Kentucky put up 73 points for the second straight game, squeezing past a tough, experienced Vermont side 73-69 on Sunday. The Wildcats schedule gets no easier though as they now travel to Chicago to meet Kansas in a game that fans on both sides will hope is a preview of a Final Four contest in four months time.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Score more than 73 points
Scoring 73 points was fine against a Utah Valley team that was athletically outmatched. Scoring 73 points was also (just about) fine against a Vermont squad that is experienced and talented, but that lacks the X-factor that Kentucky has in its collective of slashers and scorers. Scoring 73 points will not be fine against a Kansas team that is every bit Kentucky’s equal ( and maybe more) this early in the season.
The Jayhawks looked outstanding in their one game go far this season, cruising past Tennessee State on Friday night to a 92-56 victory. Their team has everything you would expect from a Bill Self squad and they have the type of scorers that the Wildcats have yet to face in the 2017-18 season. Kentucky has got by without being massively explosive on offense so far. That needs to change on Tuesday night.
Limit the impact of Devonte’ Graham
The college game is littered with point guards who are not natural at the position. Guys who are either spot up shooters or who like to drive into the paint and draw contact. Kansas had one such player at the position last season as Frank Mason III was a point guard who was happiest when in the lane trying to draw fouls. It was effective, but it wasn’t really playing the position as intended.
This season though Kansas has a player at the point that is happiest setting other up to score. Senior Devonte’ Graham had a monster game against Tennessee State, picking up a double-double with the key stat being his 12 assists. Graham has that ability to see a cut before it happens and his court vision is something that the Wildcats will have to be on top of with their defense.
Win the game down low
Looking at the two teams it is easy to see this will be a big test for Kentucky. The Wildcats cannot just lean on their group athleticism to be Kansas. John Calipari will be looking for any advantage that he can on the court and the best chance the Wildcats will have to win this game will come from dominating in the paint.
Kansas is young down low, with sophomore Udoka Azubuike and freshman Billy Preston are tasked with replacing Landen Lucas and the still massive shadow of Perry Ellis. Big things are expected of Preston, but this will be his first action of the season after missing the opener after failing to report for curfew and for missing a class because his car was parked illegally. Kentucky has the size in the paint to bother the Kansas shooters and to take over on the offensive end. Much will come down to the play of forward Kevin Knox, one of the few Wildcats to not struggle early in the season.