UK/Kansas set for College Game Day stage


Freshman guard Tyler Herro chases after a loose ball. University of Kentucky men’s basketball team defeated Mississippi State 76-55 at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Alex Weber

For the 8th time in its storied history, the College Game Day crew (Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, Jay Williams, and Reece Davis) will visit the Bluegrass State. The occasion? The no. 8 ranked Kentucky Wildcats’ men’s basketball team clashes against the 9th ranked Kansas Jayhawks. The top-two winningest programs in college basketball history are set to meet for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, and respective coaches John Calipari and Bill Self are sure to have their legions ready for a battle in Lexington, Kentucky. 

The visiting Jayhawks came into the year as the preseason number one team in the AP Poll. 16 wins and three losses later–actually four losses if you count starting center Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending injury—the Kansas team is very different than they were entering their 2018-2019 campaign. The Jayhawks are coming off a loss at West Virginia (9-10) and a bounce-back home victory Tuesday against Iowa State (14-5). 

Kansas is expected to come out firing on all cylinders, like seemingly all of the Cats’ foes have so far this season. Leading scorers Lagerald Vick (15.0) and Dedric Lawson (19.5) are the focal points of a potent Jayhawk offense. Senior Vick is prone to erratic 30+ point scoring outbursts–largely built off hot streaks from behind the arc. 

On the Kentucky side of things, Calipari’s side is rounding into form. Since their slight setback on the road vs. Alabama, the Cats reeled off five consecutive victories, which could be largely credited to their improved defense. Freshman defensive terror Ashton Hagans has taken on the lead guard role in the last month and averages a pesky 3.3 steals per game in conference play. Additionally, Kentucky is surrendering just 61 points per contest in conference. 

In terms of offense, Kentucky has stabilized recently. Wisconsin native and freshman Tyler Herro has caught fire lately, starting wing Keldon Johnson is one of the more versatile scorers in the country, and PJ Washington has re-found the rim-attacking attitude that made him a five-star prospect coming out of high school.

Following three straight losses to Kansas (UK still leads the overall series 22-9), Kentucky looks to gain back to its customary beating of the Jayhawks. Rupp’s gates open at 9 a.m. for the morning Game Day live broadcast, and the main event tips off at 6 p.m. on ESPN.