This year’s Maui Invitational is among the most stacked early-season multi-team events ever.
I wouldn’t blame you if you mistook this event’s semifinals for the Final Four.
It’s Feast Week at its finest.
No. 2 Purdue plays No. 7 Tennessee in the first matchup, while No. 1 Kansas plays No. 4 Marquette in the nightcap.
Here’s how I’m betting each game.
Purdue vs. Tennesee prediction
(8 p.m. ET.)
Tennessee poses a significant challenge for Purdue’s backcourt.
Last year, Purdue’s all-freshman backcourt of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer was often overwhelmed by heavy ball-pressure defenses. That’s precisely what happened in the Boilers’ now-infamous first-round tournament loss to FDU (15 turnovers).
The hope for Purdue is that the now more experienced backcourt can handle the pressure, and the added maturity will lead to fewer turnovers.
That wasn’t the case against Gonzaga on Monday night.
The Bulldogs don’t pressure opposing ball-handlers, yet Purdue committed 13 turnovers to only 11 assists, fumbling the ball too often.
That’s highly concerning against Tennessee, one of the best ball-pressure teams in the country. The Vols are devastating on-ball and gap defenders.
The key to beating Purdue is to defend Edey the best you can and make the Edeyettes beat you from the perimeter.
Combine Tennessee’s elite perimeter defense with starting center Jonas Aidoo, one of the best post-up defenders in the nation (.4 post-up PPP allowed, 90th percentile), and the Vols have the formula to knock off the Boilers.
That said, I’m not sold on Tennessee’s offense.
Rick Barnes has never proved himself to be an offensive-minded head coach.
Betting on College Basketball?
the Vols are 30th nationally in KenPom offensive efficiency, but hot 3-point shooting has buoyed their start. I don’t expect them to shoot 38% from 3 for the remainder of the season.
Northern Colorado transfer Dalton Knecht has significantly raised Tennessee’s offensive ceiling. He’s been among the nation’s best offensive players this year, dropping 19 points per game with a 63.4% true-shooting.
He was dealing with “cramping” during Monday’s win over Syracuse, which could prove vital on a back-to-back with no rest. Without Knecht at 100 percent, I could see the Vols’ half-court offense screech to halt.
So, I’m willing to bank on a lower-scoring affair.
Give me the Under.
Tennessee vs. Purdue pick
Under 133.5 (-105) at FanDuel | Play to 133 (-110)