Kansas Jayhawks vs. Kentucky Wildcats Pick 1/26/19
Kansas Jayhawks (16-3 SU, 8-11 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (15-3 SU, 9-9 ATS)
When: Saturday, January 26, 2019 – 6 PM ET
Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
Point Spread: KU +6.5/UK -6.5 (Bovada Sportsbook)
Last Time Out: Kansas defeated Iowa State 80-76; Kentucky routed Mississippi State 76-55.
Scouting the Jayhawks:
Life after Udoka Azubuike has gone as well as can be expected for Kansas — as long as the Jayhawks are playing at Allen Fieldhouse. But when Kansas has ventured away from the Phog, things haven’t been particularly rosy. Kansas did manage to get a win at Baylor that looks a lot better now that the Bears have beaten Texas Tech at home, but besides that, the Jayhawks have been ripped at Iowa State and became West Virginia’s only victim in Big 12 play. Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick have done an admirable job carrying the load for the Jayhawks this year, but Kansas seems to be much more vulnerable than it’s been in a while this season.
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Scouting the Wildcats:
It’s rare for a Kentucky team to be overlooked, but that was precisely the situation the Wildcats found themselves in early this year. A slow start in the non-conference schedule and the performance of Tennessee and Auburn combined to create the impression that Kentucky was down this season, but the Wildcats have emerged as a legitimate SEC threat after winning its past five games. Kentucky isn’t as fast and flashy as it’s been in previous years, but the Wildcats are still very effective and average 80 points per game. However, Kentucky is much more than just offense, as it’s shown it can win tough defensive battles by holding Vanderbilt to 47 points and Mississippi State to 55 in victories.
Young guards. Kansas sophomore guard Marcus Garrett has been a big reason why the Jayhawks remain at the top of the Big 12, as he’s averaged 17 points a game in Kansas’ past three games after an average of just 7.7 points per game on the season. Kentucky counters with Ashton Hagans, who has become the Wildcats’ floor leader as a freshman. Both players are renowned for their defense over their offense, and it’s likely that they’ll draw the most important defensive assignments in this contest. Whichever player does the better job of affecting his opponent’s offensive attack will give his team a much better chance to leave with the victory.
Kansas will Cover if:
The Jayhawks can avoid foul trouble. Kansas has one of the most talented starting fives in the nation, but thanks to injuries and eligibility issues, the Jayhawks have very little available on their bench. Against Iowa State, four of Kansas’ five starters played at least 35 of 40 available minutes, and in a loss to West Virginia, Kansas starters played 165 out of a possible 200 minutes. If anyone in the starting five has to spend significant time on the bench, the Jayhawks become much easier to beat — and Kentucky has more than enough depth to take advantage of any weakness shown by the Jayhawks.
Kentucky will Cover if:
The Wildcats can exert superiority on the glass. Kentucky is an excellent rebounding team when it needs to be, and Kansas’ lack of a true inside presence makes the Jayhawks vulnerable to a bevy of second chances at the offensive end. If Kentucky can work the ball inside and repeatedly pound the Azubuike-less Jayhawks, Kansas will have a hard time keeping up with the Wildcats and their potent offense.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
These teams seem to be heading in different directions at this point in the year. At the start of the season, Kansas would have been an easy pick over a Kentucky squad that seemed utterly lost. However, the Wildcats have since found themselves and developed into the kind of team that people expect from John Calipari. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have headed in the opposite direction as their injuries have made life much more difficult than it has been for Bill Self’s crew in some time.
Throw in that Kentucky is 11-0 at Rupp Arena this year and Kansas hasn’t been anything special away from Lawrence, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to gamble on the Jayhawks going into Lexington and coming out with a result. Kentucky is the better team at this point and should come away victoriously.