Kansas (18-2) at Kentucky (17-3)
When: Saturday, January 28th 2017
Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
Time: 6:15 ET | TV: ESPN
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The two winningest programs in NCAA history will meet Saturday night as the Kansas Jayhawks visit the Kentucky Wildcats as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Several Kansas players are listed as potential witnesses in a reported rape of a 16-year-old girl at the dormitory that houses the basketball team, so the Jayhawks have understandably been less then focused this week. Head coach Bill Self was quoted as saying, “It’s not a distraction, it’s a major distraction.” Kansas had their 18-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday with an 85-69 loss at No. 18 West Virginia and will have a date against No. 5 Baylor on Wednesday. Kansas handled the Mountaineers vaunted press, committing just 13 turnovers, but Kansas managed to shoot just 42% from the floor, 40% (6-of-15) from the line while forcing only eight turnovers and being outrebounded 39-32. Freshman Josh Jackson lead the team with a season high 22 points. Junior guard Devonte’ Graham (16.3 points, 52% FG, 4.8 assists over his last six games) continued his strong play with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, but a recurring cramping issue severely hindered him the last 10 minutes. Senior guard Frank Mason III (19.9 points, 5.2 assists) scored 15 points in the loss but was held to 6-of-16 shooting and did not get to the free-throw line for the first time all season. Kansas suspended sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (6.1 points, 4.8 rebounds) indefinitely on Thursday for a violation of team rules, but it is not related to the reported rape incident.
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The Wildcats are also coming off a loss – 82-80 at Tennessee on Tuesday despite 25 points from standout freshman Malik Monk. Forward Bam Adebayo scored 21 points and fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox, three nights after hurting his ankle in a victory over South Carolina, added 17 as the Wildcats had their six-game winning streak snapped. Kentucky shot 42% from the floor – snapping a streak of seven straight games of at least 50% shooting. Monk (21.9 points, 61 3-pointers), Fox (16.2 points, 5.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds) and Adebayo (13.5 points, 6.9 rebounds) are all likely headed to the NBA next season. Adebayo is shooting a remarkable 28-of-36 over his last seven games. Isaiah Briscoe, who averages 4.8 rebounds per game, pulled down a season-high 14 against the Volunteers. Kentucky leads the all-time series 22-7, but Kansas ended a Kentucky three-game series winning streak with a 90-84 overtime win last year behind 33 points by Wayne Selden Jr. The Wildcats will host Georgia next before a road trip to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators.
I think there’s just too many distractions on the Kansas team to keep up with this talented Kentucky squad. I can see this one getting out of hand in the second half.
Pick: Kentucky -7.5