Monday, November 13, 2017

Game day Breakdown: No. 4 KU basketball vs. No. 7 Kentucky

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) is fouled on the shot by Kentucky forward Isaac Humphries (15) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) is fouled on the shot by Kentucky forward Isaac Humphries (15) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.


No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks (1-0) vs. No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (2-0)

Time: Approximately 8:30 p.m. Tuesday | Location: United Center, Chicago

TV: ESPN | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Log on to for our live game blog coverage and follow the staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @TomKeeganLJW @bentonasmith @nightengalejr @chasenscott & @nickkrug

Keys for Kansas

1. Set the tone early

Preparing to play in his fourth Champions Classic game makes Kansas senior Devonté Graham somewhat of an authority on what it takes to have success in a game of this magnitude.

The fact that Graham, along with KU guard Svi Mykhailiuk, owns a 1-2 record in the event heading into tonight only hammers home the point. Rather than learning the key to victory just through KU's successes, the two veteran Jayhawks also have learned from their failures.

“You just have to come out and set the tone from the jump,” said Graham, who was on the team that was drubbed by Kentucky in 2014, upset by Michigan State in 2015 and finally beat top-ranked Duke a season ago. “You can't come out slow in a game like this and give those guys a whole bunch of confidence early on because then it'll just seem like everything's going their way. So you've got to come out and try to jump on them quick. I think that'll be the key, just getting out to a good, quick start.”

Although a quality start is key in every game, KU coach Bill Self cautioned against putting too much into the game's early going.

“If you say we've got to get off to a good start, what happens if you don't? Does that mean the game's over,” Self posed. “If you say we get off to a good start, we're OK, does that mean you're going to win? That doesn't mean anything at all. It's a 40-minute and you've got to understand it's a long game, and being up or being down doesn't mean much, especially in the first 30 minutes of the contest.”

2. Experience advantage

This Kentucky team, which has struggled to a pair of home victories against lower-level teams to open the season, is young even by Kentucky standards.

Because of that, these Wildcats, who start five true freshmen, make a relatively young Kansas roster look like a group of old men.

“We've had three guys who have been through the battles before in Lagerald (Vick), Devonté and Svi,” Self said. “We're not as young as Kentucky, but we've only got three guys who have been in the fire before, too. So I'm just as curious to see how our guys react in the bright lights.”

Asked whether he thought KU's experience would be a factor in this one, Graham did not hesitate to say advantage Kansas.

“It helps a lot because you've been in situations before. I mean, I've played in many big games and know it's a game of runs. If it's your first big game as a freshman you might be a little nervous, more nerves than usual and stuff like that. You haven't been in tough situations. So I think experience plays a big part in any game. ... They're young, so try to make them face a little adversity early and see how they handle it.”

3. Coaching counts

As this year's Champions Classic pits four of the top seven teams in the country — Duke and Michigan State will square off in the opener — it also features four coaches who are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In addition to some serious star power, that sets the stage for the guys on the sideline to have a huge impact on these two games.

Whether that shows up in the form of a timely inbounds play, an adjustment on the fly or throwing out something that the other team did not see coming, expect both Self and Kentucky's John Calipari to have their fingerprints all over this game.

That figures to be especially true given the youth and inexperience of their rosters. Both coaches are as competitive as any in the business and their minds, voices and physical existence will get a serious workout in this one.

Mega Matchup

KU's offense vs. Kentucky's length

Asked Sunday what aspect of Calipari's 2017-18 team impressed them most, both Self and Graham pointed to the Wildcats' athleticism.

Although Graham said Kentucky's athleticism would force the Jayhawks to be locked in on the defensive end, Self looked at it from a slightly different perspective.

“Of all the times we've played them, I can't remember them being this long on the perimeter,” he said. “(Positions) one through five (are) probably about as long as I can remember them. Obviously very long, very athletic and very skilled and can get the ball downhill with the best of them.”

Where, then, will Kansas have to be most careful against Kentucky's length? Self believes it's on the offensive end.

“Length can show you a passing lane and take it away,” Self said. “Length can create more deflections. And length allows you not to crowd a shooter quite as much and still be in great position to contest.”

