Kentucky Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devils Prediction & Game Preview -- 11/09/2021

by Chuck Sommers

Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Where to watch: ESPN

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Duke -1
BetMGM: Duke -1
Caesars: NL

2020-21 Season record
No. 10 Kentucky: 9-16
No. 9 Duke: 13-11

Kentucky - Duke preview and analysis


The beginning of the end begins for Mike Krzyzewski.

The legendary Duke Blue Devils head coach will begin his final season on Tuesday when No. 9 Duke meets with the 10th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats at Madison Square Garden in the State Farm Champions Classic.

It almost seems surreal that this will be Krzyzewski’s last season with Duke, his 42nd with the Blue Devils. Coach K is three wins from 1,100 with the program is 30 away from 1,200 all-time including his five seasons coaching Army.

You look at the storied career with five national championships, six gold medals and 12 appearances in the Final Four, it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

“I don’t want to go through memory lane here, or whatever. The reason I love coaching, and the reason we’ve had a continuity of excellence, is because we’ve focused on the moment, and I’ve done that with every team,” Krzyzewski told Sporting News back in October. “And so I’m going to do it with this team. I’ve told them: Don’t talk about ‘sixth’, ‘last’, ‘doing it for Coach K.’ Let’s just do it together. Let’s see what the hell happens.”

The Blue Devils enter this season with lofty expectations, as this program has been known to have through Krzyzewski’s entire Duke tenure. They’re the ACC preseason favorites with expectations that conference preseason player of the Year Paolo Banchero can get them there. Banchero was the No. 3 player in ESPN’s 100 ranking this year and the No. 1 player in the state of Washington. Banchero is a capable scorer and could be considered one of the best big men in the country when all is said and done.

Banchero and Wendell Moore Jr. are expected to lead this group to what Duke hopes is another NCAA Tournament appearance. Moore, one of the team captains this season, was named to the All-ACC Academic Team for the second straight season and averaged 9.7 points per game in 2021.

One thing we’re going to have to take with a grain of salt when it comes to evaluating college basketball teams this season is how last year was a complete wash. No disrespect to the Baylor Bears for winning the national championship, but last college basketball season will not be remembered because of how much roster turnover there was over the past two years for a myriad of reasons.

Not to mention it didn’t help that Kentucky and Duke weren’t good last season, but we’ll find out quickly where everyone stacks.

Kentucky is no exception. Seven players are gone from last year’s group in which John Calipari led the helm for a 9-16 team. Of course there was the tragic death of Terrence Clarke; but Olivier Sarr, Cam’Ron Fletcher and Devin Askew are all gone.

But coming into Kentucky might be one of the best point guards in the SEC in Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler. The junior guard averaged 14 points and 7.4 assists in 26 games with the Bulldogs and is expected to be the catalyst for this young UK squad this season.

"It's like the biggest game in a decade," Calipari said after the Wildcats' final exhibition game. "The tickets are ridiculous. It's crazy."

But two other players are expected to be key contributors in guards Kellan Grady and TyTy Washington. Grady, a grad transfer from Davidson, scored 2,002 points in four years with the Wildcats and was a four-time All-Atlantic-10 postseason selection. Washington, a freshman from Phoenix, was the Max Preps Arizona Player of the year after averaging 24 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds for AZ Compass Prep.

Prediction


This is going to be a terrific matchup of young talent, and I expect those young stars to show out. The line is so even that not even a moneyline bet should be considered unless you’re breaking the bank. No need for this one. The size of Duke in the frontcourt should play a key difference here and you should expect a lot of touches from 10-15 feet in the first half. Both of these teams are athletic and will cause a lot of turnovers in the halfcourt, which should bode well for Duke. I’m interested to see how Kentucky fares as the game goes on, but right now, Duke wins in a close one. Duke by 6

Projected starting lineup


Kentucky:
PG: Sahvir Wheeler
SG: TyTy Washington
SF:
Kellan Grady
PF:
Keion Brooks
C:
Oscar Tshiebwe

Duke:
PG: Jeremy Roach
SG: Trevor Keels
SF:
Wendell Moore
PF:
Paolo Banchero
C:
Mark Williams

Statistical leaders


Kentucky:
Points: Davion Mintz -- 11.5
Rebounds: Isaiah Jackson -- 6.6
Assists: Davion Mintz -- 3.1

Duke:
Points: Matt Hurt -- 18.3
Rebounds: Matt Hurt -- 6.2
Assists: Jordan Goldwire -- 4.0

Don't miss our champion handicappers' free picks and expert college basketball picks today. And if you enjoyed this Kentucky - Duke prediction, be sure to drop by every day for our daily NCAA projections and previews.

Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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