The Big 12-SEC challenge gives us what looks to be the best matchup of the weekend, as No. 9 Kansas travels to take on No. 8 Kentucky Saturday.

You can watch the game at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

Before tip-off, we look at 3 key factors that will make a big impact in the game, followed by a prediction for the matchup:

Can Kansas get Kentucky off the glass?

Kentucky is one of the best teams in the country on the boards. The Wildcats are the fifth-best team in the nation in total rebound percentage, collecting 57.1 percent of all available rebounds. They’re also the ninth-best team in offensive rebound percentage at 37.9 percent. If that weren’t enough, Kentucky has held opponents to 28.9 total rebounds per game — the third lowest amount in Division I.

Kansas is quite a bit behind, with a total rebound percentage of 51.6 (ranked 130 in the country) and an offensive rebound percentage of 29.2 (ranked 163). Without Udoka Azubuike and his 6.8 rebounds per game (second on Kansas only to Dedric Lawson), that problem is only exacerbated. 

Since the Jayhawks have the 114th-best offensive rating in the country — they average just 107.5 points per 100 possessions — they can’t allow the Wildcats to dominate on the boards, or a lack of possessions will come back to haunt them.

Kentucky needs to limit fouls

The Wildcats average 16.2 fouls per game, which is the 43rd-lowest in the country. Yet against Duke, they racked up 25, and against Seton Hall, they had 21. It’s no surprise that the Wildcats lost both matchups. Duke had 28 points from free throws against Kentucky, while 24 Seton Hall had 24 of its 84 points come from the line.

There’s a bit more of a margin of error for this against Kansas, which shoots 64.2 percent from the line (266th in the country), but if you put any team on the line 20+ times, they’re bound to make you pay.

3-pointers will be sparse (but key)

When looking at 3-point attempt rate (what percentage of field goal attempts are 3-pointers), Kansas ranked 314th at 32.6 percent, and Kentucky ranks 340th at 29.9 percent. Combined, the two teams have only taken 676 3-pointers this season. Savannah State leads Division I with 754 3-point attempts on the year.

But when they do take 3-pointers, both teams are slightly above average from deep. Kentucky hits 35.7 percent, while Kansas is at 35.6.

RELATED: It’s time to consider we counted out Villanova way too early

For Kansas, a lot of that success is owed to Lagerald Vick and Devon Dotson. Vick’s 45.7 percentage from deep leads the Big 12, and he’s doing it while taking an average of 6.7 attempts per game. Dotson only averages 1.9 attempts per game, but hits at 41.7 percent, making him a constant threat.

While the Jayhawks don’t rely terribly on their 3-point prowess, all three of their losses came when they shot below 32 percent from beyond the arc. Only one of those saw an inordinate number of attempts, as Kansas took a season-high 28 3-pointers against Arizona State. 


Kansas will need a big game from Lawson or Vick to come out of Lexington with a win. In all likelihood, Kentucky’s depth, dominance on the glass, and home court advantage will provide the edge for the Wildcats. SCORE PREDICTION: Kentucky wins, 78-73

How we’re doing with these predictions

We’re at 6-6 on the season, but we can feel a hot streak coming.

Michigan State vs. Iowa (Jan. 24)

  • Our pick: Michigan State
  • Result: Win

Kentucky vs. Auburn (Jan. 19)

  • Our pick: Auburn
  • Result: Loss

Virginia vs. Duke (Jan. 19)

  • Our pick: Virginia
  • Result: Loss

Virginia Tech vs. Virginia (Jan. 15)

  • Our pick: Virginia Tech
  • Result: Loss

Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Jan. 5)

  • Our pick: Michigan State
  • Result: Win

Virginia vs. Florida State (Jan. 5)

  • Our pick: Virginia
  • Result: Win

Kentucky vs. North Carolina (Dec. 22)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Loss

Gonzaga vs. North Carolina (Dec. 15)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Win

Kansas vs. Villanova (Dec. 15)

  • Our pick: Kansas
  • Result: Win

Gonzaga vs. Tennessee (Dec. 9)

  • Our pick: Gonzaga
  • Result: Loss

North Carolina vs. Michigan (Nov. 28)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Loss

Duke vs. Auburn (Nov. 20)

  • Our pick: Duke
  • Result: Win

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