Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#687 Kansas -2 vs.
#688 Duke 153
Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 7:00pm EST
Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham
Written by Chris Altruda

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#687 University of Kansas
#688 Duke University
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15-20-1
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75
82
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No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 4 Duke

When and Where: Tuesday, Nov. 5, Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y., 7 p.m. EST.

A new season means a new class of potential one-and-done players for Mike Krzyzewski as No. 4 Duke faces third-ranked Kansas in the first game of the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Azubuike on-court focal point of Kansas as off-court cloud lingers

The Jayhawks went 26-10 last season and failed to make the regional semifinals of the first NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years and also had their impressive run of Big 12 dominance come to an end after a 14-year run of either winning the conference outright or claiming at least a share of the title.

One reason for the falloff from the elite level the Jayhawks are accustomed to was the season-ending injury to center Udoka Azubuike, who played just nine games before suffering a torn ligament in his right hand. The 7-foot-senior, who averaged 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 2018-19, had his freshman season cut short with a similar injury to his left hand.

"It's a big motivation for us," Azubuike told 247Sports about last season's disappointing finish. "We're all pumped up to get back in the tournament. The whole team, you can tell the energy on the team, we're just pumped up. ... We're so excited about it."

Fellow starter Devon Dotson, who averaged 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, also returns for Kansas. The key player who could be the difference in the Jayhawks being the class of the Big 12 and an NCAA Tournament caliber-winning team is forward Silvio de Sousa, who was declared eligible to play in May after a protracted battle with the NCAA that included being suspended all of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-9, 245-pound junior gives coach Bill Self the luxury of playing both big men together or alternating one in the pivot based on lineups. Marcus Garrett returns as the defensive stopper in the backcourt, while Iowa graduate transfer Isaiah Moss will be relied on for perimeter shooting after connecting at a 42.1 percent clip from 3-point range and averaging 9.2 points for the Hawkeyes in 2018-19.

Moss, though, could miss this game due to a hamstring that forced him to sit out one preseason game and play limited minutes in the other.

The FBI's investigation into corruption in the sport of college basketball continues to hang over Self as the NCAA hit Kansas with a charge of lack of institutional control and Self with violating coaching-responsibility standards.

The "Midnight Madness" the Jayhawks hosted also came across as a jab at the NCAA with rapper Snoop Dogg leading the festivities and dancers on stripper poles as part of the entertainment.

"Certainly, I haven't liked it," Self said about the investigation during Big 12 media days according to ESPN. "But it's also, in a strange way, motivating me, probably, in a way that maybe I have never been to combat this by taking care of our business on the basketball court, working with our players in a way that maybe exceeds any way I've ever done it."

Kansas is 4-4 all-time in the Champions Classic, beating Duke in both 2013 and 2016. Since that meeting, the Jayhawks also beat Duke 85-81 in overtime of the 2018 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region final.

Coach K set for 40th season with Blue Devils

For as much attention as Zion Williamson brought to college basketball in general and Duke University specifically, the cold truth remains the best player in college basketball could not lead the Blue Devils to the Final Four for the fourth straight year as Michigan State outexecuted them down the stretch.

Krzyzewski, who is still tied with UCLA's John Wooden with 12 Final Four appearances has not gone five seasons without a Final Four appearance in Durham since 2004-09. Williamson and R.J. Barrett were two of the first three players taken in the NBA Draft, while guard Cam Reddish also was a lottery selection at No. 10.

But weep not for Krzyzewski, who has another highly touted freshman class ready to step in. The most important piece, though, could be the holdover who did not leave for the pros -- point guard Tre Jones. He averaged 9.4 points and 5.3 assists as a freshman in 2018-19 and could take on more of a scoring role as the four new starters get acclimated to the college game.

