Game 20: No. 9 Kansas at No. 8 Kentucky – Preview and Prediction

In what felt like an old-school Allen Fieldhouse game, Kansas got a huge Big 12 win against Iowa State. The Jayhawks sit tied atop the Big 12 with Kansas State at 5-2 in Big 12 play. Now, Kansas travels to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Kansas hasn’t been good on the road so far this year, and Kentucky has been perfect at home. This will be a tough test for the Jayhawks.

AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK (go to 72:00 mark of podcast for preview and picks)

Game Info and Notes:

  • Saturday, January 26th, 2019 at 5:00 PM CDT (College Gameday)
  • Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky
  • ESPN or WatchESPN App
  • This is the 32nd meeting all time between the two winningest programs in college basketball history. Kentucky leads the series 22-9, but Kansas has won the last three matchups, including one in Rupp Arena in 2016-17
  • Kansas has been featured on ESPN’s College Gameday 18 times before this game with a record of 13-5, but they are just 6-4 on the road.
  • The Jayhawks have gone 4-1 in the five year history of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, with their only loss coming in the first matchup of the challenge against Florida. Kansas is 2-0 against Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. As a conference, the Big 12 has gone 3-1-1.
About the Wildcats

The Wildcats are ranked ninth in the country with a record of 15-3, including 11-0 at home. Kentucky started their season by getting blitzed in the Champions classic by Duke. The Wildcats didn’t look very good in the early part of this season but seem to have found their form recently.

As usual, Kentucky is led by some very talented freshmen. This year, however, they have a Senior leader in forward Reid Travis. Travis transferred to UK from Stanford, and is averaging 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds. This is a pretty typical Kentucky team. They don’t shoot overly well from three, and they beat you in the paint.

Wildcats to Watch

Keldon Johnson – Freshmen, Guard, 6’6″

Johnson is averaging 14.6 points per game while shooting 38% from three, and he’s also averaging five rebounds. He’s an all-around excellent player that is sure to give KU trouble. Marcus Garrett will most likely be given the task of guarding him. Bill Self should have Garrett follow Johnson wherever he goes without switching off, because I don’t think anyone else is capable of guarding him for very long.

Reid Travis – Senior, Forward, 6’8″

Travis isn’t having the season that many thought he would have at Kentucky. When it was announced he was heading to play for Big Blue, I thought that it made the Wildcats the title favorite. He hasn’t played at quite the level I expected from a player of his caliber, but he’s still having a solid season as he averages 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds on the year. Travis may not be an offensive force but he’s no scrub either. He’ll certainly be a handful for Dedric Lawson to defend down low.

Prediction

Kentucky 75 – Kansas 71

I think this one is going to be classic, but I fear the Jayhawks come up just short. Dedric Lawson will have a good night but not quite enough to get KU over the hump. Lagerald Vick will have a good-not-great game but hit timely shots to keep Kansas close.

In the end, I think Kentucky just out-executes Kansas in the last two minutes to win this one. Kansas hasn’t been good on the road this season, and that will be a contributing factor as well. This feels like a game where Kansas plays really good basketball and ends up on the losing end, but we don’t feel like they got worse or have new concerns. I think they will be slightly outmatched in a hostile road environment.

Landen Fields

I’m a junior in high school. I’m also homeschooled, which gives me the ability to watch ESPN all day. I love the Jayhawks, and I love to write about them. I’m also a huge fan of Star Wars, Marvel, and action/sci-fi movies. I hope to have a career in sports media one day, and I am grateful for this first step into a larger world.