Kansas Jayhawks (16-3) at Kentucky Wildcats (15-3)
- Event: 2019 SEC - Big 12 Challenge
- Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky
- Game Time: 6 pm EST on January 26, 2019
- TV Channel: The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
- Announcers: Jay Bilas, Dan Shulman and Maria Taylor will call the action.
- Online Stream: You can stream the game online or on a mobile device using WatchESPN, the Watch ESPN app and fuboTV.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington or online at UKAthletics.com.
- Replay: Check local listings on the SEC Network and WatchESPN.
- Rosters: UK | KU
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a five-point favorite, and it has since moved to 6. They have covered the spread in three straight games after failing to do so in the previous three. It also just so happens that three is the longest streak Kentucky has had covering the spread this season. Kansas has failed to cover in three-straight games after covering in the previous two. KenPom projected Kentucky to be a 3.5-point favorite. Check out the betting trends and more analysis of the game.
- Predictions: Kentucky has a 68.6% chance to win, according to ESPN’s matchup predictor. KenPom gives the Cats a 65% chance of winning and projects a 73-69 win for the home team. TeamRankings projects a 75-69 Kentucky win, while numberFire went with a 77-73 win for the Cats. Check out our own picks for the game.
While we wait for the game, get hyped up for the big matchup with the latest work from Kentucky Wildcats TV:
The wait is finally over for a game that fans have had circled on their calendars for quite some time.
The Kansas Jayhawks are coming to Rupp Arena on Saturday for a blockbuster matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats that features two top-10 teams. To make the game even more intriguing, the ESPN crew will be on-hand as a part of College GameDay.
This will be the 17th time that the University of Kentucky will play host to College Gameday. The event starts at 11:00 am on Saturday, but the Rupp Arena doors will open at 9:00 am for any fans that want to be a part of the action.
Admission is free, and if it is anything like years past, expect a rowdy crowd that fills a large portion of Rupp. The students section has been somewhat of a let down this season, but hopefully they will rally and represent the BBN well. Saturday has all the ingredients to be one special day.
On the heels of two impressive wins, the Cats now have an opportunity to make a monumental statement by beating Kansas, who is another well respected blue blood program. Consecutive wins over Auburn, Mississippi State, and Kansas would be a tremendous addition to Kentucky’s NCAA tournament resume.
These types of quality wins are laying the framework for a potential placement in the Louisville Region of the NCAA tournament, which is obviously something that fans and players alike would be elated with. Kentucky is fortunate that this year’s Big 12/SEC challenge falls on a year where the Cats will have home-court advantage.
Kansas has been sputtering as of late. After a road loss to a bad West Virginia team, the Jayhawks narrowly slipped by Iowa State at home on Monday night. Meanwhile, UK seems to have firmly turned the corner and are starting to look like a legitimate national title contender.
If the Cats can take care of business at home on Saturday, it will put them in position to control their own destiny from here on out in terms of securing a top NCAA tournament seed.
Bill Self and John Calipari have a storied history of facing off against each other in big games, including the 2008 and 2012 national championship games. Both coaches have won their first and only national title while opposing the other.
Since his arrival to Lexington, John Calipari has an overall record of just 3-3 against Bill Self, losing the last three. Any time that Kentucky and Kansas meet, the stakes are always high, and Saturday will be no different.
I am sure that Coach Cal yearns to get back to his winning ways against Bill Self and Kansas, but this will also be a crucial resume game for both programs who are lobbying for a 1 or 2 seed.
4 Keys to the Game
Contain Dedric Lawson
Dedric Lawson is putting up some ridiculous numbers, including 29 points and 15 rebounds on Monday night. For the season, Lawson is averaging 19.5 points and nearly 11 rebounds. For a college player those stats are dominant. In watching college basketball this year,
Lawson is a game-changing player that can carry Kansas to victory against just about any college team. The redshirt junior and Memphis transfer has established himself as one of the top players in the country. At 6-9, he is making 74% of his free throws and shooting 53% from the floor.
Lawson had the best game of his Kansas career in a four-point win against Iowa State on Monday night. He scored 29 points on 13-17 from the field including 2-2 from deep.
PJ Washington, Reid Travis, and Nick Richards are all going to get their chance to slow down Dedric Lawson. Their success may just determine the outcome of this game.
