CBB Picks: Trust Kentucky to Beat Duke at Champions Classic

One of the main principles of college basketball betting is not let yourself get overwhelmed by the board.

That rings true more than ever on the opening night of the season when there are so many unknowns out there among the 360+ Division I teams.

It is easiest to pick the big games, find a few spots you like or stay away from the board to do some research for the coming days and weeks.

I chose the first two strategies in my approach to the Tuesday night board. I love one side in the second game of the Champions Classic featuring Kentucky and Duke and I picked out a few mismatches across the board that I feel like I can take advantage of.

And. Away. We. Go.

Tuesday CBB Picks

Appalachian State at Iona (-5.5) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Do not be surprised if we see Iona in the Top 25 at some point this season.\

Rick Pitino put together a loaded roster that should easily top the MAAC and could win a game in the NCAA tournament.

SMU transfer Tyson Jolly and Tulsa transfer Elijah Joiner joined a roster that returned a few players that won the MAAC a year ago.

App State got into the NCAA Tournament last season, but that was because of a terrific four-day surge at the Sun Belt tournament.

The Mountaineers are projected to be a mid-tier Sun Belt team and they will likely be overmatched by the Gaels.

Evansville at Cincinnati (-9.5) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Cincinnati went through a tumultuous offseason in which John Brannen was fired and Wes Miller was hired from UNC-Greensboro.

Miller consistently had one of the better mid-major teams at UNCG and that coaching style should translate to the American Athletic Conference.

The Bearcats made a nice pickup in the transfer portal of Abdul Ado from Mississippi State to roam the frontcourt. They bring back three starters from last season and Clemson transfer John Newman is projected to start as well.

Evansville has traditionally sat near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Purple Aces will be in the MVC basement again this season. Their season-long struggles should be evident right off the bat in Cincinnati.

Mercer at Arkansas (-18.5) (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

I can’t wait to see what Arkansas does on the court with another year of Eric Musselman in charge.

Muss worked the transfer portal, like he has for a long time, and brought in three major contributors in Chris Lykes (Miami), Au’Diese Toney (Pitt) and Stanley Umude (South Dakota).

Umude was one of the best mid-major players last season. He averaged 21.6 points and seven rebounds per game for South Dakota.

Look for Umude to be the breakout star of the three transfers, starting with the home opener against Mercer.

Mercer is a mid-tier team in the SoCon and it could face a significant mismatch, especially on the boards, against Arkansas’ athleticism.

Kentucky (-102) vs. Duke (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I love how John Calipari built up Kentucky’s roster.

Cal brought in a handful of impact transfers that should combine well with his typical influx of five-star freshmen.

Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia transfer), Kellan Grady (Davidson) and Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia) are going to be massive early on for Kentucky, while its younger players get acclimated to the college game.

Opening games typically carry a lot of uncertainty, so I’m banking on the experience throughout the Kentucky squad to pull through against a younger Duke squad.

Cleveland State (+13.5) at BYU (10 p.m. ET)

The most underrated game on the opening night schedule comes to us from Provo, Utah.

Cleveland State was at the top of the Horizon League last season and the Vikings return all of their top four scorers. Dennis Gates is a rising star in the coaching ranks and he will not be at Cleveland State for much longer.

BYU should be one of Gonzaga’s challengers in the West Coast Conference. The Cougars also bring back a ton of experience.

BYU is the better team and plays in the superior conference, but this line is a bit too high for a Cleveland State team that will be out to prove it belongs with a top mid-major foe.

Northern Arizona at Arizona (-23.5) (10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

Arizona has shed the aftermath of the NCAA investigation that cost Sean Miller his job as head coach.

Tommy Lloyd, a longtime Gonzaga assistant, is now in charge of the program and it should compete in the Pac-12.

Northern Arizona is not very good. Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Cone is the most talented player on the roster, but that’s just one player.

I expect Arizona to open up the Lloyd era with a big win to set up an easy start to nonconference play.

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