College Basketball Game of the Week: Kentucky vs. Kansas
It might be time for Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team to officially enter panic mode.
Once 16-1 and ranked No. 2 in the country, Kansas has dropped its last three games in surprising fashion, and will continue to fall in the rankings when they’re released on Monday.
After a one-point nail biting loss to Kansas State on January 17, Kansas returned home last Saturday against TCU in which the Jayhawks suffered their second-largest home loss under Self.
When it was all said and done, the Horned Frogs departed Lawrence after a triumphant 83-60 blowout win over the defending national champions.
Kansas knew the strength of its schedule ahead, but struggled to find a spark in the 75-69 loss at No. 17 Baylor on Monday night.
Another opportunity presents itself this Saturday as the Jayhawks will visit Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center for a matchup against John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
It’s been an up and down season for Kentucky, losing to schools like Michigan State, Gonzaga, and UCLA. However, the Wildcats were able to secure wins over Michigan, LSU, and Tenneseee.
Currently fifth in the SEC, Kentucky still has hope for the remainder of the season, and could heavily improve its odds at earning an NCAA Tournament bid with a win this weekend.
Kentucky is currently riding a four-game winning streak that started with the 63-56 victory at Tennessee. For the Wildcats, they have Kansas right where they want them.
For Kansas, this is a must win game. The Jayhawks must find a way to end their losing streak before their anticipated rematch against Kansas State next Tuesday.
Jalen Wilson remains atop the Big 12 in points per game with 21.4, and is second behind Moussa Cisse in rebounds with 8.6 per game.
Wilson has been able to carry his own weight, mustering 30 points in the loss to TCU and 23 in the loss to Baylor.
The Jayhawks’ problem is their bench, as freshman guard MJ Rice was the only player from the bench to get a bucket in that same game against Baylor.
In the TCU game, Kansas’ bench only combined for eight points, not that it would have mattered anyway.
Kansas can’t rely on Jalen Wilson, Gradey Dick, and Kevin McCullar Jr. to get out of this slump. The contributions need to come from the bench if Kansas wants any shot at salvaging its brutal January schedule.
If Kentucky wants to keep Kansas in the gutter, senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe is going to have one of the best games of his career.
The Kentucky big man is fourth in the SEC in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game, but leads the conference in field goal percentage (58.7%) and rebounds per game (13.9).
The Wildcats have a lot of balance, as four starters reached double-digit points in Kentucky’s victory at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Tshiebwe and junior forward Jacob Toppin finished that contest in double figures.
Kentucky, as a team, averages 75.7 points per game compared to Kansas’ 75.9.
Kentucky can really pad its resumé before the tournament season arrives, and there’s no better opportunity to take down the struggling national champions in this high-leverage Big 12-SEC matchup.
Tip off for Kansas-Kentucky is set for this Saturday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Connor Fenix is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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