Mark Story

How Kentucky and Kansas match up — with a game prediction

Coach John Calipari on Kentucky, Kansas fans

Kentucky coach John Calipari praised the environment at Allen Fieldhouse after his No. 20-ranked Wildcats lost to the Kansas Jayhawks 90-84 in overtime on Saturday in Lawrence.
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Kentucky coach John Calipari praised the environment at Allen Fieldhouse after his No. 20-ranked Wildcats lost to the Kansas Jayhawks 90-84 in overtime on Saturday in Lawrence.

How No. 8 Kentucky (15-3, 5-1 SEC) and No. 9 Kansas (16-3, 5-2 Big 12) match up at each position — with a game prediction:

Small forward

Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson went scoreless in UK’s win at Georgia, but has since hit 11 of 19 field goals in Wildcats victories at Auburn and over Mississippi State. The 6-foot-6, 211-pound freshman from South Hill, Va., leads the Wildcats in scoring (14.6 ppg) and is third on the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg).

Kansas’ Lagerald Vick is 5-of-18 shooting in three prior games against Kentucky — but is also 3-0 against the Cats. The 6-5, 190-pound senior from Memphis is the Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer (15 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2 assists). When Vick has not played well this season, it has not turned out well for Kansas. In KU’s three losses, Vick has shot 12-of-36, 7-of-23 on three-pointers and committed 12 turnovers.

Advantage: Even

Lagerald Vick
Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) had two points in Rupp Arena when the Jayhawks beat Kentucky 79-73 during the 2016-17 season. Mark Mahan Lexington Herald-Leader

Power forward

Kentucky’s PJ Washington was a force in UK’s 76-55 victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday night, going for 21 points (9-of-15 shooting, 3-of-5 treys) with six rebounds and four blocked shots. Consistency has, at times, been an issue for the 6-8, 225-pound sophomore from Dallas, so it will be interesting to see if Washington (12.3 ppg, team-best 7.8 rpg) backs up his strong showing vs. MSU with another against a smallish Kansas team.

Kansas’ Marcus Garrett attacked the rim relentlessly (16 points, 8-of-12 field goals, five rebounds) in the Jayhawks’ 80-76 victory over Iowa State on Monday. The strong showing was the continuation of a trend for the 6-5, 195-pound sophomore from Dallas. Garrett (7.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg) had 20 points in a win over Texas and 15 in a loss at West Virginia in the prior two games.

Advantage: Kentucky

Kentucky basketball sophomore PJ Washington scored 21 points to lead 8th-ranked UK to a 76-55 victory over No. 22 Mississippi State on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, at Rupp Arena. Still, Coach John Calipari says he wants more from Washington.


Kentucky’s Reid Travis made only one of six shots and had three turnovers vs. Mississippi State, but also grabbed 12 rebounds. The 6-8, 238-pound graduate transfer from Stanford has had trouble in SEC contests making plays against lengthy interior defenders — Travis is 21-of-45 shooting vs. conference foes. The Minneapolis product (12.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) could fare better against Kansas and its four-guard lineup.

Kansas’ Dedric Lawson was a force in Monday’s victory over Iowa State. The 6-9, 235-pound transfer from Memphis hit the Cyclones with 29 points on 13-of-17 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds. The redshirt junior is averaging a double-double — 19.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg — and making 52.9 percent of his field-goal tries.

Advantage: Kansas

Dedric Lawson
Kansas big man Dedric Lawson, a transfer from Memphis, had 29 points and 15 rebounds in the Jayhawks’ 80-76 home win over Iowa State on Monday. Colin E. Braley AP Photo

Shooting guard

Kentucky’s Tyler Herro has averaged 19 points a game and made a combined 11 of 22 field-goal tries in UK’s back-to-back wins over Auburn and Mississippi State. For the season, the 6-5, 195-pound freshman from Milwaukee is averaging 13.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 2.2 assists. Herro has made 22 free throws in a row.

Kansas’ Quinton Grimes was the No. 8-ranked recruit in the Rivals 150 for the class of 2018. The 6-5, 210-pound freshman from The Woodlands, Texas, has had a challenging transition into college basketball. Grimes (8.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg) has not shot well (40.3 percent field goals) and has more turnovers (36) than assists (33).

Advantage: Kentucky

Bill Self
Bill Self will bring Kansas back to Rupp Arena for the second time in three seasons to face Kentucky in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Rich Sugg The Kansas City Star

Point guard

Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans (7.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.3 steals) had a career-high nine assists in the victory over Mississippi State. Starting in UK’s win over North Carolina, the emergence of the 6-3, 192-pound freshman from Cartersville, Ga., has transformed the Cats’ season.

Kansas’ Devon Dotson (10.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg) was the No. 20-ranked recruit in the Rivals 150 for the class of 2018. The 6-2, 185-pound freshman from Charlotte, N.C., leads Kansas in assists (63, vs. 43 turnovers) and is shooting 48.5 percent from the floor. He had eight assists without a turnover in Monday’s win over Iowa State.

Advantage: Even

Kentucky basketball guard Ashton Hagans scored 23 points in UK’s 69-49 win over Georgia on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Athens. It was the fifth straight double-figures scoring game for the freshman from Cartersville, Ga.


Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley (6.8 ppg) scored 10 points at Alabama and 12 against Texas A&M, but the 6-3, 185-pound freshman has made only three of nine shots in the three games since. Big man Nick Richards (3.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, team-best 23 blocks) had eight points and six boards in 10 active minutes vs. Mississippi State. Freshman forward EJ Montgomery (4.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg) had five points, two boards, one block and a steal vs. MSU.

Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji had planned to redshirt as a freshman, but was pressed into action this month after the KU roster was depleted by injury (Udoka Azubuike) and eligibility issues (Silvio De Sousa). In five games, the 6-5, 210-pound Kansas City product has averaged 5.8 ppg and 3.8 rpg. Charlie Moore, a 5-11, 180-pound sophomore transfer from California, has struggled with his shot (27.4 percent field goals). Memphis transfer KJ Lawson (Dedric’s brother), a 6-8 sophomore, is averaging 2.7 ppg, and 2.1 rpg.

Advantage: Kentucky

Immanuel Quickley
Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley (5) had five points, two rebounds and an assist in UK’s 76-55 win over Mississippi State on Tuesday night. Alex Slitz

Intangibles and history

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Kansas 22-9 but the Jayhawks are 6-3 vs. the Wildcats since Bill Self was hired as KU head coach in 2003-04 and have won three straight. As UK coach, John Calipari is 3-3 vs. KU.

UK is 2-3 all-time in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge — 0-2 against Kansas; 0-1 vs. Baylor and 1-0 against both Texas and West Virginia. The Jayhawks are 4-1 in such games with the two wins over Kentucky, one over Texas A&M and a split with Florida in two games.

Kansas is 1-3 this season in true road games.

Advantage: Kentucky

Kansas coach Bill Self says he doesn't believe coaches are excited about interrupting conference play to take part in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. He spoke on Jan. 24, 2017.


Kentucky 83, Kansas 76


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.