(20) Kentucky Wildcats at (4) Kansas Jayhawks
A marquee interconference matchup is on tap today as John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats (16-4, 6-2 SEC) visit Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) at Allen Fieldhouse (7:00 PM Eastern).
Both teams have lost four games on the year, but the Jayhawks’ setbacks have been more understandable, including tough road games at Iowa State and West Virginia. Kentucky owns quality wins over Duke and Louisville, but has also lost to mediocre squads like Auburn, LSU, Ohio State, and UCLA.
The Jayhawks were one-point road dogs at Iowa State last time out and looked good early, racing to a 17-9 lead and taking a 43-36 lead into half. But it was all Cyclones in the second frame; the Kansas defense crumpled and Iowa State scored 49 second-half points to emerge with a convincing 85-72 victory.
“We haven’t played with a lot of poise away from home,” Self said to the Associated Press after the loss. “The things you have to do away from home, I don’t think we’re very good at doing them yet.”
The setback was the second in three games for the Jayhawks, who are now a game back of three teams in the Big 12 standings (Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Baylor).
Kentucky are also a game back (of Texas A&M) in their own conference race, but Calipari’s young squad may be on an upswing. They’ve won their last three – all by double-digits – and five of six.
The team has gotten strong guard play all season and that continued on Thursday in a 88-54 win over Missouri; Tyler Ulis had a team-high 20 points and eight assists while his backcourt mate and leading-scorer Jamal Murray added 11 points and nine boards.
Neither program has been great against the spread this year. The Wildcats are 3-4 ATS on the road; the Jayhawks are 4-4 ATS at home.
Kentucky may be starting to piece things together, but Kansas is a different beast at the Phog. (They’ve yet to lose straight-up on their home court this season.) With veterans Perry Ellis (16.7 PPG), Wayne Selden Jr (14.6 PPG), and Frank Mason III (13.4 PPG) leading the charge, look for the Jayhawks to hand Kentucky another setback.
(Photo credit: Acdixon (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)