Kansas Basketball: What to watch for against Kentucky

Jan 23, 2016; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Devonte
Jan 23, 2016; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Devonte /

The Kansas basketball team has a huge game against Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

The No.4 ranked Kansas Jayhawks welcome the No.20 ranked Kentucky Wildcats to Allen Fieldhouse tomorrow night as a part of the Big 12/SEC challenge. The Jayhawks are seeking revenge for the 74-40 beating they took from Kentucky last year during the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

The Wildcats hope to win their 4th game in a row overall and their 4th straight vs Kansas. The Jayhawks haven’t played well as of late, losing 3 of their last 5 games, however they should be confident going into this game as they will have their home crowd behind them.. The young and inexperienced Wildcats should be intimidated going into Allen Fieldhouse where the Jayhawks have won 34 games in a row.

Bill Self vs John Calipari

The Calipari led Wildcats and the Bill Self led Jayhawks don’t meet often. As head coach of the Wildcats, Calipari is 3-0 against Bill Self. One of those wins came in the national title game in 2012 when the Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks 67-59. The last time Bill Self defeated a Calipari led team was in 2008 when his Jayhawks defeated Calipari’s Memphis Tigers 75-68 in overtime. 

Bill Self spoke with members of the Kansas media to discuss the game vs Kentucky as well as his relationship with John Calipari. Self echoed his sentiment toward Calipari:” Cal and I are fine, very cordial and all that stuff. We haven’t broken bread together lately at dinner, but I don’t do that a lot with a lot of coaches. But I would welcome it.

Both Self and Calipari have a plan on how to approach this game. Of course they won’t share their whole game plan prior to the game. This is a different Kentucky team than the one which defeated Kansas in their last meeting.

Many of the current Jayhawks players played in their most recent loss vs Kentucky. John Calipari clearly stated that Bill Self won’t make things personal when he spoke with members of the Kentucky media:” I mean, look, I think Bill is not going to make anything personal because he knows if he does that your team can’t win the game when it becomes a personal thing.”

Battle of the guards

The Jayhawks and the Wildcats feature some of the best guard play in the nation. The Jayhawks are led by junior Frank Mason III (13.4 points per game), junior Wayne Selden Jr. (14.6 points per game), and sophomore Devonte’ Graham (10.5 points per game).

Junior sharpshooter Brannen Greene comes off the bench scoring 6.8 points per game and shooting 54 percent from three-point land. Sophomore Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk comes off the bench scoring 5.7 points per game. All together the Jayhawks guards account for 51 of the Jayhawks 84 points per game.

The Wildcats will match the Jayhawks with their trio of guards in freshman Jamal Murray, sophomore Tyler Ulis, and freshman Isaiah Briscoe. Murray leads the team in scoring (17.5), Ulis is second on the team in scoring (15.1) and he leads the team in assists (6.1). Freshman Isaiah Briscoe does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats as he scores 10.2 points per game, grabs 5.3 rebounds per game, and dishes out 3.2 assists per game. Briscoe does struggle at the free-throw line, shooting a team worst 39 percent.

Senior Leadership

If you’re not into quickness, flair, and pizzazz, you’ll surely enjoy leadership and effort. That’s exactly what we will get with the matchup of Jayhawks senior forward Perry Ellis against the Wildcats senior forward Alex Poythress. Ellis leads the Jayhawks in scoring (16.7) and rebounding (6.6). Poythress leads the Wildcats in rebounding (6.6) and is fourth on the team in scoring (9.7).

Perry Ellis has played for the Jayhawks for four years but it sure feels longer. Alex Poythress is the lone senior on the Wildcats team. When the game starts to get scrappy as the guards wear each other out, it will be up to the senior leaders to step up and set an example. Both Ellis and Poythress have the potential to take the game over. Neither Ellis or Poythress will shy away from the moment.

When it’s all said and done

Both the Jayhawks and the Wildcats will be ready for this game. The national spotlight is on once again and this game will not disappoint. I expect the Jayhawks to end their struggles and feed of the home crowd’s energy to get off to a fast start. The Wildcats will keep this game close for a while but the combination of Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr. will be too much for them late in the game. Kansas wins 75-68.