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Kansas

vs.

Kentucky

College Basketball Pick

1/28/17

After this game, either the No. 2 or No. 4 team in the country (AP polls) will be on a two-game losing streak. Both Kansas and Kentucky had difficult tests Tuesday night and both came out on the losing end at West Virginia and Tennessee, respectively. With a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament the ultimate goal, a win could go a long way in this matchup.

This hasn't been a normal Jayhawks season, though they still sport an 18-2 record. None of their games in conference play have been all that easy, with four of their seven wins coming by seven points or less. Either way, they already have a win against Duke and beating Kentucky would firmly put Kansas in position to get a top seed. But at Rupp Arena, that won't be easy.

Kentucky has dominated every home game in SEC play, but that wasn't the case in the non-conference with UCLA giving the Wildcats their first loss. And already with a loss to Louisville, a loss in this game could cost them a 1-seed even with that North Carolina win in their pocket.

The home advantage might be the biggest edge in this game, but the backcourt matchup between these teams is going to be one of the best we see all season. The trio of Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham and Josh Jackson against Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe is as close to must-watch college basketball as it gets. Of course, Svi Mykhailiuk, Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis are also in the mix for two teams that play a brand of small ball. And small ball was the main reason both of these teams struggled in losses earlier in the week.

While there are plenty of big names in this game, none of them are great low-post presences, which gives opponents the ability to eat them up in the paint. That's exactly what Tennessee did to Kentucky, even though the Vols aren't that big themselves. If you can win in the trenches against these teams, you'll have a much better chance. For this one, Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg Jr. will be matched up with Edrice Adebayo and Isaac Humphries. Adebayo has the edge in skill and athleticism, but Lucas has the experience as a senior. The winner of that battle could mean everything for this game.

That said, a lot of points will be expected no matter what happens down low, similar to Kentucky's previous matchups against top-end teams. Both teams have the best offense in their respective conferences in a number of categories from efficiency to three-point shooting. Defensively, the Cats have the slight edge, but it's nothing significant and again, they already allowed loads of points to UCLA and UNC.

Will the young Cats be able to limit what the experienced Mason and Graham bring to the table? Jackson and Mykhailiuk still may end up being the unsung heroes in this game. UK doesn't really have anyone to match Jackson due to his size, and Mykhailiuk can't be ignored on the perimeter. The difference for the Wildcats is that they're a little more inconsistent, as that's part of being a freshman. Malik Monk can score in bunches, but he's not always hitting from deep, although his numbers have been great at home. KU also has the edge in knowing that Fox and Briscoe don't want to shoot threes, so that will come in handy. It's much different for the Jayhawks as they have three guys that already have made 40-plus threes.

On a neutral court, Kansas probably has the edge given its experience and ability to match anything Adebayo does. But in Rupp Arena, it's hard to go against the Cats, although it's not impossible (as UCLA knows).

Our Pick - Kentucky by 5

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