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Kentucky Preview

Kentucky Bluegrass Showcase Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Jayhawks travel to Indianapolis (crisscrossing the country in a pandemic is totally fine guys) to take on Kentucky, who is looking to bounce back after a season opening loss at home to Richmond. Their best medicine might be another young team, although KU’s confidence is probably sky high right now after what they did to St. Joe’s over the weekend.

Kentucky’s offense was mostly non-existent in their recent game. The Wildcats turned it over on about a quarter of their possessions and didn’t make a three against Richmond. They also really struggled just to get into their offense against the Spiders. Still, being Kentucky, they do some things that will make Kansas uncomfortable.

For starters, they’re the tallest team in the country, and they’re loaded with athletes. Will Kansas play big and try to match up on the glass, or will they go with what I think is their best lineup and stay with Jalen Wilson at the 5 and use the mismatches he creates at the other end to hopefully get an advantage overall?

Going with Wilson will definitely hurt Kansas on the glass. The Wildcats have rebounded a ridiculous 45 percent of their misses over their first two games, and figure to grab a lot of them tonight as well. With their unwillingness and inability to shoot it from outside, I can see the argument that trying to play as big of a lineup as possible could be useful for the Jayhawks defensively, but it’s tough to see that working out on the other end.

This could eventually develop into Calipari’s best defensive team at Kentucky yet. As I said, they’re loaded with athletes as well as size, and even though they did not play great against Richmond (the Spiders scored fewer than one point per possession, but shot 52 percent from two), it’s easy to see the potential. They’ve also blocked quite a few shots, and with Kansas being a relatively below-the-rim team thus far this season, it’s easy to envision a couple posters tonight.

Players to Watch

Olivier Sarr, 7-foot senior center

Sarr is a horrible matchup for McCormack - he’s a big center who also has the footspeed to get by his man on the perimeter. He was great for Wake Forest last season and although he’s struggled a bit so far for Kentucky, it’s not hard to see him having a 20-and-10 type of night against the Jayhawks. Last season he ranked 2nd in the ACC in defensive rebounding and shot 53 percent from two.

Brandon Boston, 6-7 freshman wing

Boston looks like he could go as high as 2nd in the NBA draft this year, and he’s shown some of why that is so far. He’s shooting 55 percent inside the arc and although he hasn’t made a three yet, he doesn’t look to be a bad shooter by any means. He’s a smooth athlete who handles the ball well and will be a matchup nightmare.

Isaiah Jackson, 6-10 freshman forward

Jackson is the best rebounder for the Wildcats (thus far anyway) and has been a dynamo of a rim protector as well. With McCormack’s struggles, it may be best to either avoid Jackson altogether or use Wilson as a 5 to draw him out of the paint as much as possible and have the other perimeter players utilize those driving lanes.

The Pick

I like taking the points when two teams are relatively evenly matched. With the line currently at Kansas favored by 4.5, I am going to take Kentucky to cover. I think these are two teams who haven’t really gotten it going yet, both of whom will improve a lot over the course of the season.

But, Kentucky’s size and speed advantage gives them a bit of a leg up in these early season matchups. I just think Bill Self is going to give McCormack too many minutes which is going to dig a bit of a hole they won’t be able to climb out of, similar to the Gonzaga game. I’ll take Kentucky to win a semi-low scoring slugfest, 74-70.

2020-21 record ATS: 1-1