The linchpin of the class is 6-10 center Vernon Carey, but the most important group of the quartet could prove to be forward Matthew Hurt. A classic stretch four, Hurt set the Minnesota state high school scoring record with 3,819 points and will be counted on for perimeter shooting -- a sorely lacking part of Duke's game last season as it made a school-worst 30.4 percent from beyond the arc.

"Obviously Matthew can score the ball. He's a gifted scorer," Krzyzewski told Blue Ribbon Yearbook. "He can shoot, he can handle, he can play inside out.

"Vernon is actually very similar. You used to say, 'He's a big guy.' They're really good basketball players and we'll try to use them in that regard."

Cassius Stanley rounds out the trio of freshmen expected to be in the starting five, with the Los Angeles native coming from the same high school that produced Duke star and 2018 ACC Player of the Year Marvin Bagley. He's a 6-6 shooting guard, who was considered the No. 32 overall prospect according to ESPN.com. He'll help right away on the defensive end and is going to be a lot more mature than the average freshman because he's 20-years old.

Small forward Wendell Moore (6-6, 215) was considered to be the No. 3 small forward nationally and ranked No. 22 overall by ESPN.com. He averaged 25 points per game at Cox Mill High School in Charlotte, N.C.

Junior guard Alex O'Connell is also expected to ramp up his production from long range after coming off the bench the first two seasons and showing occasional bursts from 3-point range.

Duke is the only team with a winning record in this event at 5-3 and leads the all-time series against Kansas 7-5.

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The Jayhawks have had Duke's number of late, but the two key reasons in taking them here are Dotson canceling out a key position where the Blue Devils could have had an advantage with Jones and the belief Azubuike is going to work Casey in the low post.

Kansas also has versatility to go with its size in De Sousa, and the Jayhawks have usually been a team that looks more cohesive than most in the early part of the season. This Jayhawks team also has a collective chip on its shoulder the size of Kansas with all the off-court drama, and it would not be surprising to see a little bit of catharsis in this contest.

The line has swung three points in the Jayhawks' favor as tip-off draws near, now establishing them as 2-point favorites. There is still confidence in Kansas winning outright, so the pick remains as is.

Prediction: Kansas +1

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Both teams are known for their good defense, but having elite players -- regardless of class -- means never having to say you're sorry offensively. At the very least, Jones will put his Blue Devils teammates in scoring positions running the offense. In turn, the Jayhawks have the best finisher at the basket in Azubuike, and Dotson is capable of getting points as well.

Per DonBest.com, the over is 9-4 in Kansas' last 13 neutral site games and posted a 10-4-1 mark when favored in its last 15 contests when favored between 0.5 to 6.5 points.

Prediction: OVER 152.5 points (-110)

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This is a full confidence pick in the Jayhawks using their experience to trump Duke's talent down the stretch for this win. It should be a fairly close contest throughout, so there is not as much worry about the margin as there is Kansas actually posting the victory.

 

Prediction: Kansas margin +1-10 (+148)

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Another confidence pick in Kansas because it has well-defined scorers with Azubuike and Dotson. In contrast, it may not be well-established who Dukes go-to scorer is, and there may be some trial and error and forced shots working through early jitters.

Prediction: Kansas -1 (-115)

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It would not be surprising to see the defenses settle in quicker than the offenses, especially since that may be how Duke creates its offense. Kansas should have the better offensive chemistry based on its returning players, and the Blue Devils are an unknown quantity offensively, especially on the perimeter where they struggled last season.

Prediction: UNDER 71.5 points (-115)

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Duke averaged 40.08 points in the first half last season with a pair of bonafide stars in Williamson and Barrett, so it is somewhat difficult to project the Blue Devils getting 90 percent of that total with four new starters. Add a difficult opponent into the mix with significant size inside in the Jayhawks, and this total feels out of reach for the ACC squad.

Prediction: Duke UNDER 35.5 points (-121)
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Written By Chris Altruda

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is based in Chicago. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiner, he worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Follow Chris daily right here at W&W and on Twitter at @AlTruda73. You won’t be disappointed.