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Champions Classic highlights opening-night picks

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Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) drives against Washburn forward Will McKee (23) during the first half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) drives against Washburn forward Will McKee (23) during the first half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

College basketball season is officially back.

The Champions Classic rightfully will get much of the attention tonight, though plenty of programs will begin the 2018-19 season tonight. After having to wait 216 days, people can finally bet on college basketball again.

During the season, I’ll try to highlight some of my favorite bets and the hope is the results will be better as I become more familiar with the teams. It won’t always be picks against the spread, however, as some picks will feature the best over/under totals to target.

With that being said, let’s dive straight into my favorite picks for tonight’s action. All numbers are based on Bovada as of Tuesday morning.

Kansas (-5.5) vs. Michigan State

In my preview, I already picked Kansas to cover so I won’t include that. However, the best bet of the game would be to take the under. The frontcourt might be the strength of both teams, while the two programs also rank in the top-23 in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. In addition, the Jayhawks and their opponent have failed to score a combined 156 points in each of the previous four matchups in the Champions Classic.

Pick: Under 156

Kentucky (-1.5) vs. Duke

The nightcap of the Champions Classic is receiving plenty of buzz, as both teams enter the season ranked inside the top-four of the AP poll. As you can tell by the spread, this game is a coin flip. But Kentucky head coach John Calipari having a veteran team is sort of like living in the Upside Down on Stranger Things. I think that’s the difference in the season opener, and Stanford transfer Reid Travis will be an immediate factor for the Wildcats.

Pick: Kentucky wins

Florida a Florida State (-4)

This is a perfect showdown for the opening night of the college hoops season. There is plenty to like about No. 17 Florida State, which returns seven players who averaged double-figure minutes during last season’s unprecedented Elite Eight run. Over the last two seasons, the Seminoles have boasted a nation’s best .939 percentage at home.

Pick: Florida State covers

BYU at Nevada (-13)

There is so much preseason love for Nevada, which returns plenty of production from last year’s Sweet 16 teams and is ranked No. 7 in the preseason poll. That being said. BYU is no push over after returning four starters from last year’s squad. Sagarin predicts a seven-point win for the Wolfpack, and I also think this game will be closer than Vegas would indicate.

Pick: BYU covers

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