CRAWFORD | The scout: Kentucky at Kansas, TV, line, 3 things to - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | The scout: Kentucky at Kansas, TV, line, 3 things to watch

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The blood doesn’t come much bluer than this. Kansas. Kentucky. The two winningest programs in college basketball. Phog Allen Fieldhouse. ESPN’s College GameDay. Wildcats coach John Calipari said he wasn’t necessarily in favor of this Big 12-SEC Challenge game when it was proposed, but now that it’s here, he hopes it’ll be useful for his team.

“I wasn’t for any of this, whether it be the matchups or playing them in midseason. None of that,” Calipari said. “It’s here, so we play the game.”

He knows all about Allen Fieldhouse. He was a graduate assistant coach at Kansas long before he was college basketball’s premier recruiter. He’ll come back as a Hall of Fame coach. But what he’ll see from his team, he’s not sure.

“We’re going into a hostile environment,” Calipari said Friday. “I’m going to tell you, our building, I can remember when we played North Carolina here and we won on the last play, and I’ll tell you it was so loud. Allen Fieldhouse is louder. Like, much louder. Acoustically it’s built like that (an arc) so the sound hits it and it comes right back at you. And it literally moves you. If you’re standing and they really get loud, it will move you. I was there. I coached there and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can feel it.’ It’s like you’re at a concert and you’re near the bass. Boom! Boom! You feel it. I mean that’s how it is there. It’ll be interesting for these guys, especially these young guys, to walk in and to feel it.”

Nor can anyone be sure what to expect from Kansas’ team. The Jayhawks have won 34 straight at home, but have lost two of their past three overall, and three of their past five. They’re coming off an 85-72 loss at Iowa State.

The Jayhawks have already won an instant-classic type game in Allen Fieldhouse this season, a 109-106 triple-overtime thriller over then No. 1-ranked Oklahoma on Jan. 4.

And Kansas coach Bill Self is hoping that the game comes at a good time to jolt his team back to life a little.

“I don't know if you guys have followed, we haven't played particularly well in conference,” he told reporters in Lawrence Friday. “I don't know if anybody has noticed the last couple of weeks. So maybe this will be a good energy boost for us.”

Neither coach was in favor of the game coming in the middle of conference play. Neither had any say in who their team would play.

“I don't know how the other coaches feel positively, but I know when we talked about it, we thought it's not the perfect scenario, you'd much rather do this in December,” Self said. “. . . And I don't know if anybody likes stepping out of league to play games of this magnitude right now. League games are hard enough, and then you throw one like this in there, but the bottom line is I think for us and maybe for Kentucky, too, it's going to be good, and it'll be good for us to have to play a game where you have to exert so much energy and hopefully get a little mojo back.”

Both coaches spoke in respectful terms of the rivalry. Calipari has fond memories of Kansas. He talked about the campus, how every building is constructed with stone from the same quarry. Self said he thinks the players would be fired up for the game without all the hoopla surrounding it — and the hoopla is considerable.

“I think that you could almost remove the 16,300 people and play shirts and skins and it's Kansas and Kentucky and the guys would be fired up to play,” Self said. “I think a lot of times you bring Gameday in or things like that that really add to it, but I'm not sure you can add to it. I mean, I think it's going to be great, but I'm not sure GameDay makes it any bigger, at least from a player standpoint.”

Info about the game, and three things to watch:

Time: 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas.

TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Shannon Spake)

Series: Kentucky leads 22-6. Last meeting: Kentucky won 72-40 in November of last season.

Line: Kansas by 5. Under 149 1/2.

1. WHO BEST HANDLES THE MOMENT. With key roles being played by freshmen, Kentucky has a major challenge in handling the environment at Kansas. The Wildcats have played some big games this season, but they had Duke in front of a friendly neutral court and Louisville at home.

The challenge of this game, and the exposure, and the atmosphere, will be something new for Kentucky. Such things often bring out the best in players.

