Kentucky will take on Kansas for the seventh year in a row in this game. Both teams are having great seasons and have been very impressive in conference play.
Kentucky has been climbing the rankings and now sits at No. 12. They are 6-2 in conference play, with their only losses coming against then No. 2 Auburn and then No. 21 LSU. The Wildcats have a great big man in Oscar Tshiebwe and great guards. However, they will be without guard TyTy Washington Jr.
Kansas has just been winning lately. They have won their last five games, but they have won by three points each in their previous three games. This is largely in part to guard Ochai Agbaji hitting clutch shots when it matters. Either way, Kansas is just showing that they will fight until the end and know how to pull out a victory.
Kansas beats Kentucky 76-72
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|John Calipari||Head Coach||Bill Self|
|16-4 (6-2, 2nd in SEC)||Standing||17-2 (6-1, 1st in Big 12)|
|Leader (Per Game)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (16.3)||PPG||Ochai Agbaji (21.3)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (15.1)||RPG||Jalen Wilson (6.8)|
|Sahvir Wheeler (6.9)||APG||Dajuan Harris Jr. (3.7)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (1.6)||SPG||Dajuan Harris Jr. (1.4)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (1.5)||BPG||Christian Braun (1.2)|
|Lance Ware (.750)||FG%||Mitch Lightfoot (.642)|
|Kellen Grady (.432)||3P%||Ochai Agbaji (.470)|
The Kentucky Wildcats will be facing an uphill battle against this Kansas squad. They are not a worse team, but they are missing one of their key players, guard TyTy Washington Jr. They can still win, but they will need to focus on two things: stopping Ochai Agbaji and hitting outside shots.
Guard Ochai Agbaji is having an excellent season but an even more excellent previous two games. Agbaji is averaging 33 points, seven rebounds, and 1.5 blocks over the last two games. He is extremely hot right now and must be priority #1 for the Kentucky defense. If Kentucky cannot slow Agbaji down, they will lose.
Forward Oscar Tshiebwe is having a fantastic season averaging 16.3 points and 15.2 rebounds. However, he will have a difficult matchup in Kansas forward David McCormack. I expect McCormack to slow down Tshiebwe a lot. Therefore, Kentucky needs to depend on their guards more. Kentucky’s guards need to find open outside shots and hit them. It is imperative that Kentucky scores away from the rim.
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The Jayhawks are the better team in this matchup. They also have the advantage of playing at home in the very loud Allen Fieldhouse. However, they need to outrebound Kentucky and create turnovers if they want to secure the victory.
Kentucky is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, with their 41.7 rebounds per game. This is mainly because of Oscar Tshiebwe. Tshiebwe leads the nation with 15.2 rebounds per game. Kansas big men have to box him out and not let him grab 15 rebounds. If they do, they will limit Kentucky’s scoring chances and increase their scoring chances.
Kansas and Kentucky create almost the same amount of turnovers each game. They also turn the ball over almost the same amount of times each game. The winner of this game will likely be the team with fewer turnovers. That is why Kansas needs to look to cut off passing lanes and to steal the ball as much as they can. Kentucky has an explosive offense that averages over 80 points per game, and Kansas cannot allow them the opportunity to get hot.
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I usually would not pick guard Kellen Grady as the Wildcats key player. Grady is a good player who averages 12.1 points and one steal a game, but he is not as impactful as guard TyTy Washington Jr. Washington Jr. will miss this game with an injury, so a lot more of the offensive burden falls on Kellen Grady.
Grady is an efficient shooter who hits 46.7% of his free-throw attempts and 43.2% of his three-point attempts. However, he will need to find ways to get open and knock down open shots. If he cannot hit his shots, Kentucky will fall in a hole.
This was an easy choice. Jayhawks guard Ochai Agbaji is having an outstanding season and is on the Wooden Award Watch list. Agbaji is averaging 21.3 points and five rebounds per game and is shooting very well.
Agbaji is coming off a 37-point game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He willed the Jayhawks to victory in that double-overtime battle. Not only is Agbaji an incredible player, but he is also very clutch. His instructions for this game are straightforward: keep playing your game and keep being clutch.
The Wildcats cannot expect to stop him, but they do need to stop him from hitting clutch shots.
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|No. 12 Kentucky vs No. 5 Kansas Information|
|What||No. 12 Kentucky vs No. 5 Kansas|
|Where||Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas|
|When||Saturday, January 29, 6:00 PM EST|
|How to Watch||ESPN|
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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