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Kentucky vs. Duke: Analysis, expert picks & predictions

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How oddsmakers and experts view Kentucky Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devils.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Though Kentucky Football has mostly stolen the spotlight leading up to basketball’s season opener, the time for turf wars has been put on hold as the hardwood is polished & ready for action.

The Kentucky Wildcats will make the short trip to Indianapolis for their Champions Classic matchup against the Duke Blue Devils. A matchup for the ages between two of the most decorated coaches and an abundance of highly-talented players will give fans a night to remember.

Analysis

After returning sophomores Nick Richards, PJ Washington and Quade Green, Kentucky added the second-ranked recruiting class led by Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery and Tyler Herro.

The ball doesn’t stop moving there, though, as Jemarl Baker is making his return from an injury-riddled freshman season and graduate transfer Reid Travis is becoming more comfortable with head coach John Calipari’s system each day.

While Kentucky can roll out a number of lineup combinations, along with what many expect to be a “platoon” system, the Blue Devils will present their matchup-problems as well.

The top-three overall recruits, featuring Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson, headlined the obvious top-overall recruiting class. Though Duke lacks depth and multiple veterans with experience, their talented trio is as good as it gets when looking at previous groups of freshman.

We got a glimpse of Barrett and Williamson during Duke’s three-game Canadian tour over the summer. Barrett averaged 31 points, six rebounds and five assists through three games, Williamson averaged 30, 11 and three as Duke blew out all three opponents. Reddish and starting point guard Tre Jones sat out with injuries.

Betting Trends

Kentucky is currently a 1.5-point favorite in Tuesday’s game. The line has shifted between Kentucky being a slight favorite to being a pick ‘em. It’s usually not a good idea to bet big money on early-season basketball games, especially when you’ve got a team like Duke that has a world of potential but is still an unknown at this stage, whereas Kentucky actually has a lot of proven experience. That’s why oddsmakers and experts are giving Kentucky a slight edge.

Here are some recent betting trends for both teams:

  • Duke is 9-4 ATS in its last 13 games
  • Duke is 10-3 SU in its last 13 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of Duke’s last 6 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Duke’s last 12 games
  • Kentucky is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games
  • Kentucky is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 9 of Kentucky’s last 11 games

Expert Picks

Experts covering the two teams mostly went with Kentucky, including the following:

  • Jeff Drummond (Cats Illustrated) Kentucky 74, Duke 70
  • Jerry Tipton (Lexington Herald-Leader) Kentucky 72, Duke 65
  • Kyle Tucker (The Athletic) Kentucky 78, Duke 70
  • Darrell Bird (The Cats’ Pause) Kentucky 85, Duke 83
  • Jeff Borzello (ESPN) Kentucky 82, Duke 80
  • CBS Sports Expert, Garry Parish, predicted Kentucky in a 74-71 win. Matt Norlander, also of CBS Sports, went with Kentucky (83-76) as well.
  • TeamRankings projects a 79.5-78.4 victory for Kentucky.
  • numberFire projects a 74.9-74.5 win for Duke.
  • KenPom projects a 78-77 victory for the Blue Devils
  • NCAA.com’s Joe Boozell is going with an 80-77 win for Duke.

Prediction

Kentucky arguably has every edge in this game. Since arriving in Lexington, Calipari has out-performed Coach Krzyzewski in both the regular season and in the NCAA tournament.

With a coaching edge, the Wildcats’ also have the much deeper rotation and arguably the overall-edge in talent.

Jitters will surely plague both teams early. Both squads should also attack the paint throughout all 40 minutes. Expect a lower-scoring game with foul trouble potentially putting a dent in Duke’s game plan.

The matchup could be close early but Kentucky should ultimately pull away later in the second half.

Prediction: Kentucky 74, Duke 67