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Here's the classic 8-9 matchup in which everyone is going with one team. That team happens to be Kentucky as a lot of people can see them taking out Wichita State in the next round. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Kansas State has a solid squad that played in the best conference in the nation. Still, the UK Wildcats are -5 point favorites.
Everyone knows about Kentucky, they have a ton of freshman and a lot of skill, but are inconsistent. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats lost to a similar Big 12 team on a neutral court against Baylor. All of their losses in non-conference play were respectable, but then came the SEC, getting swept by Arkansas and losing to South Carolina towards the end of the year. They redeemed themselves in the tourney by giving Florida a run for its money in the championship game.
Kansas State is in the same mold with good wins over Gonzaga and George Washington, but strange losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte early on. The thing about KSU is that they struggled away from home this year, especially in Big 12 play. While they compete in most game, the Wildcats are just 1-8 in their last road/neutral site games.
Kentucky's best player has been Julius Randle (15 PPG, 10.5 RPG), but he's going to have a really interesting matchup with Thomas Gipson. Both are similar players in stature and what they do on the court. This battle will be extremely tight throughout the game as long as neither gets into foul trouble. Of course UK also has Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, while KSU doesn't quite have the same size on their bench.
Another good matchup will be Shane Southwell against James Young. Southwell isn't the type of scorer many hoped he would be entering the season and he'll need to pump up his game, much like in their last loss against Iowa State when he had 19 points. Young usually gets his fill for Kentucky, averaging 14.5 points per game, but the experience of Southwell could play a factor.
The perimeter will also have an extremely fun matchup to watch with the Harrison twins going against fellow freshman Marcus Foster and the ever-consistent Will Spradling. Many are saying that whoever wins this matchup, will win the game because Kentucky goes as the twins go. Aaron has been shooting well and averaged 17 points per game in the SEC tourney, while Andrew played well until the championship game. They'll probably have an advantage on Spradling, but Foster will be tough to crack.
Foster is the freshman no one in the country is talking about and that may give him some extra motivation. He's averaging 15.6 PPG on the season and 25 over his last two games. The kid can play and may end up being the most important player in this game.
For Kansas State to win, Southwell and Gipson have to become factors because Foster can't do it himself and even Spradling can help with shooting. Many are assuming Kentucky will win, but KSU will undoubtedly keep it close so that spread may not be the way to go.
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