Kentucky vs. Kansas Preview

Story posted January 25, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Pasquale Tartaro

The Kentucky Wildcats are looking to extend their win streak against ranked opponents to four as they take on Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks in a battle of heavyweight blue bloods.

This SEC/Big 12 Challenge matchup will take place on Saturday, January 26, with tip off scheduled for 6 p.m. EST.

Both of these teams kicked off their highly anticipated seasons with blockbuster matchups at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. Kansas began the year with an impressive win over a superb Michigan State team. For John Calipari and Kentucky, however, they were decimated by Zion Williamson and company; Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils cruised to a 118-84 win in what was a blowout from start to finish.

But what has happened since then?

John Calipari's talented bunch has certainly responded from whatever speech he gave them following the embarrassing loss to Duke. Despite suffering two losses to unranked Seton Hall and Alabama, they have earned the No. 8 spot in the AP Top 25 with wins against three ranked opponents in North Carolina, Auburn and Mississippi State.

On the other hand, due to their losses and close games against unranked opponents, the Jayhawks have slid down the AP Top 25 to the No. 9 spot since beginning the year as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team. With that being said, the Jayhawks are still respected and formidable, given their victories over Tennessee, Villanova and Iowa State.

Let’s look ahead to the matchup this Saturday:

Led by national defensive player of the year candidate Ashton Hagans, Kentucky has evolved into an elite defensive team since the beginning of SEC play. However, they will have their hands full with Kansas’ Dedric Lawson, who is averaging a double-double with 19.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Neutralizing Lagerald Vick (15 PPG) and Devon Dotson (10.9) will also be key for the Wildcats if they want to contain a Bill Self team that is averaging 78.1 points per game.

On the other end, Kentucky will look to take advantage of Kansas in the post and on the offensive glass. With the loss of Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike for the year, expect PJ Washington and Reid Travis to both have big nights. If Keldon Johnson (14.6 PPG), Tyler Herro (13.7 PPG) and Hagans are able to continue their recent strong play, it could be a long night for Kansas.

Both teams are very similar in that they don’t shoot a lot of 3s. Instead, they look to attack the rim, especially in transition. Because of this, limiting turnovers and fast break opportunities for the opposition will prove to be an essential key to the game.

Kentucky is playing its best basketball of the season right now, and will carry that momentum over to this Saturday. Hagans will set the tone defensively, and Kentucky’s bigs will lead the way on the offensive end in what will be a close one in Lexington.

Prediction: Kentucky 70, Kansas 66

 


Pasquale Tartaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email pbt5097@psu.edu.