NCAA Basketball Preview: Kentucky Wildcats at Kansas Jayhawks 1/30
It is so infrequent that the Kansas Jayhawks would step out for a non-conference game during the Big 12 season that this is the first time they have done it in over ten years. But it is understandably a very special occasion, as they meet up with the one program that can approach it in terms of long-term prestige in the college basketball ranks – the Kentucky Wildcats. While Kansas has remained toward the top of the rankings, it risks slipping after losing three of its last five games, while Kentucky, even after three straight victories, is not far from tumbling out of the national rankings entirely. This freshman class has not been as good to coach John Calipari as he had hoped, but his team might be gaining some momentum as the season progresses. This game will get underway at 7 PM ET at the Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, and even after the opening tip, BetAnySports customers can watch the game live on ESPN and please wagers on it in progress, using real-time odds as they tackle the NCAA basketball odds with the state-of-the-art software available through Live Betting Extra.
Kansas, which is 16-4 straight-up and 9-8 against the points, is rated third in the country in the coaches’ poll and 4th by the Associated Press. Kentucky has an identical 16-4 record, and they are on the negative side against the number (9-11 ATS). This Final Four participant (which was undefeated to that point) from last year is #19 with the coaches and #20 with the Associated Press poll.
Kansas averages 88 points per game at home, and to say they have been a “tough out” on their home floor would be a vast understatement. They have won 37 straight times in Lawrence, and coach Bill Self has a 200-9 career record with the Jayhawks at this venue. No coach or team has beaten him more than once there.
Perry Ellis, the 6-foot-8 senior power forward, is Kansas’ leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, whilst freshman Jamal Murray paces the Wildcats with 17.5 points per contest.
In the NCAA basketball odds posted on this game by the people at BetAnySports, Kansas is laying points at home:
Kansas Jayhawks -4.5
Kentucky Wildcats +4.5
Over 146.5 points -110
Under 146.5 points -110
The general consensus is that Kentucky has the higher level of talent, and that would be even more pronounced if Skal Labissiere, the blue-chip recruit who was expected by some to be an All-American this year, would have performed up to expectations. But he is averaging only 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. He will indeed be valuable to some extent off the bench, because he blocks 1.7 shots per game, but he has lost a lot of minutes in the rotation to Derek Willis, who has been a revelation as a junior. Willis has been a real spark plug in Kentucky’s three consecutive victories, as he has been the leading rebounder in each of those games. He was not even a starter at the season’s outset, and played only 114 minutes over his first two years in blue.
Kansas doesn’t start a freshman, but they have tw pretty good one ssitting on the bench, ready to provide size and some occasional brilliance. Carlton Bragg and Chieck Diablo have not really been as good as advertised yet, but they have shown what kind of talent they have. And sooner or later, Bill Self, in getting this team ready for post-season play, is going to have to put these guys into pressurized situations more often.
There will be some anger on the Jayhawks’ side here, which BetAnySports patrons should know. Last year they had their clock cleaned by the Wildcats, who came away with a 72-40 victory in the Champions Classic. Kansas was so handcuffed in that game that they may just 11 out of their 56 shots from the field, which has been unheard of during Self’s reign. Needless to say, they will come out with payback on their minds, but Self has been public in saying that he is looking for more emotion out of his leaders. With this be the proper occasion for it to come out?
Kentucky is playing as well as it has all season. Following an inexplicable 75-70 loss to Auburn, they have taken three straight games by an average of 22.3 points, and one of the guys providing a major impetus for that is sophomore Tyler Ulis, a 5-foot-9 point guard who, John Calipari said, was this team’s best player as SEC conference action got underway.
You’ve got to wonder whether Kansas may have peaked after beating Oklahoma in an triple-overtime thriller, as they have failed to reach their 84-point average in any of their last six games, and have been unsuccessful in beating the pointspread in any of their last five.
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