Both teams are coming off losses in their last game with Kentucky falling to Tennessee on Tuesday night, while Kansas went on the road to West Virginia and fell 85-69 to a Mountaineers team that could contend for a Final Four spot.
The Jayhawks will likely drop out of their top spot due to the loss, but are still a very dangerous team coming into Rupp Arena, bringing in an offense averaging 84.6 points per game (14th best in the country) and 17.5 assists (12th in the country). The Jayhawks’ offense is fifth best in the country in terms of KenPom offensive efficiency, and rank sixth in three-point percentage at 41.8 percent.
The Jayhawks boast four double-digit scorers that can be effective in different ways. Senior point guard Frank Mason III leads the team in scoring at 19.9 ppg while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor and 52.8 percent from three. Mason shares the backcourt with junior Devonte Graham, averaging 13.7 ppg while shooting 47-percent from the floor and 39.2 percent from three.
Freshman Josh Jackson has had a major impact on the Jayhawks this season, doing a little bit of everything. Jackson averages 15.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.6 steals while shooting 49 percent from the floor. Kentucky could have problems defending Jackson. That will be a key point to watch.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk averages 10.8 points per game for the Jayhawks and is another outside shooting weapon at 42.3 percent from behind the arc. You may remember him from his game-winner against Kansas State earlier this season (which was also a travel).
While Kansas will be a tough matchup, they are not without weakness. Their defensive efficiency is ranked 49th in KenPom, which suggests that with both teams having top five offenses and defenses that have struggled at times this year, this could turn into a shootout.
The Jayhawks have also struggled stopping teams in the paint and stopping opposing big men. Texas’ Jarrett Allen recently had 22 points and 19 rebounds against the Jayhawks, Georgia’s Yante Maten had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Indiana’s Thomas Bryant had 19 points and 10 rebounds, so this should be a game where Kentucky looks to get the ball to Bam Adebayo early and often. This could be a game where he shines bright.
Kentucky will certainly need to play much better than they did Tuesday to beat the Jayhawks, but this should be a good non-conference matchup for the Wildcats with a chance to put a major win on their resume when vying for a one seed in March.
Here’s everything you’ll need to watch and follow this epic matchup.
Kansas Jayhawks (18-2, 7-1 in Big 12) at Kentucky Wildcats (17-3, 7-1 in SEC)
When: Jan. 28, 2017
Location: Rupp Arena
Game Time: 6:15 p.m. ET
Announcers: Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and reporter Maria Taylor will have the call.
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt (info and affiliates)
Odds: UK opened as a 5-point favorite, and the line has since risen to 6.5. KenPom projected UK to be a 7.5-point favorite.
Prediction: KenPom projects UK to win 90-83 and gives the Wildcats a 75-percent chance of winning.