Matchups to watch in UK vs. Kansas

Tyler Ulis gives commands to his teammates just before a Mizzou free throw at the University of Kentucky vs. University of Missouri basketball game on Jan. 27 in Louisville. Photo by Cameron Sadler | Staff 

Anthony Crawford

The SEC/Big-12 Challenge kicks off this weekend and the headliner game for the event is a battle between the two winningest programs in college basketball, UK and Kansas. Last year’s contest turned into a historic blow-out for the Cats. Let’s take a look at the matchups you’ll see in this year’s game.

Tyler Ulis vs. Frank Mason III

Both of these point guards come in as undersized with Ulis being 5’9” and Mason being 5’11”, but the two are among the toughest player in the college basketball landscape this year. Ulis is the undeniable leader of this team and he is doing all he can to carry UK, averaging 15.5 points per game and 6.1 assists per game.

Mason comes in as the Jayhawks’ leading passer and third in scoring with 13.4 points and 4.8 assists. Most surprisingly though, the point gets to the free-throw line more than any other Kansas player and is third on the team in rebounds with 4.9 per game.


Isaiah Briscoe vs. Devonte’ Graham

Kansas is like UK in that it has multiple point guards in the starting lineup. Graham compliments Mason in the starting lineup as he provides some shooting to open up driving lanes for Mason and the other Jayhawks. Graham is second on the team in three-point makes and is shooting an impressive 42.7 percent from three.

Briscoe provides the exact opposite for the Cats. While not much of a shooter, Briscoe is UK’s most effective operator in the paint. The freshman has no problem driving in and finishing through contact, and his production has recently increased with head coach John Calipari stationing him along the baseline.

Jamal Murray vs. Wayne Selden Jr.

Both of these players come in pegged as shooters, and that what you can expect from them. Murray comes in only as a 37.9 percent three-point shooter, but after improving his shot selection over the past couple of weeks, he is leading the team, scoring with a lot more efficiency.

Selden comes in as the Jayhawks’ second leading scorer, and leads the team in three point makes. He is shooting over 40 percent from three and has shown he can be a solid playmaker too, averaging 2.7 assists per game.

Derek Willis vs. Perry Ellis

This matchup will definitely be one to watch as it pits two skilled forwards against each other. Both of these players have three-point range and aren’t scared to fight down low as both are top rebounders for their teams.

In his final year for the Jayhawks, Ellis is having an All-American caliber season, leading the team in points and rebounds with 16.7 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. The senior has come up big for the team in big games, putting up 21 points against Michigan State and 26 points against Oklahoma.

Derek Willis hasn’t garnered much attention in his college career until his recent play in the last couple of games. Once inserted in the starting lineup, he has been a difference-maker for the Cats. His most recent performance Wednesday against Missouri saw him put up a career-high 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds.

 Alex Poythress vs. Landen Lucas

The final spot in the starting lineup has been inconsistent for both teams. For Kansas, head coach Bill Self has played with the starting lineup a lot over the season, starting four different big men in Lucas, Cheick Diallo, Jamari Traylor, and Hunter Mickelson. Lucas is the most recent experimental starter and is averaging four points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game on the season.

For UK, Poythress’ up and down play has been a problem since his freshman year. The senior has shown stretches of dominance this year with his biggest performance being on the road against Alabama when he put up 25 points and seven rebounds.