Jayhawk Pulse

After a sluggish ending to the longer-than-normal exhibition schedule last Tuesday night, the Jayhawks responded by clicking on all cylinders in a 92-56 season-opening win against Tennessee State at home.

Kansas was aggressive and efficient on offense, bullied the Tigers on defense and did it all with just seven scholarship players.

With freshman Billy Preston — the eighth scholarship Jayhawk who missed the opener to serve a one-game suspension — expected to be available against the Wildcats, Self will have his complete rotation at his disposal.

Although that will not change much in the backcourt, where Graham, Vick, Mykhailiuk, Marcus Garrett and Malik Newman will look to fly at every opportunity, it will give KU a little more to work with against Kentucky's size. Instead of relying solely on Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, Self now will have three bodies to rotate in, giving him the freedom to allow them to sub for one another or occasionally play in tandem if that becomes necessary.

Either way, the Jayhawks enter this one as a 2.5-point favorite in Las Vegas and should take the floor and execute with the kind of swagger you expect to see from a team favored by even more.

Probable Starters

No. 4 Kansas

G – Devonté Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.

G – Malik Newman, 6-3, 190, Soph.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.

G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.

C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.

No. 7 Kentucky

G – Hamidou Diallo, 6-5, 198, Fr.

G – Quade Green, 6-0, 180, Fr.

F – Kevin Knox, 6-9, 215, Fr.

F – P.J. Washington, 6-7, 236, Fr.

C – Nick Richards, 6-11, 240, Fr.


Marius Rowlanski 4 years ago

I believe we will win by 10+ points. Our experience should tilt this in KU's favor, esp. in the second half.

Kent Richardson 4 years ago

UK played eight deep with 5 forwards and 3 guards. They struggled on offense, didn't turn it over (10) like KU and didn't shoot or make a lot of treys 28% (I think). Their half time lead eroded down to 3 pts with three minutes left. With that said Calipari and KU itself will get their attention at a higher level I would think. They are unsettled but so are we this early. Unless we completely melt down, or they do, I won't put too much lasting importance on this matchup. I still want to kick their butts.

Dirk Medema 4 years ago

From the quote it sounds to me like Coach thinks it makes a difference most on the D end of the game.

Jonathan Allison 4 years ago

Seems like a fair assessment. Defensive length can cause lots of problems for the average skilled offensive player, and with the ability of a long and athletic defender to switch onto multiple positions they can have an even greater impact on the outcome of a game. But an incredibly gifted offensive player such as Frank Mason is able to score over length in a variety of ways.

Also I always remember Travis Releford saying that the key for him was always to play good defense and to let the offense come to him. He knew that if he was having an off day shooting the ball that he could always be a net positive by playing lockdown D and he could usually find a way to turn his defense into offense.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years ago

Agree. If you want to play more minutes then play more defense. Always been that way from HCBS.

I think this is the biggest upside is bringing along Silvio. Getting a rhythm going before March on the offensive end would be a major plus from Silvio but it's his defense and post play that Self needs more of from the forwards/centers.

Travis Releford is a great example.

Bryce Landon 4 years ago

I don't care how much we beat them by; I just want to beat them.

But I'm still pissed about the 32-point smackdown we suffered from them three seasons ago, so it'd be nice to win by at least 10. Probably won't happen, but I can dream, can't I?

Adam Collins 4 years ago

One thing I am wanting to see in this game is if we have anybody who can drive and get to the rim. I doubt anyone will be as adept as Frank last year, but I feel like I haven't seen that side of our offense in many of our games do far.

Jonathan Allison 4 years ago

I was hoping Malik Newman could be the type of player to get lots of paint touches. Like Frank Mason with more size. I haven't seen anything out of him yet that leads me to believe though that he is capable of being effective dribbling through traffic into the lane. Tonight would be a good night for him to dominate.

Jonathan Allison 4 years ago

I feel like I have to add that Devonte Graham should not be underestimated. He may or may not be able to finish in the paint as effectively or in as many different ways as Frank was able to, we will see.... however I have a ton of confidence in his ability to drive into the heart of the defense and collapse the defense and find an open man. He could end up having an all-time assist season for KU

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