Kentucky and Kansas square off for a huge non-conference game, so far as early non-conference college basketball games go, and Cats Illustrated breaks down the matchups you'll see all over the court.
Champions Classic Preview: Kansas vs. Kentucky
The Jayhawks are 1-0 on the season with a 92-56 win at home against Tennessee State. Their offense mainly revolved around the three-point line. They made a dozen three-pointers but they attempted 28. they shot 28 against the Tigers. Their offense features a handful of players that can be deadly from behind the arc if given open looks. The Jayhawks grabbed 43 rebounds in their only game this season, while Kentucky is averaging 35 through 2 games. Kansas, with a lot of veterans on their roster, surprisingly had trouble taking care of the ball against Tennessee State, turning the ball over 20 times.
LaGerald Vick paced the Jayhawks with 23 points on 8/12 shooting. Veteran sharpshooter Svi Mykhailiuk added 15 points and their hoss of a big man Udoka Azubuike accounted for 13 points and 6 rebounds. Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman came off the bench in the first game and scored 12 points. However, the two key components for the Jayhawks this year are veteran point guard Devonte Graham and freshman big man Bill Preston. Graham had a double-double in their first matchup with 12 points and 10 assists. He is the Jayhawks' floor general and most consistent player. He will be the feature guard for Kansas this season, the first time he's been called upon to do so, but he can definitely handle the load. Preston gives the Jayhawks a solid inside scoring threat, something their roster lacks outside of him.
Point guard: Devonte Graham vs Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
This will be the first big test for Kentucky's freshman point guard tandem. Graham accounted for three steals last game and is known for his stout defensive pressure. Kentucky's guards have to play within themselves and make the simple play for the Cats to pull off the win on Tuesday night. Graham is one of the most experienced and balanced point guards in the country, so this will be a good measuring stick for the Wildcat freshmen.
Shooting Guard: LaGerald Vick vs Hamidou Diallo
Vick showed potential to be a prolific scorer in Kansas' first game, scoring 23 points to lead the Jayhawks. Vick is an explosive player and good defensively. Diallo had a good first game, and played solid on both ends of the court which is something he didn't do in the previous scrimmage games. Diallo has a tendency to try to make the difficult highlight play instead of the easy play. Like Kentucky's point guards, he must play within himself for the Cats to win. Has Diallo met his match in this matchup in terms of explosiveness? There's no question that he's the most athletic out of him and Vick, but Vick is a veteran guard that can also fill it up and is probably a better scorer than the freshman. Can Diallo stay out of foul trouble? That's the key.
Small Forward- Svi Mykhailiuk vs Kevin Knox
Mykhailiuk is what Kentucky is missing, a consistent outside threat. The upperclassman scored 15 points against Tennessee State but struggled with the 3 ball. Will that continue? Doubtful. The positive for Kentucky is that he's not the greatest defender and he will be matched up against Kentucky's best offensive weapon in Kevin Knox. Knox should be able to pick his spot against Mykhailiuk, but will Knox be able to chase the Kansas sharpshooter off of the 3 point line? Knox is bigger and stronger, but Mykhailiuk has the veteran edge in this matchup.
Advantage: Slight Advantage Kentucky
Power Forward: Billy Preston vs PJ Washington
Preston was suspended for the first game for missing curfew and looks to be back for the Champions Classic. Coming out of high school, Preston a top 10 recruit and more highly touted than Washington. Preston is the more flashy, high-flying player, but Washington is the most consistent out of the two and arguably the better all-around basketball player. Preston had a tendency to be foul-prone in high school and one can easily imagine that Washington could bully his way to getting Preston into early foul trouble.
Advantage: Slight Advantage Kentucky
Center: Udoka Azubuike vs Nick Richards
This is a matchup of brute strength vs athleticism. Coming off of a wrist injury, Azubuike is a load to handle down low, weighing in at 280 pounds. He's a below-the-rim style player, but has a decent skill set. He's the type of player that can give the Wildcat bigs trouble this season. On the other hand, Azubuike will have trouble trying to keep up with Nick Richards. Richards is the high-flyer in this matchup but the Wildcat big man has to step up his game on the boards, which hasn't been his strength this season. If Richards can stay on the court and grab 7-8 rebounds, then he probably wins this matchup.