On Saturday night at the Rupp Arena, Kentucky and No. 9 Kansas against each other.
It will be the Bluebloods’ fourth clash in five seasons and the fifth and – for now – final meeting between the two in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The clash always has its place, but a few factors will come into play once the time comes for the tip this weekend in Lexington.
First off, the defending champion is looking for revenge after the Wildcats stormed into Phog Allen Fieldhouse last season and walked away with an 80-62 win. Former Cat Keion Brooks Jr. poured in 27 points while Oscar Tshiebwe added a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds to the win.
Kentucky leads the all-time series by 24-10 and owns an 8-2 record over KU in games played at the Rupp Arena. The Jayhawks have won three of five in the overall series, but a win feels a lot more important to coach Bill Self’s team now than it did a few weeks ago.
For only the fourth time, KU has lost three games in a row under Self’s leadership. On Monday night, the No. 17 Baylor Bears defended their home court in a 75-69 win in Waco. That loss for Kansas came just two days after one of their worst home losses of all time in the Self era, when the TCU Horned Frogs came to an 83-60 win in Lawrence. Previously, Kansas State had defeated its rival in an 83-82 overtime thriller at the Little Apple. Kansas had won 10 straight games before skidding.
Conference Play has proven to be a real grinder in the Big 12 and finally caught up with KU. Kentucky will now have an extremely rare opportunity Saturday night: it can give the Jayhawks their first four-game losing streak under Self with a win.
Forward Jalen Wilson and freshman sensation Gradey Dick, averaging 35.7 points and 14.3 rebounds per game together, will certainly pose a threat to Brits Chris Livingston and Jacob Toppin. There’s no classic KU big man under the basket for Self this season, though, so Oscar Tshiebwe will find things rather easy under the basket if the Cats’ offense manages to play appropriately.
Kansas ranked #2 in the AP poll this season, but is currently on a rapid descent down the rankings. A win over Kentucky can erase the tough week and a half and put the season’s upside back in sight.
Scroll to Next
The Wildcats will first take care of business Tuesday night when they travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at Memorial Gymnasium. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. EST and will air on the SEC Network.
Tip between Kentucky and Kansas this Saturday is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will air on ESPN.
Read more about Kentucky’s victory over the Texas A&M Aggies here.
The Cats fly it low in victory. More here.
WATCH: Calipari, Williams talk after Kentucky’s win
WATCH: Tshiebwe, Ware, Reeves speak after win
Winning game notes are here.
Want the latest on national soccer and basketball recruitment including Cats goals? go over to SI All-American for the latest news, blogs and updates on the nation’s best prospects.
Sports Illustrated also provides insight, information and breaking details for Player. Listen here.