The second day of the Maui Invitational will tip-off tonight, the headlining game being No. 1 Duke’s date with No. 8 Auburn.
As always, here is a look at the slate of games from a gambling perspective:
No. 1 DUKE vs. No. 8 AUBURN, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
- Line: Duke (-11)
- O/U: 167.5
- Vegas Implied Score: Duke 89.25, Auburn 78.25
- KenPom Projection: Duke 82, Auburn 76
On paper, this game looks like it will be one of the most entertaining of the season.
Duke is already must-see TV every time that they take the court. That’s what happens when you have Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish on the court at the same time. Magic happens. Auburn, on the other hand, is really, really good themselves. If you haven’t seen them play yet, they are somewhat undersized — they like to play a pair of athletic, 6-foot-8 forwards that can space the floor and protect the rim up front — but they love to press and play in transition as much as anyone.
And it’s Auburn’s style of play that I think will play into Duke’s hands here. The Tigers want to play fast. Last year they finished the season ranked 18th in pace. This year, they are just 67th, but they have already played a couple of teams that tried their damnedest to take the air out of the ballin Xavier and Washington. They currently rank fifth-nationally in defensive turnover percentage, gambling for steals in that full court pressure to try and create opportunities for easy buckets at the other end of the floor. They attack the glass (fifth in offensive rebounding percentage), shoot a ton of threes (and make them at a 39.4 percent clip) and struggle to clear the defensive boards.
Well, they want to play fast. That is the entire basis of what Mike Krzyzewski has built this season. He has three guys on the floor that were primary ball-handlers in the high school ranks, and that doesn’t include Zion Williamson, who is the nation’s best grab-and-go forward. They are built to play in transition, and they are already top 40 nationally in pace. Like Auburn, they pound the offensive glass (they get nearly 40 percent of their misses) and have some issues boxing out. They haven’t proven to be turnover prone yet, either.
There is something of an unknown here, as Duke has yet to face a team that is going to be able to pressure the way Auburn can, but I just can’t see that fazing them.
PICKS: To get an idea of how fact the line is moving here, when I started writing this, the over-under was 162.5. As I get ready to hit publish, it has already jumped to 167.5. The line for Duke has moved from (-10) to (-11). I got my bets in before the lines moved. I still love Duke and I still think the over hits, but if you are going to bet it, get it in quickly.
ARIZONA vs. No. 3 GONZAGA, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
- Line: Gonzaga (-10)
- O/U: 154.5
- Vegas Implied Score: Gonzaga 82.25, Arizona 72.25
- KenPom Projection: Gonzaga 81, Arizona 72
Early on this season, Gonzaga is playing faster than they have in the past, which makes sense. With the talent and athleticism they have on their roster, they are going to be able to beat a lot of teams down the floor. Prior to Monday night’s win over Illinois, the Zags had scored at least 94 points in all three of their games this season and won all three by at least 23 points. That included a game against Texas Southern (who won at Baylor) and a win over Texas A&M, who was without two starters.
The game against Illinois was a different story. The Zags looked like they were ready to pull away when Trent Frazier went bonkers and made it a game. I do not think that Arizona — who is not your typical Arizona team — has the horses to run with the Zags this year. If it wasn’t for a takeover performance from Justin Coleman down the stretch on Monday night, the Wildcats would have lost to an Iowa State team missing four players, including two starters.
Yes, the Zags are without Killian Tillie, but Filip Pertrusev and Jeremy Jones have been somewhere between fine and good in his absence.
PICKS: Gonzaga (-10) is the bet that I would make here. I would lean toward the over as well.
XAVIER vs. SAN DIEGO STATE, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Line: San Diego State (-1)
- O/U: 153.5
- Vegas Implied Score: San Diego State 77.25, Xavier 76.25
- KenPom Projection: San Diego State 76, Xavier 75
This one is pretty simple: I think that Xavier is the better basketball team here, and after dropping one in overtime on Monday afternoon, I think the Musketeers will bounceback with a win here.
PICKS: If you can get Xavier (+1), then I would take that. I also lead towards the under here, as the total is pretty high for two teams that play good halfcourt defense. The under went 3-1 in Maui yesterday.
IOWA STATE vs. ILLINOIS, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Line: Iowa State (-2)
- O/U: 154.5
- Vegas Implied Score: Iowa State 78.25, Illinois 76.25
- KenPom Projection: Iowa State 80, Illinois 74
The KenPom projection here would usually lead me towards taking the Cyclones, but keep in mind that Iowa State is playing without four rotation pieces, including their three best big men and their best guard. So it makes sense that the line would lean closer to Illinois.
PICKS: I think the bet here is Illinois. Brad Underwood is a smart coach, and he knows that Iowa State and their shortened bench will have tired legs. I honestly think the better bet is the over. Illinois really wants to run and neither team plays much, if any, defense. In fact, all Illinois wants to do is to try and force turnovers. They gamble and give up a lot of layups. Give me Illinois (+2) and the over.