An unusual break in the conference action gives the television audience a chance to enjoy the SEC – Big 12 challenge. For the first time, all the games are on one day. At 7PM, national power Kentucky goes west to visit Kansas for some prime time wagering. The home team has a higher ranking at #4 and is a five point favorite. However, the Wildcats are better than their current #20 spot with a key lineup change bolstering their efforts. So sit back and enjoy this preview of two tournament teams on 1/30.
Derek Willis was the Key
Lethargy had set into the line up for Kentucky (16-4) as their front court play was especially lacking. Suspecting that a change could shake things up, the coaching staff inserted Derek Willis into the starting lineup. What has been improved is the collective team effort. Such is the quality of their defensive effort that recent teams are not even scoring a point a minute. Jamal Murray plays a vital role while leading them in scoring. He hits a ton of threes and loosens up the frontcourt coverage for his team mates. Can they translate their new found defensive intensity to a non conference venue?
Capable of Getting Up for This?
If this game does not prompt a good effort from the Jayhawks then nothing will! Kansas has lost two of their last three as the Big 12 is proving to be less friendly than usual for Kansas. Not only that but the recent memory of a demolition at the hands of Kentucky is going to be replayed by the locals up until game time. 72-40 was more than just humbling, it was a punch to the face that they have to answer. Talent wise, this Jayhawk team can keep up with Kentucky. Also their prowess at home is superb as they have lost less than ten home games in total under Bill Self. So this will be the gutcheck that will define whether Kansas is elite or not this season.
A five point spread is that limbo for back door covers. This Wildcat team has regained their scrappy defense. With the mental strength of the Jayhawks recently called in question, the underdog on the road has value. We would like more than +5 and anticipate it jumping up over six. Our Free Pick of the Day is to wait for the line release and pounce if Kentucky gets up to +6. Good fortune in this and we will see you next time here at the HRW.