CBE Classic Betting Preview

The Kansas State Wildcats are big favorites against James Madison on Friday night as they open the annual CBE Classic college hoops tournament at home.

The tourney has four major host schools: No. 1 Duke, No. 3 Kansas State, No. 12 Gonzaga, and Marquette. The Wildcats are a 20-point favorite at Bovada. They open the season with big expectations after going 29-8 in a banner 2009-10 campaign.

While they’ll miss offseason departures Denis Clemente and Dominique Sutton, they have most of their key contributors back for 2010-11. Jacob Pullen had double-digit points in 37 straight games at one point last year and will get good offensive help from Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels.

On Sunday, Duke begins its national title defense against Princeton. Can Duke remain atop the college basketball world with only Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith returning as starters from last year’s championship team? Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski knows he’ll get a good effort from those two vets, who averaged 35.1 combined points per game last season. But who else will step up for the Blue Devils?

Kyrie Irving is expected to step in and become Duke’s primary ballhandler. He may be the Blue Devils’ first true quarterback at the point guard position in years. Seth Curry will chip in some bigtime long-range shooting. Even though Duke will be challenged to repeat its 35 wins and championship this year, it’s hard to ever bet against a Coach K team.

Marquette, the 2006 CBE Classic champion, hosts Bucknell on Sunday. Can Marquette remain an NCAA Tournament-caliber squad despite losing school legend Lazar Hayward to the NBA? The Golden Eagles will need Jimmy Butler to deliver on the promise he showed last season. Freshman Jae Crowder also looks like a first-class recruit and could help right away.

Gonzaga gets its CBE Classic underway on Sunday when IUPUI comes to town. The Bulldogs are in good shape in the WCC considering that they won 27 games last season and have four of five starters back this year. They’ve won their conference 10 years in a row.

Gonzaga is in good hands with Elias Harris taking over as its go-to offensive star. He averaged 14.9 points per game last year. But will he have a tougher time getting the ball? The one starter the Bulldogs lost was WCC Player of the Year Matt Bouldin – their star point guard.

If Gonzaga wants to be a major player and national contender this year, someone will have to step up in the ball-mover role. It could be Marquise Carter. Or it could be Dave Stockton, son of that NBA legend by the name of John Stockton.