of betting one side half-assed, I think this is the play that provides the most value.
This number is already getting steamed down, as sharp money has pushed the total from its open at 145 down to 143.5 at some books (BetMGM and PointsBet). The smart money may continue to push this number down, so grab the 144.5 at Unibet as soon as possible.
Both offenses are going through major transitory periods with their new point guards. However, both defenses shouldn’t see much of a drop-off. KenPom’s preseason projections have both the Jayhawks and the Spartans among the top-10 teams in defensive efficiency.
In this edition of the Champions Classic, I’d expect growing pains on offense combined with solid defense, ending up in an opening night slog.