“I saw when we were coaching there . . . you have the game and all of a sudden they make a play, another play, you miss a play, and all of a sudden, literally, you’re like feeling this sound come at you,” Calipari said. “This is one of those things, it’s like people coming to Rupp, where they love coming to come to play in Rupp because they can say, ‘I played in Rupp.’ So going to Allen Fieldhouse, these guys will experience something they will never experience in their life in that building. There is no pro arena like that. There’s no other arena we’re going to walk into that’s going to be that bad. “

Self has the same concern. But his team has had the advantage of being through some big games at home this season, particularly the game against Oklahoma.

“They're going to be jacked -- both teams will be jacked sky high regardless of Gameday being here,” Self said. “The team that kind of is able to manage those emotions and show some poise I think will have a leg up, especially early on in the game, because the game won't start until probably the 12-minute mark of the first half because everybody is going to be so geeked up the first eight.”

2. THE BATTLE FOR THE THREE-POINT LINE. Kansas shoots 43 percent from three-point range, fifth-best in the nation. Kentucky is holding opponents to 31.8 percent from three-point range, but much better of late. The teams both employ three-guard lineups. The question becomes, are Kentucky’s guards good enough defensively to keep Kansas from gaining an edge from deep.

Isaiah Briscoe, Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray will have to be mindful of what Kansas wants to do offensively. It’s easy to get lost with what the Jayhawks run offensively. It’ll be a scouting report challenge. Calipari doesn’t generally pay a great deal of attention to the opponent. His mantra this season has been, “We have to worry about us.”

In this game, the Wildcats will have to worry some about Kansas.

“This is a different deal,” Calipari said. “This is like March. Going out there and playing this kind of team and they fight. Their guards fight. Their bigs fight. They run great stuff. They really do run great stuff. So it isn’t like you’re just playing. ‘Man oh man, I’m playing great defense.’ You’ve got to play some of their things. Different ways they play. They put you in a lot of positions. I’m anxious to just see how we respond.”

The spot to watch for Kansas is the top of the key. The Jayhawks shoot 52 percent from three-point range from there. They’re at 43 percent from each corner and the right wing, in statistics provided by Twenty-three percent of their shots are 3-pointers off the break. Another 10 percent are corner threes.

Limiting those shots is the goal for Kentucky. If the Wildcats do that, they have a shot at the upset. If they don’t, it’s an uphill fight.

3. SCOUTING THE JAYHAWKS. Perry Ellis is the leader, having a hand in finishing 27.8 percent of Kansas’ possessions in Big 12 play.  He’s important in this game because he’s also Kansas’ primary inside threat. He can get to the rim, score inside and out, and if UK blankets the outside, he’s an important option for Kansas.

The Jayhawks shoot 36 percent from the elbows, 34 percent from mid-range left and 40 percent from mid-range right. They want to shoot the three.

Frank Mason III, the junior point guard, is averaging 13.4 points per game. The Jayhawks are balanced. Ellis averages 16.7 points, Wayne Selden 14.6 and Devonte’ Graham 10.5. 

And they have help if the starters are a little off. Brannen Greene is a three-point specialist who scores 6.8 points per game off the bench. He is 20-for-37 (54.1 percent) from beyond the arc this season. Sophomore guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has made 20 3-pointers made this season, helping him average 5.7 points per game.

Like Kentucky, Kansas lacks a dominant presence at the five spot. Unlike Kentucky, they’ll still run a good many sets designed to jam the ball into the post, particularly to Ellis.

“They have lost three games now at home in the last, like, 10 years,” Calipari said. “You have really good players. You have really good fans that push you over the top many times. You have a team that’s comfortable in that environment. I think that’s both schools. To win those kinds of games as an opponent you’ve got to be careful of runs and threes. A team like that can score a bunch in 12, 15 seconds, and that’s what you’ve got to guard against. Really in a game like this you’re just trying to give yourself a chance to win the game. You’re not trying to go and blow anybody out because it’s just unusual.”

Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved. Shot information from Comparison graphic from Kansas sports information. View the game notes and other information here.

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