Kentucky vs. Michigan State Odds, Picks, Predictions (11/15/22)

Storylines have already begun to emerge in this young college basketball season, but the Champions Classic marks the unofficial start of the madness. The annual event tips off Tuesday night in Indianapolis with No. 4 Kentucky taking on Michigan State in the first game.

The Wildcats have much higher expectations for the season ahead, but star Oscar Tshiebwe is questionable for this game. Michigan State also looks formidable after nearly taking out Gonzaga in the Armed Forces Classic. Can Kentucky hold the line and avoid an early loss?

Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for the Champions Classic opener.

Kentucky vs. Michigan State Odds

Kentucky enters as a 6.5-point favorite, though the line could (and likely will) move based on Tshiebwe’s availability.

Kentucky still enters as a moderate favorite even with the uncertainty surrounding Tshiebwe. The Wildcats had no issues with Howard or Duquesne to open the year, though that’s no surprise. Kentucky needs players to step up with or without Tshiebwe, and that’s what C.J. Fredrick and transfer Antonio Reeves have done through two games.

Michigan State has a similarly deep team – one that doesn’t rely on any particular player but might have a breakout star in Mady Sissoko. Do the Spartans have enough to pull off the upset?

Kentucky vs. Michigan State Prediction & Pick

I’m hesitant on this Kentucky team right now. The Wildcats notoriously start slow under John Calipari and hit their stride in conference play. In fact, they’re 1-4 in their last five Champions Classic games. There’s reason to believe they’ll hit some bumps early this season.

Tshiebwe may not play in this game, and even if he does, his minutes and effectiveness will be worth watching. There’s no reason for Calipari to stretch him farther than he can go in November. Point guard Sahvir Wheeler is also rebounding from an injury. While he looked solid in his season debut, Michigan State will be a much tougher test than Duquesne.

The Spartans could suddenly have the frontcourt advantage with Sissoko and co., meaning there will be huge pressure on the guards – Wheeler plus the untested Reeves and Fredrick – for Kentucky. Michigan State +6.5 is the safer bet.

My Pick: Michigan State +6.5

Kentucky vs. Michigan State Key Matchups

Michigan State might be walking into this game at 2-0 if Sissoko and Joey Hauser didn’t both foul out late in the loss to Gonzaga. If that pair can stay on the floor, they can overmatch a Kentucky frontcourt that might be missing its biggest piece. Both are important rebounders, and Malik Hall has also been delivering on the boards this season with 14 rounds through two games. Together, they can take away an advantage Kentucky had all of last season. Sissoko has jumped from end of the bench to crucial starter, so there’s always concern for mistakes in a high-profile game.

Kentucky’s guards have much more scoring ability than Michigan State’s. Between Wheeler, Reeves, and Fredrick, most of the Wildcats’ points will come out of the backcourt if Tshiebwe can’t go. Reeves might be the player to watch after a terrific start to the season offensively. The Illinois State transfer averaged 20.1 points/game in the MVC last year.

Michigan State doesn’t have a scorer who can match what Reeves has done so far. A.J. Hoggard, Pierre Brooks, and Tyson Walker have all struggled a bit offensively early in the season, though playing one of two games on an aircraft carrier is a major reason why. It wouldn’t surprise me if one of Hoggard and Walker bounced back in this one. Hauser is also a major part of the Spartans’ offensive plan after struggling mightily on that end of the floor against Gonzaga – he shot 4/8 from three in the season opener.

Will that be enough to counter Kentucky’s collection of guards? Very unlikely. Michigan State’s bevy of frontcourt options, however, should help balance this one out and at least keep this game close until the end.

Dan is a lifelong sports fan and graduate of Boston University. He’s covered several sports on Instagram since he was 12 and now writes about everything from betting trends to breaking news for Lineups.

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