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NY Post
New York Post
18 Nov 2023

NextImg:College basketball predictions: A plus-odds pick to win the Maui Invitational

Because of the devastating wildfires that spread in late August in Hawaii, next week’s Maui Invitational was relocated from its traditional venue inside the Lahaina Civic Center to the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

The arena on the University of Hawaii’s campus in Oahu may bring a new element to the event, but we still can rely on elite play throughout this tournament.

By the time the first game tips off on Monday, we’ll have five teams ranked inside the AP Poll’s Top 15 in the field, making this one of the most star-studded Maui Invitationals in the tournament’s 39-year history.

As for betting on this three-day event, there are plenty of options that present value.

But like any tournament, your path is as important as your personnel.

Kansas, the nation’s top-ranked team, draws Division II Chaminade in the opening round.

The Silverswords are the host of this tournament but participate in the Invitational on Hawaiian soil only in odd-numbered years.

And despite their famous upset of No. 1 Virginia and Ralph Sampson back in 1982 — a win that gave birth to this very tournament — they’re nothing more than a speed bump for Kansas in the opening round.

Because of Kansas’ de facto bye into the winners’ bracket, I’m avoiding the bottom half of the bracket altogether.

That means I’m setting aside KU (+175), Marquette (+500) and UCLA (20/1).

Instead, I’m interested in playing the third-favorite, Purdue, in this eight-team field.

Zach Edey

Zach Edey
Getty Images

At +340, the Boilermakers present value with a road that features Gonzaga in the opening round and the winner of Tennessee/Syracuse in the semifinals.

Despite a No. 2 national ranking, I still believe Boilermakers’ odds are inflated because of their upset loss to Fairleigh Dickinson last March.

Purdue returns the National Player of the Year in Zach Edey, who has slimmed down and is looking even more intimidating as a defender.

By NBA Efficiency metrics, he was the top-rated player in the nation last season and he already has reestablished himself inside the top 10 in just three games this season.

But this team isn’t just about Edey, nor can it be.

Fletcher Loy and Braden Smith both played significant minutes as freshmen last season and struggled at times to give Matt Painter offensive balance.

They’ve been noticeably more aggressive this season and are both shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.

Smith, in particular, has been a bright spot at point guard.

He’s reached double-digits in each game this season while averaging 8.3 assists.

This newfound balance was on full display against Xavier on Monday, a game in which four Boilermakers scored nine-plus points.

They cruised to a 12-point victory and enter this tournament with more of an uptempo look than we’re accustomed to seeing.

Last season, Purdue was a plodding Big Ten team that was content running the offense through its big man in the halfcourt.

The Boilermakers finished 341st in possessions per game, as one of the slowest power programs in the nation.

This season, they have sped things up and now rank 157th in possessions per 40 minutes.

You won’t confuse them with Arizona, but Purdue is building confidence in playing faster and getting involved in games that land in the upper 70s and 80s.

And that’s what they will need to do to get the best of Gonzaga in the first round and a potential title-game meeting with Kansas.

If Purdue and Kansas meet in the Maui championship, there will be plenty of hedging opportunities, both pregame and live, while holding a +340 ticket.