Let’s enjoy a fun Creighton-Arizona final at the Maui Invitational

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It’s pretty nice to have the Maui Invitational back.

The tournament has happened each of the past two years, but one happened in North Carolina and the other was in Las Vegas. It wasn’t the same. The three days before Thanksgiving should include high-level college basketball in the familiar setting of the Lahaina Civic Center. It’s an underrated part of the sports calendar.

The event has returned this year and it hasn’t disappointed.

The final is set. It will be Creighton against Arizona. The Wildcats have opened as a small favorite, but the game seems to be a toss-up.

Creighton got to the final with a thrilling 90-87 win over Arkansas on Tuesday. It will end up being one of the better games of the season, a high-paced match with two strong teams. Creighton was an offseason darling after it finished well, brought most of the roster back and added key transfer Baylor Scheierman from South Dakota State. The Bluejays struggled in their opening-night win against St. Thomas but have looked good ever since. A Maui Invitational championship would stamp them as Final Four contenders this season.

Arizona had a great season in 2021-22 for new coach Tommy Lloyd but lost a lot of talent to the NBA. It hasn’t mattered yet. They’re 5-0 and in those games they’ve scored 117, 95, 104, 101 and 87 points. That’s a ton for a college team. The Wildcats beat a good San Diego State team 87-70 on Wednesday night. Arizona is legit again.

It sets up a really good championship match. The third-place game between Arkansas and San Diego State is pretty good too. Then there are other college basketball events, most notably the Battle 4 Atlantis that has Kansas (-8.5) vs. NC State, Wisconsin vs. Dayton (-1.5), USC vs. BYU (-1.5) and Tennessee (-6.5) vs. Butler.

Not a bad way to head into Thanksgiving.

Creighton Bluejays center Ryan Kalkbrenner (11) dunks against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second round of the Maui Invitational. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Here’s a first look at the sports betting slate for Wednesday:

World Cup continues

Hopefully you’ve been catching Yahoo Sportsbook’s Nick Bromberg’s betting previews of all the World Cup action and getting your bets in early. It has been weird to wake up to a settled wager, but at least most of the action is during waking hours.

The final two matches on Wednesday are Spain as a big favorite against Costa Rica (Spain is -650 on the three-way line), and an intriguing match between Belgium and Canada. Canada was very good in qualifying and they’re a +475 underdog. Belgium is -185 and the draw is +333. If you believe in Canada, you can bet Canada or draw at +145 at BetMGM. That doesn’t seem like a bad option.

Huge NHL and NBA cards

Both leagues will take Thanksgiving off so most of their teams are in action Wednesday. There are 12 NBA games and 15 NHL games.

In the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks at Boston Celtics stands out. The Celtics are off to a great 13-4 start but the Mavs have had their moments too, and watching Luka Doncic never fails. Boston is a 4.5-point favorite.

The marquee game in the NHL is either the red-hot Boston Bruins at the Florida Panthers (-115) or the Toronto Maple Leafs at the even hotter New Jersey Devils (-145). The Devils have won 13 games in a row, but the Leafs will be a tough test.

What’s the best bet?

I’ll take Creighton as a small underdog. I was skeptical of them coming into the season (as I am with any college basketball team that is expected to take a huge leap just because most of its roster is back), but they are as good as the offseason hype said they’d be. Arizona is good too and it should be a fantastic title game in Maui.

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