Block out the noise
On Saturday, the players and coaches will be up against some extra distractions in preparation for a 6:00 pm tip-off. ESPN will be broadcasting live from Rupp Arena for a good portion of the day and John Calipari is sure to make an appearance. The players will likely be keeping their eye on the show and may even participate in some fashion.
Lexington is going to be a circus tomorrow so it’s important for Kentucky to block out any outside influences and keep the focus on executing. Over the past few weeks, the Cats have had difficulties starting games. Getting off to a poor start on Saturday will immediately take some air out of what should be an incredible crowd.
I would expect no changes in the starting line-up and presume those guys will be ready to play when the ball is tipped off. In their last three games, Kansas has either been tied or trailed at halftime. Kentucky needs to keep that streak going and try to duplicate last week’s late first half run at Auburn. That stretch was ultimately what decided the game.
The Cats need to come out ready to take and give a punch.
Here is a look back at some of the past College Gameday’s in the Calipari era.
Take advantage in the paint
Despite coming in as a top-10 team with an All-American caliber big man, the Jayhawks are down some serious firepower. Sophomore Silvio De Sousa has been inactive all season with eligibility issues.
Last week, Kansas lobbied the NCAA for an immediate reinstatement, but it appears that De Sousa will not play Saturday, and his absence is a big blow to an already extremely talented frontcourt.
But even more impactful for the Jayhawks will be missing their starting center, Udoka Azubuike. A season-ending injury forced Azubuike off the court in early January. He was averaging over 13 points per game. In the 2017 Champions Classic, Azubuike racked up 13 points, two blocks and eight rebounds in a 65-61 win over the Wildcats.
As good as Dedric Lawson is, missing two guys of that caliber has undoubtedly been a major set back for Kansas. Currently, Kansas ranks 239th in defensive rebounding percentage 72.1%) and 311th in opponent offensive rebounds per game (10.1).
On the flip side, Kentucky has tremendous depth at in the frontcourt. Washington, Travis, Richards, and Montgomery will all have a chance to make their mark on this game by controlling the boards and attacking the paint early and often.
Protect the perimeter
Overall, Kansas isn’t the greatest three-point shooting team, but they do have on exceptional outsider shot-maker. Lagerald Vick has made 58 threes on 127 attempts, which is good for almost 46%.
We all know that players have a tendency to completely catch flame in Rupp Arena and have an unbelievable shooting night. This type of performance is really the only way I see Kentucky losing this game.
Finding not just Vick but others on defense is an important element. As a team, the Jayhawks are shooting about 36% from deep. It’s likely that the majority of the attempts are going to come from Lagerald Vick.
Another shooter to watch for is freshman guard Devon Dotson, who is shooting 41.7% from deep but only on 36 attempts.
Players to Watch:
At 19.5 points and 10.9 rebounds, it’s unrealistic to think that Kentucky can completely shut down Lawson. But they do have to contain him with defense by committee. This will be a good test for the big guys.
In two of Kansas’ three losses, Lawson was held under 16 points, as they really struggle to win when he’s not putting up 20+ points. He also averages 2.4 turnovers per game, so swarming him in the post could lead to some easy fast-break points off turnovers for the Cats.
Vick is scoring 15 points a game and shooting the ball quite efficiently on the season. It is a fact that Vick is going to be jacking up some shots on Saturday night. Kentucky needs to avoid giving him open looks and contest all jump shots.
Vick is, however, averaging a team-high 2.8 turnovers per game, and he’ll likely be matched up a lot with Ashton Hagans, one of the best defenders in college basketball. Vick may score 20+ points, but Hagans can force him into turnovers that lead to points the other way.
Dotson is a shifty guard that can set up easy baskets for himself and teammates. He, too, is averaging double figures in scoring with 10.9 points a game. He actually had his best game of the season in Game 1, a 16-point outing in a 92-87 win over a Michigan State team currently ranked No. 5 in the Coaches Poll.
One trend to note with Kansas is in their three losses, Dotson averaged 5.7 turnovers in those game. When Hagans isn’t guarding Vick, expect him to wreak havoc on Dotson.
While Garrett opened the season as a backup who wasn’t expected to contribute, he’s become a major factor for Kansas in recent weeks. The sophomore guard is averaging 17 points and four steals per game over the last four games. He won’t be the focus of Kentucky’s defense early on, but Kansas may need him to take on a bigger workload if Lawson and Vick are getting contained.