KU-Kentucky set to renew unique rivalry Tuesday in Chicago
Because they aren’t in the same conference, they do not play each other every year, although some quality scheduling during recent years has made the matchup more common.
The two teams enter Tuesday’s clash at the Champions Classic in Chicago as the No. 1 and No. 2 winningest college basketball programs of all time, separated by just 20 victories in more than 6,000 contests.
And because both are media darlings and supported by proud and rabid fan bases, any time these two get together, the scene before, during and after their showdown is as much more Hollywood as it is hardwood.
“These are the type of games that players live to play for and I'm sure Kentucky players do, as well,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “And to be part of the Champions Classic, which is such a high-profile event, certainly is very, very cool. But the reality of it is, I'm not sure that this event, whether you win or you don't win, is going to dictate what kind of season you have.”
Kentucky vs. Kansas. The mere sound of it rings so sweet in the ears of college basketball fans everywhere. And Tuesday night, at approximately 8:30 p.m. inside United Center, the two bluebloods will hook it up for the 31st time in their storied histories.
Kentucky leads the all-time series, 22-8, and holds a 21-game advantage (2,239-2,218) over Kansas in all-time victories.
Self said Sunday afternoon that freshman forward Billy Preston, who missed KU's season opener to serve a one-game suspension, was on pace to play against Kentucky on Tuesday night. And Self added that he had not yet decided what to do about his starting lineup, which, last Friday, featured freshman Marcus Garrett starting in place of expected starter Malik Newman.
"We'll see after a couple practices," Self said.
While many of the names and faces are fresh and new chapters in this unique rivalry are waiting to be written, here’s a look back at five of the most memorable Kansas-Kentucky showdowns of all-time.
1 – Dec. 9, 1989 – No. 2 KU shreds Kentucky 150-95 at Allen Fieldhouse
Way back in 1989, during then-KU coach Roy Williams' second season in charge of the Jayhawks, Kentucky and head coach Rick Pitino came to town for an early December showdown and left on the wrong end of one of the biggest beatings in KU history. Despite Pitino's insistence on pressing the entire game, the Jayhawks shredded the UK defense for easy bucket after easy bucket from start to finish. The point total (150), first-half total (80), number of field goals made (52) and total KU assists (36) are still Kansas records. And the Jayhawks, led by 31 points from sharp-shooter Terry Brown, enjoyed a day in which six players scored at least 16 points.
2 – April 2, 2012 – KU and Kentucky meet for the national championship in New Orleans
Five months after topping Kansas 75-65 in the Champions Classic in New York City, these two teams met again on the final Monday of the season at the Superdome, with a national title on the line. UK's lineup of future NBA draft picks and stars, led by Anthony Davis, overwhelmed the Jayhawks and built an 18-point first-half lead that stayed as high as 15 in the second half. However, behind Thomas Robinson's 18 points, 17 rebounds and huge heart, KU trimmed the Kentucky lead to 62-57 with 1:37 to play before falling, 67-59.
3 – Jan. 30, 2016 – No. 4 Kansas knocks off No. 20 Kentucky in overtime at Allen Fieldhouse
This one should have been dubbed Wayne Selden Jr. Night. In the first Allen Fieldhouse meeting between these two storied programs since 2006, Selden exploded for 33 points, on 12-of-20 shooting, in a game in which he played 44 of 45 minutes to lead the Jayhawks to a thrilling, 90-84, overtime victory. That was the night the Jayhawks rolled the newly acquired original rules of basketball onto the court at halftime and also the night that KU overcame a 46-40 halftime deficit to survive a scare from Tyler Ulis and the Wildcats.
4 – Nov. 18, 2014 – No. 1 Kentucky drills No. 5 Kansas in Indianapolis in the Champions Classic
KU's second matchup with Kentucky in the early-season showcase also was its most forgettable. The worst loss of the Bill Self era, which prompted the KU coach to crack a joke about how he wished there was vodka in the cups at the postgame podium instead of water, featured a young Kansas squad scoring just 12 points in the second half and shooting 19.6 percent from the floor for the game. Joked Self on Sunday: “After several years of seeing my psychiatrist I've kind of gotten past this, so I'm not going to talk about the past much. But that was a beat-down right from the beginning.”
5 – Jan. 28, 2017 – Second-ranked Kansas travels to Lexington and beats No. 4 Kentucky on its home floor
Back together for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, this time at Rupp Arena, the Jayhawks and Wildcats again delivered a matchup marked by incredible hype, an amazing atmosphere and elite talent. KU freshman Josh Jackson and future national player of the year Frank Mason III out-dueled Kentucky's talented freshman trio of D'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo, 79-73, coming from 10 down in the first half to emerge victorious. But the thin Kansas lineup also got major contributions from senior Landen Lucas and juniors Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte' Graham, as KU's starting five played 168 of a possible 200 minutes to grab the win.
KU-Kentucky All-Time Series: (UK leads 22-8)
Dec. 16, 1950 - Kentucky 68, Kansas 39 in Lexington
Dec. 14, 1959 - Kentucky 77, Kansas 72 in Lawrence
Dec. 6, 1969 - Kentucky 115, Kansas 85 in Lexington
Dec. 4, 1971 - Kentucky 79, Kansas 69 in Lawrence
Dec. 23, 1972 - Kentucky 77, Kansas 71 in Lexington
Dec. 3, 1973 - Kansas 71, Kentucky 63 in Lawrence
Dec. 23, 1974 - Kentucky 100, Kansas 63 in Louisville
Dec. 13, 1975 - Kentucky 54, Kansas 48 in Lawrence
Dec. 11, 1976 - Kentucky 90, Kansas 63 in Lexington
Dec. 10, 1977 - Kentucky 73, Kansas 66 in Lawrence
Dec. 9, 1978 - Kentucky 67, Kansas 66 in Lexington
Dec. 12, 1979 - Kentucky 57, Kansas 56 in Lawrence
Dec. 13, 1980 - Kentucky 87, Kansas 73 in Lexington
Dec. 12, 1981 - Kentucky 77, Kansas 74 (OT) in Lawrence
Dec. 29, 1982 - Kentucky 83, Kansas 62 in Louisville
Dec. 10, 1983 - Kentucky 72, Kansas 50 in Lawrence
Dec. 31, 1984 - Kentucky 92, Kansas 89 in Louisville
Dec. 14, 1985 - Kansas 83, Kentucky 66 in Lawrence
Dec. 9, 1989 - Kansas 150, Kentucky 95 in Lawrence
Dec. 8, 1990 - Kentucky 88, Kansas 71 in Lexington
Dec. 1, 1998 - Kentucky 63, Kansas 45 in Chicago (Great Eight Tournament)
March 14, 1999 - Kentucky 92, Kansas 88 (OT) in New Orleans (NCAA Tournament)
Jan. 9, 2005 - Kansas 65, Kentucky 59 in Lexington
Jan. 7, 2006 - Kansas 73, Kentucky 46 in Lawrence
March 18, 2007 - Kansas 88, Kentucky 76 in Chicago (NCAA Tournament)
Nov. 15, 2011 - Kentucky 75, Kansas 65 in New York (Champions Classic)
April 2, 2012 - Kentucky 67, Kansas 59 in New Orleans (NCAA title game)
Nov. 18, 2014 - Kentucky 72, Kansas 40 in Indianapolis (Champions Classic)
Jan. 30, 2016 - Kansas 90, Kentucky 84 (OT) in Lawrence (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)
Jan. 28, 2017 - Kansas 79, Kentucky 73 in Lexington (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)