What to look for when betting on college basketball games, like Kansas vs. Kentucky, early in the season

Hey, welcome to your Tuesday afternoon. Before we get into today’s news and picks, I’d like to publicly thank the man who writes the morning version of this newsletter, Pete Blackburn. Pete led off this morning’s newsletter with the sentence, “welcome to December!”

Reading that sentence this morning was the moment when I realized it was December. Where does the time go? I swear, it feels like it was only yesterday when I could go outside and be amongst other people without the crippling fear that they were all capable of killing me just by saying “hello” a little too closely.

Anyway, hi! It’s December! I hope you’re enjoying your first day of the final month of this disaster of a year. I have been. I’ve been watching Champions League soccer on CBS All Access, and not just because I get it for free as a CBS employee. Tonight, I’ll be watching college basketball as there are a couple of substantial top 20 matchups for us on tap, and I have picks for both below. What I won’t be watching tonight is the Steelers and Ravens because, as you no doubt know by now, that game was postponed for roughly the tenth time in the last few days and will now be played on Wednesday afternoon.

I do not have a play for that game for you. I’m sorry, but I have no idea who is even playing in it, making it extremely difficult to handicap. If you absolutely have to bet on something, do what I do when I’m bored and just take the under. It’s not an awful strategy, honestly.

Anyway, before we get to the bets I sincerely recommend we catch up on today’s proceedings.

OK, let’s make some money.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

No. 7 Kansas vs. No. 20 Kentucky, 9:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 143 (-110)
: As I’ve been telling you in this newsletter, I don’t like betting college basketball early in the season as much as I do later in the year. We tend to have a better idea of what teams are after a few games. We aren’t there yet, but thankfully, I have some things I do look for early in the year. I want neutral site games because the under tends to be a good play in them, and I think this happens to be one of the better values on the board tonight.

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Have you noticed that while Kentucky continues to send players to the NBA, the Wildcats don’t have as many lottery picks as they used to? There’s a reason for it. In recent seasons, the NBA has become a league of shooting and … Kentucky can’t shoot very well and. Tyler Herro is the one Kentucky player to be taken in the last three drafts to have had a major impact, and that’s because he can shoot. Kentucky enters tonight having played two games, and it ranks 213th in the country in three-point shooting. It’s 93rd from two and 191st at the free-throw line. It has an eFG% that ranks 133. 

It can defend, however, and so can Kansas. And it’s the two defenses in this contest, mixed in with a neutral site that the teams aren’t familiar with, that pushes me toward the under here.

Key Trend: The under is 5-2 in Kentucky’s last seven neutral site games.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has no friends, so you know it’s spent the last couple of hours just simulating the heck out of this game looking for an edge.

💰 The Picks

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🏀 College Basketball

No. 8 Michigan State at No. 6 Duke, 7:30 p.m | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Duke -3 (-110) — 
Both of these teams have a lot of new faces in key roles this season, but I think Duke is better equipped to deal with the changes. The Blue Devils used to be the program where nobody left early, but they’ve adapted to that “one-and-done” life in recent years. Michigan State is now the program that typically has guys staying for multiple years before leaving, which leaves a more massive leadership void when they leave. Michigan State has a massive void without Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. And while the Spartans have looked good in their first two games of the season, playing on the road — even in an empty building — against a talented Duke squad will prove to be the toughest test they’ve face so far. I’m laying the points.

Key Trend: Duke is 4-1 ATS in its last five home games.

⚽ Champions League

Dynamo Kyiv at Juventus, 3 p.m | TV: CBS All Access
The Pick: Both Teams To Score (+120) — 
My CBSSports.com colleague/Cover 3 Podcast co-host Chip Patterson refers to this as The Mr. Rogers Play. We call it that because when you want both teams to score, you’re rooting for everybody to have a good time. It doesn’t matter who wins! It only matters that everybody gets a chance to feel good about themselves! It’s a sense of community! Juventus has done an excellent job of building that community feel. They’ve had problems defensively, as they’ve kept only one clean sheet (a shutout) in their last eight matches. I would have made this play if the odds were +100, so if I can get it at +120, I’m all over it.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Mike Tierney, who is 16-6 with his last 22 against-the-spread picks involving the Ravens, has released his pick for Wednesday’s game between Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

💸 Champions League Parlay

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A three-leg parlay for Wednesday’s Champions League action paying +257

  • Barcelona (-195)
  • Ferencvaros/Barcelona Over 2.5 (-170)
  • Sevilla or Draw (-205)

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