Location: Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia
Game time: Approximately 9:37 EST
TV Channel: The game will be aired on CBS immediately after the conclusion of Loyola-Chicago vs Nevada. If the Cats can advance past Kansas State, they will play the winner of the Ramblers and Wolf Pack in the Elite 8 for the chance to advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington.
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington. Go here for all radio listings.
Odds: Kentucky opened as a 4.5 favorite, and the line has gone as high as 6.5-points. It’s trending in the 5.5-point range as of Thursday evening.
Projected UK Starters:
- G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (14.4 PPG, 5.1 APG)
- G Hamidou Diallo (10.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG)
- F Kevin Knox (15.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
- F PJ Washington (10.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG)
- C Nick Richards (5.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG)
Projected K-State Starters:
- G Barry Brown (16.6 PPG, 3.5 APG)
- G Cartier Diarra (7.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG)
- F Makol Mawien (6.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG)
- F Dean Wade (16.7 PPG, 42.7 3PT) OR Kamau Stokes (9.7 PPG, 3.7 APG)
- F Xavier Sneed (10.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG)
Prediction: Kansas State has shown all season they’re a tough and gritty team. However, Kentucky has played in a much more competitive conference and is, on both paper and the court, a much more talented and better team.
Kentucky is young, but John Calipari has worked his magic before with his young talent. With Vanderbilt possibly making his return to the paint, it makes all the sense in the world for Kentucky to advance to the Elite 8.
Kentucky 71, Kansas State 60
Unlike Boise, Atlanta is not 1,954 miles from Lexington.
Instead, it’s a mere 380 miles. A fraction of the distance to the first round, along with a much bigger stage, will have Atlanta looking like “Catlanta” come Thursday night.
The Kentucky Wildcats, after bouncing both Davidson and Buffalo, will take on the Kansas State Wildcats in the Sweet 16.
Kentucky will enter the Sweet 16 coming off their most impressive win of the season. Despite facing early foul trouble, their second best player having a bad game, and their third best player sidelined, Kentucky blew the doors off Buffalo in the Round of 32.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has led the Wildcats to a 9-1 record over their last ten games and has seen his draft stock rise into the high lottery. With four possible games remaining, they’ll need him to be even more spectacular to achieve their goal of winning a championship.
Though (at times) it seems the young point guard can do it alone, he’ll need his supporting cast to step up and do their job.
It starts with Kevin Knox.
Knox is coming off one of his worst games of the season where he was constantly in foul trouble and sloppy on both ends of the floor. Against a tough defensive team like Kansas State, Kentucky will need him to get back on track on offense.
Jarred Vanderbilt, who has been sidelined the past two games with an ankle injury, could return to the floor Thursday night.
PJ Washington, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel have joined forces (and done well) inside to try and make up for Vanderbilt’s absence, but no one on this roster brings that kind of intensity on the glass. If he can return, Kentucky instantly gets better rebounding the ball and has another five fouls to give in the paint.
The shooting by Quade Green has slipped under the radar and been overshadowed by Gilgeous-Alexander’s heroics. It hasn’t blown away the box score but his shot-making has been timely in Kentucky finding their momentum.
This game, while I predict Kentucky will win, is certainly not all about Kentucky. Kansas State has stars of their own and one in-particular (just like Vanderbilt) could return Thursday night.
Kansas State’s leading scorer, Dean Wade, has been sidelined the last three games with a stress fracture in his foot. Getting him back will provide not only a major scoring threat but also an inside presence that could be a cause for concern for Kentucky.
Wade has only been held to less than 10 points four times this season and should be a focal point in Kansas State’s offensive game-plan.
Another scorer for the Wildcats is Barry Brown. Brown is leading the team in scoring thus far in the tournament. Brown and Gilgeous-Alexander will likely be matched together for most of Thursday’s game.