It’s the final game of the opening day for the Battle 4 Atlantis holiday basketball tournament. This annually draws one of the top fields and this year will be no different.
The Battle 4 Atlantis basketball tournament is a made-for-TV event put together by ESPN, which is one of their showcase events around the Thanksgiving holiday. The eight-team field typically features Top 25 clubs or those expected to be contenders in their conferences.
Among this is group is the defending national champion Baylor Bears, coached by Scott Drew, now in his 18th season. The Bears have started 4-0 (3-1 ATS), but don’t confuse this group with last year’s, which you can read about in more detail below.
Because of the name, Bobby Hurley, as head coach, Arizona State gets more publicity than it probably deserves. That’s been the case so far this season for the Sun Devils, who are trying to meld a cohesive unit from a selfish team a year ago. Those mostly accused of their self-interest are gone, however, Hurley’s crew is not overly talented.
The betting odds from Bet365 and other sportsbooks have Baylor as 13-point favorites with a total of 143.5.
Baylor Bears vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Wednesday, November 24, 2021 – 07:30 PM EST at Imperial Arena
Baylor is Quite Different Than Last Year’s Title Team
This Bears edition will look and play significantly different than last year’s championship crew.
Last season, Baylor had experience, depth and a variety of ways to beat virtually any opponent. If ball movement was stale and there was too much standing around, any dribble penetration would open up a three-point shooter who could connect. And if the outside shots were not dropping, various players could get to the paint, make shots or draw fouls.
That’s not the case for coach Drew this year and he has his team focused on ball movement, with players moving side to side or taking deep angle cuts to the basket for layups or quick passes to open shooters.
Last year’s squad had several physical on-ball defenders that could stop a dribbler in his tracks and Baylor’s weak-side defense looked like someone in the Bears’ secondary, “sitting” on routes looking to make interceptions and take it to the house.
The defense, like the offense, has a new look, though it will still be effective, it will be less imposing. Don’t kid yourself, Baylor will still be a very good team, just hard to compare them to last year’s championship model.
Arizona State Wants to Use This Tournament as Proving Ground
At 2-2 (1-3 ATS) nobody even in Tempe, let alone those making college basketball picks are talking up Arizona State.
Last year’s disappointment opened the door for coach Hurley to reset the program and seek options in a new direction. He likes holdovers Kimani Lawrence, Jalen Graham and Luther Muhammad. Transfers Marreon Jackson, DJ Horne and Jay Heath were supposed to upgrade the roster on offense, yet, to this point, nothing has meshed for a team averaging only 69 points.
The lack of scoring prowess is shown in the numbers, with the Sun Devils at only 42.6 percent and an anemic 29.7% from behind the arc. The Arizona State offense is mechanical rather than fluid, with players learning to play with each other and trying to determine where they fit as opposed to simply playing basketball.
The defense has done a pretty good job, at 63.5 PPG allowed and at 38.5%. However, as Hurley acknowledges, these Sun Devils have to improve on hard closeouts on three-point shots, conceding 35.1%.
What is the Best Side to Be On?
This is a hard assignment for Arizona State. The Sun Devils are still searching for identity and though Baylor lost a great deal of personnel from last year, the holdovers were key contributors and they still have that championship confidence.
The Bears just held Stanford, also from the Pac-12, to 48 points and they are 6-0 ATS after allowing 50 points or less. An uncertain ASU crew is 1-9 ATS in non-conference since last season and 2-9 ATS as an underdog, making Baylor the choice.
College Basketball Pick: Baylor -13 (-110) at Bet365