- Time: 6 pm ET on January 29th, 2022.
- Location: Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
- TV Channel: ESPN has today’s TV broadcast.
- Announcers: Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Holly Rowe are calling the action.
- Online Stream: WatchESPN, the ESPN App, or use a free trial of fuboTV.
- Listen: UK Sports Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt.
- Satellite Radio: Sirius 158 | XM 190 | SXM App 961
- Rosters: UK I KU
- Stats To Know: UK I KU
- Team Sheets: UK | KU
- Odds: DraftKings has Kansas favored by 5 points. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Jayhawks at 60.5% likely to win. KenPom gives them a 61% chance of winning, while Barttorvik gives them a 65% chance of victory.
- Predictions: KenPom projects an 80-77 win for Kansas, while Barttorvik went with an 81-77 win for the home team. TeamRankings projects a 79-73 win for the Jayhawks.
Kentucky and Kansas.— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 29, 2022
Saturday, the two all-time winningest programs in men's college basketball meet again. pic.twitter.com/CbBMkBv7KF
After grumblings this fall of a weak schedule, the Kentucky Wildcats are in the midst of two consecutive weeks with insanely challenging road trips.
When you consider the fact that UK was also scheduled to play Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic, it makes it much easier to back off the early-season criticism for a lackluster schedule.
As I agree that the home fans deserved a marquee matchup or two, I can’t fault John Calipari too much for the way he set things up now that we’re seeing the full picture heading into February.
This game will tip-off at 6:00 pm Saturday evening with ESPN set to handle the broadcasting duties.
ESPN’s College GameDay will be broadcast live at historic Allen Fieldhouse for this big matchup. The Wildcats are 8-11 all-time in GameDay appearances and 3-7 on the road, while the Jayhawks are 16-6 all-time and 8-1 at home.
As you probably already know, Kentucky and Kansas are in a tight race to be college basketball’s all-time winningest program. The Wildcats lead the wins race 2,343 to 2,340, so a win Saturday would go a long way in ensuring they keep this title for at least this season.
This is without a doubt the biggest regular-season game of the season for Calipari’s Wildcats.
Recent injuries have crippled UK in their quest for Quad 1 road wins at Auburn and LSU, which in return makes Saturday’s game crucial from a seeding standpoint.
The obvious place to start here is speculating on the health of freshman guard TyTy Washington, who went down with an ankle injury at Auburn last weekend.
We all saw Washington limp off the floor in an excruciating amount of pain. Many were surprised to hear of his “day-to-day” status after what seemed to be a more serious injury that could have held him out several weeks.
Oscar Tshiebwe alleviated a lot of the BBN’s collective anxiety by providing a very positive injury update Tuesday night after UK’s overtime win against Mississippi State.
“I’m pretty sure TyTy is going to be with us in Kansas, and we’re going to be ready,” Tshiebwe said.
If Washington is ready to roll at Kansas, it changes the entire dynamic of the game.
Sahvir Wheeler, Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz have done a decent job keeping things afloat without one of their primary ball-handlers not on the floor.
But adding Washington’s 13.6 points and 4.5 assists per game back to the mix was necessary for UK to tighten things up and prepare for postseason basketball.
Kellan Grady keeping his hot hand could be the difference just like we saw against Mississippi State. Despite not shooting a high percentage, the grad transfer from Davidson put on a show against MSU and saved the day for his team.
He dropped 18 points, but none were more important than the two 3-pointers he sank in overtime. Grady’s experience will go a long way matching up with the seasoned squad Bill Self puts on the floor.
What are the Cats up against on Saturday?
First off — they’ll be immersed in the wild environment that is Allen Fieldhouse. You can of course expect that ruckus atmosphere to be on another level with Kentucky coming in for the Big12/SEC challenge.
Secondly — Ochai Agbaji — one of the most lethal scorers in America.
I had the opportunity to see Agbaji pour in 29 points live inside Madison Square Garden against Michigan State during the Champions Classic.
I left the arena that night believing he was one of the best players in college basketball and a few months later I feel even more confident in that statement.
Agbaji has an incredible feel for the game and also possesses the clutch gene. His 47% from deep on the season is a mind-blowing stat and one that’ll bode well for him come June’s NBA Draft.
Slowing down Ochai Agbaji’s 21.3 points per game average has to be priority No. 1 for Kentucky as they aim to implement a game plan solid enough to pull off a road upset against a top-five team.
The Jayhawks boast an impressive 17- 2 record on the season with their only losses coming to Dayton and Texas Tech by slim margins. Kansas has managed to win some tight games so far in the month of January:
- January 11th — Kansas 62 Iowa State 61
- January 18th — Kansas 67 Oklahoma 64
- January 22nd — Kansas 78 Kansas State 75
I truly believe they’re one of the best teams in the country and one of a handful that can compete for a national title. It won’t just be Agbaji that the UK has to worry about.
Junior guard Christian Braun has taken major strides this year bolstering his average to over 15 points and just under six rebounds. The Burlington (KS) native can not only knock them down from outside, and he also can catch you by surprise and dunk on your head.
Braun has scored in double-figures every game this season but two. Similar to Agbaji, he’s a gamer who’s capable of feeding off the home crowd and having a monster game if Kentucky allows it.
You might be wondering who Oscar Tshiebwe will be dominating on the glass when the ball is tipped on Saturday. Their names are David McCormack and Jalen Wilson. Both average around seven boards per game to go along with nine points.
It’s a capable frontcourt to say the least. However, we all know that Oscar Tshiebwe eats capable frontcourts for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
McCormack is a familiar face with a big body. The senior forward has been around a while and played against some elite competition during his four years at Kansas.
All jokes aside — Oscar Tshiebwe absolutely has to bring it on Saturday when battling with the 6-10, 250-pound David McCormack.
Had Kentucky been able to squeak out a win against either LSU or Auburn, this game would have a much more casual feel to it. Going on the road and playing well against Kansas in January would normally be somewhat acceptable and looked at as a learning experience to toughen the team up prior to March Madness.
Not this year.
Injuries playing a role in tough losses won’t do much for Kentucky come Selection Sunday.
To put it simply, the Cats desperately need a statement win, and there’s a golden opportunity in front of them on Saturday night in Lawrence.