The #1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks take care of business versus #17 Kentucky Wildcats in the opener of the State Farm Champions Classic.
Much to no one’s surprise, the matchup between Kansas Basketball versus the Kentucky Wildcats was action packed and back and forth through the end. The Kentucky Wildcats have been a promising young team early on, and the Jayhawks win over the, says a lot about where they’re headed this season. Their 89 – 84 win coming in late provides some great insight into where this team is at and may help answer the question of if they deserve that number one spot currently.
1. Sloppy play
It felt like Kansas took their gas off the pedal after getting off to a hot start in an early 9-0 run because through to the end of the first half after that, this felt like Kentucky’s game. Now a lot of that certainly can be contributed to the effort and ability of the Wildcats. Adou Thiero, Antonio Reeves, and Rob Dillingham off the bench came alive early with Dillingham really heating up from three to spark a pull away lead.
That being said a lot of these opportunities came from self-inflicted mistakes on the Jayhawks part. They turned the ball over 14 times, and a lot of those came in this half. Follow that with some poor shot selection, and you can see where they fell flat. Consistency is the name of the game for all programs, but when it comes to this Jayhawks team, their ability to stay true to themselves will lead to a fun post-season. Towards the middle of the second half when they started to be more methodical and tightened up, they made their huge comeback.
2. Off the bench
The starting five of K.J. Adams Jr., Elmarko Jackson, Dajuan Harris Jr., Kevin Macular Jr., and Hunter Dickinson worked great. Everyone can switch minus Dickinson who especially dominated the glass on the defensive end and is a nice interior presence to hold things together. His only issue is slowing the offense at times, but so far, they’ve found a great rhythm to keep him going and in it. What’s more intriguing from this game was the much smaller role.
A lot of the bench is young so to an extent you expect the veterans to hold things down a little more. However, Nick Timberlake had some higher expectations this year at guard off the bench, and Parker Brian is going to be huge in relieving Dickinson and maintaining the post presence. So in essence, the success off the bench isn’t anything to panic over, just something to watch as the season progresses to see how deep this team can go in big games.
3. The Good and the Bad
Poor shot selection, turnovers, and foul trouble allowed Kentucky to pull away early and stay in the mix to the end. There’s some questions over depth and consistency that could take this team out of the win column in rematch. Also despite Dickinson grabbing 15 defensive rebound, they were dominated on the offensive glass which may have been by design some, but nonetheless that hurt them.
That being said, the Jayhawks’ ability to fight back after taking themselves out of it is huge. Kentucky is going to be a great younger team this season, so for Kansas to have the grit to inch back and secure a win say a lot about their ceiling when they’re firing on all cylinders. They’re efficient from three as a team averaging around the 43% mark and play solid defensively with seven key takeaways.
Both of these teams are going to be fun to watch this season. Following the Champions Classic, Kansas heads to the Allstate Maui Invitational to face Chaminade and then back home to Allen Fieldhouse facing Eastern Illinois to round out the month of November. Using these games as a reset and retool will be helpful as their first game next month in December will be against currently #5 ranked UConn. Expect that by that game, we will know a lot about the consistency and strength of this team.