Feast Week is here, which means NCAAB fans will have wall-to-wall college basketball action to watch and place a few wagers on. This weekend is the 2023 Empire Classic, a four-team tournament held at Madison Square Garden on Sunday and Monday. Here, we will break down the two Sunday matchups and offer an Empire Classic odds preview.
This year’s Empire Classic features two terrific games on Sunday, Nov. 19. First up is the defending National Champion UConn Huskies taking on the Indiana Hoosiers at 1 p.m. ET. Following that matchup will be the Texas Longhorns vs. the Lousiville Cardinals at 3:30 p.m. ET.
If you need help picking a side for UConn vs. Indiana or Texas vs. Lousiville, we have you covered with a full 2023 Empire Classic betting preview.
Empire Classic Odds: Point Spread, Moneyline, Total
The Empire Classic betting odds will differ depending on where you place your bet. That is why we have listed the UConn vs. Indiana & Texas vs. Louisville odds from our top-rated sports betting apps so you can ensure you get the best numbers for your Empire Classic bets.
UConn vs. Indiana (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Huskies Continue to Roll
Coming into this season, UConn lost three starters from a National Championship-winning team, two of which (Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins) averaged 16+ points per game. Luckily, the Huskies still have a lot of experience on this team, and as always, are recruiting at a high level.
Dan Hurley’s squad brought in five-star Stephon Castle this offseason, who has played well but is dealing with an injury that could keep him out through the Empire Classic. Four-star recruits Jayden Ross, Youssouf Singare, and Jaylin Stewart are other top-ranked freshmen joining the Huskies.
Ross and Stewart are both playing 10+ minutes a night and while they are not scoring much, it does not matter, as the Huskies have five players averaging over 14 points per game. They are equally as strong on the defensive end of the court, ranking seventh in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficient rating, 13th in scoring (57.3), 18th in opponents’ effective field goal percentage (39.8%), and 30th in made three allowed per game (4.3).
While Indiana is 3-0, they are getting a lot of scoring from the free throw line, and they rank only 109th in scoring margin. The Hoosiers are not a great three-point shooting squad, and they will need to hit some shots from deep to win this game. UConn has two returning starters from last year, a 7-foot-2 sophomore in Donovan Clingan, who is shaping up to be a lottery pick, and the freshman class, as well as Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer, are all contributing at a high level, especially shooting the ball.
Hoosiers in Trouble?
Last season was the best Indiana basketball has seen since 2013. They entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 4 seed and finished with the second-best conference record. The problem is they got bounced in the second round of the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments and are losing a lot of production.
With Trayce Jackson-Davis, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Miller Kopp, and Race Thompson all moving on, this Hoosiers team has a lot of questions entering the Empire Classic. While they brought in some big-time freshmen in five-star forward Mackenzie Mgbako and four-star guards Jakai Newton and Gabe Cupps, Newton is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and Mgbako and Cupps have struggled shooting the ball.
This is not a great shooting team, and they rank 323rd in ShotQuality’s Rim & 3 Rate, which measures the number of possessions that end in a three-pointer or shot at the rim. Those are the two most effective plays in basketball, and Indiana has absolutely no interest in taking those shots.
While transfer Kel’el Ware has done a great job giving the Hoosiers a big presence down low, this offense is just way too ineffective, and going up against a way more experienced and talented UConn team points toward some significant trouble.
UConn vs. Indiana Prediction: Huskies Win Big
Not only is UConn a very deep team, but they take high-quality shots, and they have one of the better defenses in the country. They rank third in Rim & 3 Rate, score close to 100 points per game, and shoot the ball very well, not only from the field but from three-point land.
The defense is way too suffocating for Indiana’s weak and inefficient offense to get anything going. Indiana also has some serious questions on defense, and this team is still trying to build chemistry with four new starters, including a big transfer class that has not shown much of anything.
Senior guard Xavier Johnson is back after missing most of last season, but he is not enough to lead the Hoosiers past the National Champions. Back the Huskies to win BIG and lay the number.
Connecticut vs. Indian Prediction: UConn -13 (Live: )
Texas vs. Lousiville (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
New Look Longhorns
Despite head coach Chris Beard’s in-season firing, Texas was sensational throughout the 2022-23 season. They finished one game back of Kansas in the Big 12 standings, but they knocked off the Jayhawks in the Big 12 title game and made it to the Elite Eight.
This program has been trending upward for a few years, and last season really brought that to light. However, Texas is losing a lot of production from last season. With Marcus Carr, Sir’Jabari Rice, Christian Bishop, and Timmy Allen moving on, head coach Rodney Terry needed to hit the transfer portal and recruiting trail hard this offseason.
Luckily, he did just that, bringing in guards Max Abmas (Oral Roberts), Ithiel Horton (UCF), and Chendall Weaver (UT-Arlington). Texas also brought in transfer forwards Ze’Rik Onyema (UTEP) and Kadin Shedrick (Virginia).
A lot of fresh blood is entering this program, which may make things challenging to begin the year as they all learn to play with each other. The good thing is that Texas is kicking the snot out of teams, as they rank 18th in average margin of victory and in the top 30 in most offensive and defensive categories.
While they do not take a lot of shots per game, they shoot 54% from the field and 45.7% from deep. They may be due for some regression on both ends of the court, but as of now, the new-look Texas Longhorns have shown up to play.
Kenny Payne Era Enters Year 2
It is shocking to remember just how bad Louisville was last season. They finished with only four wins and were dreadful to watch. Head coach Kenny Payne inherited a lousy team in a bad spot, so this is not all on him. However, this season is not off to a great start.
The Cardinals are 2-1, with a 10-point loss to Chattanooga and a one-point opening night victory over UMBC. Offensively, there is not a lot of shot-making; they are relying on a massive transfer class that is just not that good.
It will take some time before Lousiville is back in the national spotlight. This is not going to be a good team, but they landed some talented freshmen, including top-30 recruit Dennis Evans and a few guards in Ty-Laur Johnson and Curtis Williams, who have played 10+ minutes a night.
There is no doubt that this is an improved roster, but if the first three games of the season have taught us anything, they are still trying to figure out how to play with each other. That will be a problem against Texas, a team in a similar situation but is playing terrific basketball.
Texas vs. Louisville Prediction: Back the Longhorns
Texas will eventually be up for regression, but this is not the sport for that. The Cardinals have not been good on either side of the ball, especially the defense, which is getting torched from three.
While the Longhorns are still waiting for senior forward Dylan Disu to return from a foot injury, his absence will not matter much in this game. Louisville does not have a reliable offense, and if Texas continues to shoot the ball very efficiently, the Longhorns should win this game comfortably.
These early-season tournaments always bring some competitive basketball, but the Empire Classic features two first-round matchups that are total mismatches. Like the first game, we will lay the big number and take the Longhorns to cover.
Texas vs. Louisville Prediction: Texas -17 (Live: )