How Kentucky (30-5) and Wichita State (31-4) match up at every position — with a game prediction:
▪ Malik Monk went 3-of-11 from the field, 0-of-6 on three-pointers, in Kentucky’s 79-70 win over Northern Kentucky on Friday in the round of 64. UK’s leading scorer on the season (20.4 ppg) has made only 17 of 54 field goals (31.5 percent) and three of 21 three-pointers (14.9 percent) in the Wildcats’ last five games. Is the 6-foot-3, 200-pound freshman from Lepanto, Ark., worn down physically after carrying such a heavy offensive burden for UK this year?
▪ A 6-6, 214-pound junior from Houston, Wichita State’s Zach Brown is the Shockers’ defensive stopper. Brown (7.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg) was named to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Defensive Team. He had 12 points and four rebounds in WSU’s 64-58 win over Dayton in the round of 64.
▪ John Calipari joked Thursday that Derek Willis (7 ppg, 5.2 rpg) has played better since the Wildcats forward asked his girlfriend, Keely Potts, to be his wife during UK’s Senior Night. As an engaged man, Willis has not shot especially well, 12-of-30 field goals, 7-of-18 treys, but has averaged 7.2 rebounds and blocked 15 shots. The 6-9, 228-pound senior from Bullitt East had eight points, seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in the win over NKU.
▪ Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie leads the balanced Shockers in scoring (11.7), rebounding (5.7) and steals (41). A product of Paterson, N.J., McDuffie came to Wichita packing only 185 pounds on his 6-8 frame. However, the sophomore has subsequently put on 27 pounds to bulk up to 212. An All-MVC First Team choice, McDuffie did not shoot well vs. Dayton (1-of-8) but still contributed eight points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Advantage: Wichita State
▪ Continuing his stellar late-season play, Bam Adebayo had 15 points and 18 rebounds in UK’s victory over NKU. In Kentucky’s last 10 games, the 6-10, 260-pound product of Little Washington, N.C., is averaging a double-double (14.4 points and 11.2 rebounds). With a deep bench of big men, look for Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall to have his team attack Adebayo hoping to get the UK big man (13.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg) into foul trouble.
▪ Befitting one with Shaquille Morris’ first name, the WSU post player is a wide load. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound redshirt junior is also the only rotation player on the WSU roster who was in the Shockers’ program at the time of UK’s epic 78-76 win over unbeaten Wichita State in the 2014 NCAA tourney. He was redshirting as a true freshman (two current, senior walk-on guards were also freshmen for WSU in ’14). A product of Edmond, Okla., Morris (9.5 ppg, 5 rpg) was Third Team All-MVC. Limited to 14 minutes against Dayton by foul trouble, Morris still produced 10 points and six rebounds.
▪ Just as Isaiah Briscoe did against Stony Brook (13 points, 11 boards) in UK’s 2016 NCAA tourney opener, the 6-3, 210-pound product of Newark, N.J., played well in Friday’s late-night win over NKU. The sophomore had 17 points (7-of-11 shooting), eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals against the Norse. Facing the physical Shockers, Kentucky will need Briscoe’s toughness. For the season, Briscoe is averaging 12.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 4.2 assists.
▪ A transfer from Kansas, Wichita State’s Conner Frankamp (9 ppg, 44.4 percent three-point shooting) was a Third Team All-MVC choice. The 6-1, 172-pound redshirt junior lit up the MVC Tournament, averaging 15.3 ppg and hitting half of his 22 three-point attempts. Frankamp was not effective against Dayton, making only one of five shots (1-of-3 on treys) for three points.
▪ Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox (16.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.8 assists) had six of the Cats’ 12 turnovers against NKU, but also continued his late-season scoring uptick with 19 points. In Kentucky’s four postseason tournament games, the 6-3, 187-pound freshman from Houston has hit 29 of 49 field goals (59.2 percent), three of six treys and 27 of 37 free throws (73 percent) and has averaged 21.3 ppg.
▪ Gregg Marshall said Thursday the emergence of redshirt freshman Landry Shamet (11.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.3 assists) at the point helped Wichita State emerge as a high-level team. After last season, the Shockers lost program staples Fred VanVleet (point guard) and Ron Baker (shooting guard) to graduation. Into that void stepped Shamet, a 6-4, 188-pound product of Kansas City, Mo. A First Team All-MVC selection, Shamet (pronounced SHAM-it) had 13 points, three rebounds and three assists in the win over Dayton.
▪ In 20 minutes against NKU, Kentucky senior guard Dominique Hawkins contributed seven points and two rebounds. The Madison Central product and classmate Willis are the only current Cats who were on the UK roster for the 2014 Wichita State game, though neither played. Besides Hawkins, Wenyen Gabriel’s one point was the only bench scoring the Cats got against NKU.
▪ Wichita State had 18 bench points in its win over Dayton. Rashard Kelly, a 6-7, 225-pound junior, had eight points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. On the season, Wichita State has 10 players who have played in at least 32 games. All 10 average between 4.1 and 11.7 ppg.
Advantage: Wichita State
Kentucky ruined WSU’s bid for an undefeated national title in the 2014 NCAA tourney round of 32. Everyone in the Wichita State program knows how much that 78-76 loss to UK in that epic game stung. The Shockers are going to be beyond amped for the rematch. Pivotal question: Will Wichita State’s ample motivation galvanize UK to put its best self forward, too?
Advantage: Wichita State
Kentucky 64, Wichita State 62