The Cats Illustrated staff returns to the round table to discuss Kentucky's game tonight against Kansas in the Champions Classic held in Chicago.
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What are the biggest challenges or concerns for Kentucky going into Tuesday night's game against the Jayhawks?
Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor: I see two main challenges for UK in this game. Primarily, the experience gap between the Jayhawks and Wildcats will be tough to overcome. Devonte Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick have been through the battles in Big 12 and NCAA Tournament games. They're not going to be phased by playing a marquee matchup in the Champions Classic. We have no idea how the Cats will react to playing in that kind of setting for the first time. The second challenge will be keeping those three guys mentioned above from creating havoc off the dribble and from the 3-point line.
T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst: On-the-ball defense. Kentucky has been abysmal this season and Kansas has several quick and athletic guards that will put it on the floor and attack the rim. When one UK player gets beaten the rest have collapsed in which allows wide open shots on the perimeter. I'm not sure how UK defends Kansas tonight.
Justin Rowland, Publisher: The way Kentucky has (or hasn't) defended the 3-point line this year I just think some of the players Kansas will put on the court is going to be concerning. Vermont got the 3-point looks they wanted and unless Kentucky tightens up on that perimeter defense that could be a real problem. I'm also interested to see how Kentucky handles someone like Udoka Azubuike. Kansas' front line isn't exactly imposing but he's a different kind of big than Kentucky has.
In what parts of the game do you believe Kentucky has the advantage?
Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor: I'm not sure UK has a clear-cut advantage at any spot on the floor, but if there is one, it would probably be Kevin Knox at the 3. It's kind of a reversal from some of the UK-KU games of the past where it seemed like the Jayhawks would always have a dynamic 3, but the Cats had an edge at most of the other spots.
T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst: Kentucky's length should bother Kansas but the Jayhawks have plenty of players that will turn the ball over. Kentucky really hasn't been bad with turnovers this season, but Kansas has players that will try to force things and make mistakes. UK should win the turnover battle, which doesn't always mean a lot in basketball, but it won't hurt UK's chances.
Justin Rowland, Publisher: Kansas' guards are good but they aren't so good that Kentucky won't be able to force some mistakes and capitalize on them. I can see the Cats forcing some turnovers. Kansas did turn the ball over quite a bit in their first game. Kentucky will turn those into quick points the other way if the Jayhawks aren't more sound with the ball.
Who or what is one X-Factor for Kentucky in this game?
Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor: If the Cats can put Kansas in foul trouble, that could help balance the scales, and I really like how UK has shot free throws in the three exhibition games and first two games of the season.
T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst: For UK to have a chance P.J. Washington has to have a huge game. Udoka Azubuike should feast on the glass for Kansas tonight, but if Washington can help control the paint that would go a long way for UK.
Justin Rowland, Publisher: Kevin Knox hasn't had an offensive breakout performance yet and I have to believe he's due. It won't be long until he puts together a 25-point performance. How many more games will it take? He might just do it on a big stage.
Who will be Kentucky's MVP and who will be Kansas' MVP in Chicago?
Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor: I'm not going out on any kind of limb here, but give me Kevin Knox for Kentucky and Devonte Graham for Kansas. The stars ball out for the national TV audience.
T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst: I would expect Hamidou Diallo to have a huge game offensively for UK. For Kansas I'll go with Malik Newman. His ability to put the ball on the floor should make him a matchup nightmare tonight. Diallo and Newman will both lead their teams in scoring and don't be surprised if there are a few jaw dropping dunks.
Justin Rowland, Publisher: I'll go with P.J. Washington for Kentucky. He played so much better in the Cats' win against Vermont and I think that confidence carries over to this game, when he should have a favorable matchup with the ball in his hands.
What's your prediction for the game's outcome and score?
Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor: Kansas 71, Kentucky 60. On paper, I can't see UK winning this game. Not this early in the season. If the teams get a rematch in March, maybe things will look different, but for now, I think the Jayhawks are going to win their third straight in this matchup.
T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst: Kansas 88, Kentucky 74. Kansas is just better at this point of the season and that's OK for Kentucky. The Jayhawks have loads of experience and talent while UK is still piecing it together. UK will be more ready for this matchup in March. Show original message
Justin Rowland, Publisher: Kansas 75, Kentucky 69. Experience wins the day this early in the season. I do think Kentucky will be competitive because Calipari teams almost always are in these big early games. But Kentucky is too young right now.