Kansas Jayhawks (16-3) vs Kentucky Wildcats (15-3)
NCAA Basketball: Saturday, January 25, 2019, 6:00 PM, Rupp Arena
Spread: Kentucky -6
FREE ESPN NCAA Basketball Picks Kansas Jayhawks vs Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky Wildcats. Kansas Jayhawks. Two of the most storied programs in the country. Two of the best teams in the country this season. 111 Conference Regular Season Titles. 47 Conference Tournament Titles. 32 Final Four Appearances. 11 NCAA Titles. This is one of the best rivalries in college basketball and the legend continues this Saturday as Kansas travels to Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.
Kansas has won three in a row against the Wildcats. That is really impressive, especially with a margin of victory of around five-points. The stats for the last 10 games played really don’t matter much since the last game in that list was in 1999. Thankfully coaches like John Calipari and Bill Self have orchestrated the Champions Classic and other powers at be have put together the Big12/SEC Challenge. I firmly believe that the sport needs UK, UNC, Kansas, and Duke playing each other often. It brings out the best in the sport.
The Kansas Jayhawks are led by big man Dedric Lawson and guard Lagerald Vick. Lawson is averaging 19.5PPG and 10.9RPG. He is the real deal and will challenge the Wildcats down low. Vick is putting up 15PPG and pulling down almost 4 rebounds a game. Vick can be very dangerous from behind the arc and puts in 45.7% of his shots from deep, 47.7% of his field goals overall. If he gets hot from deep, he could bury Kentucky early by himself. The Jayhawks are a much different team since losing Udoka Azubuike and it doesn’t look like they will be getting Silvio De Sousa back any time soon.
Kansas plays nine men and used to play 10 with Azubuike, but their bench is a big weakness. Outside of six guys, no one else averages over 5PPG (this is with Azubuike out). As a team, they are averaging 78.11PPG, on 48.1% shooting from the field, 35.6% from three, and 38.11RPG. Those averages are good enough for 59th, 32nd, 98th, and 60th in the nation respectively. Since losing Azubuike they have only averaged 72PPG and lost 2 of 6. The worst loss against West Virginia. KenPom has Kansas rated 12th overall with the 27th best offense and 10th best defense in the country. It will be interesting if that defense stays elite without Azubuike going forward.
The Kentucky Wildcats are on a five-game winning streak and the Duke game from the beginning of the season is all but a distant memory for this team. The Wildcats have had all kinds of leaders on the team emerge. Prior to conference play, Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson were the two best players on the team. Since the New Year, Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro have emerged as leaders on the team and maybe the best players the Cats have. Last game, PJ Washington played out of his mind and made three, threes. This squad is deep and can play with any team in the country.
On the season the Wildcats are led in scoring by their guards Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro. Johnson is averaging 14.6PPG, 5.1RPG and is shooting 38% from three. He is a player that can get really hot from deep at times but also thrives driving to the hoop. Herro is averaging 13.7PPG while pulling down 4.3RPG, dishing 2.2APG, and shooting 90.7% from the free throw line. After those two, Reid Travis and PJ Washington are both averaging over 12PPG and around 7RPG each. PJ Washington is hitting 41.2% of his threes this season.
The Wildcats are playing nine guys a game and they get some sort of offensive production out of almost all of them. As a team, they are averaging 80PPG, on 48.74% from the field, 35.7% from the three, and pull down 38.28RPG. Those marks are good enough for 37th, 20th, 95th, and 53rd in the nation respectively. KenPom has Kentucky rated 9th overall with the 21st best offense and 11th best defense. The Cats will look to prove those rankings against this very good Kansas team.
Cover the Spread 365 Betting Trends
ATS vs Conference (2-5)
ATS vs Conference (3-3)
FREE ESPN NCAA Basketball Prediction Kentucky Wildcats vs Kansas Jayhawks
This is going to be a huge battle. This battle of blue-bloods looks to be one of the best games of the season and will hopefully live up to that reputation. The spread in a neutral site game would probably be around two points. The home court advantage for Kentucky gives them the -5 spread and it will take defense and efficiency to do it. Kansas has really struggled with lesser teams since losing Udoka Azubuike and I’m not sure if that changes when the Jayhawks come to Rupp Arena. The only worry I have is what happens if Legerald Vick gets hot from deep? Can the Cats respond?
Well, in the last four games the Cats have held their opponents to just 25.5% from deep. That includes two games where the Cats opponents shot 15% or less (Georgia and Mississippi State). I’ll say what I said earlier this week in my Mississippi State/Kentucky preview…the Cats are on a hot streak and I don’t think that is going to end. Get this spread for -6 or better or don’t take it.