First Scouting Report: Can Kentucky prevail in blue-blood battle at Kansas?

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Bill Haber/AP
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An early look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next men’s basketball game:

The opponent

No. 12 Kentucky (16-4, 6-2 SEC) will face No. 5 Kansas (17-2, 6-1 Big 12) on Saturday, Jan. 29, at Allen Fieldhouse (capacity 16,300) in Lawrence.

The Big 12/SEC Challenge game will tip off at 6 p.m. (EST) and be telecast by ESPN.

Coach Bill Self’s Jayhawks defeated Big 12 foe Texas Tech 94-91 in double overtime Monday night behind 37 points from star Ochai Agbaji.

Series history

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Kansas 23-10 but the Jayhawks have won four of the past five meetings.

Most recent meeting

Jalen Wilson had a double-double, 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Ochai Agbaji added 17 points, five rebounds and three assists as No. 7 Kansas erased a 35-29 halftime deficit and beat No. 20 Kentucky 65-62 in the Champions Classic on Dec. 1, 2020, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Power rankings

Through Monday’s games, the NCAA’s NET Rankings had Kentucky No. 9 and Kansas No. 7.

The Kenpom Rankings rated UK No. 6 and Kansas No. 9.

Kentucky stood No. 10 in the Sagarin Ratings with Kansas No. 4.

Know your foe

1. Senior wing Ochai Agbaji is the Kansas star. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound product of Kansas City, Agbaji is averaging 21.5 points and five rebounds. Christian Braun, a 6-7, 218-pound junior from Burlington, Kan., is the Jayhawks’ other double-figure scorer at 15.3 points.

Jalen Wilson, the 6-8, 225-pound redshirt sophomore, who hurt Kentucky badly (see above) in last season’s Champions Classic, is averaging 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. Big man David McCormack, a 6-10, 250-pound senior, averages nine points and 6.7 rebounds.

Arizona State graduate transfer Remy Martin (8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists) was expected to run the show for the Jayhawks this season. However, redshirt sophomore Dajuan Harris (5.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists) is the team’s top distributor.

2. The coaching careers of KU’s Bill Self and UK’s John Calipari have long been intertwined.

They have, of course, been the head coaching matchup in two NCAA championship games.

In 2008, Self’s Jayhawks rallied from nine down in the final two minutes to force overtime on Mario Chalmers’ famous jumper with 2.1 seconds left in regulation and beat Calipari’s Memphis squad 75-68 in overtime.

Four years later, Doron Lamb scored 22 points and Anthony Davis added six points, 16 rebounds, five assists and six blocked shots as Calipari, now at Kentucky, defeated Self and Kansas 67-59 to claim the 2012 NCAA title.

Overall, Self is 7-4 against Kentucky as Kansas head coach and 7-5 overall.

Calipari is 4-4 vs. Kansas as UK head man.

3. After entering the 2021-22 season with a four-victory edge, Kentucky will travel to Kansas with a three-win lead in the race to be the men’s college basketball all-time wins leader.

With UK’s victory over Mississippi State added in, the Wildcats have 2,343 all-time wins compared to 2,340 for the Jayhawks.

So regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Kentucky will leave Lawrence as the all-time wins leader.

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