NCAAB Betting Guide for Kansas vs Kentucky

NCAAB Betting Guide for Kansas vs Kentucky article feature image
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Pictured: Oscar Tshiebwe #34 of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Kansas vs Kentucky Odds

Saturday, Jan. 28
8 p.m. ET
ESPN
Kansas Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
+2.5
-106
140.5
-105o / -115u
+122
Kentucky Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
-2.5
-114
140.5
-105o / -115u
-146
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

In some ways, the Big 12/SEC Challenge just feels like a way to get the Kentucky Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks to play each other in the years they don't meet at the Champions Classic to open the season.

This marks the 10th edition of the Big 12/SEC Challenge and UK and KU are meeting for the fifth time. In three of the years they didn't play in this event, they met in November at the Champions Classic.

These programs are very familiar with one another — and with winning. Big Blue and Rock Chalk are the two winningest programs in college basketball history. They are no strangers to success.

Kansas enters the game with a better record and rank in the AP Poll, but the Jayhawks have lost three straight games and Kentucky, winners of four straight, is storming forward.


Kansas Jayhawks

There was a moment in early-to-mid January where the reigning champs looked like they had a chance to retain the title at the Final Four in April. Kansas started 16-1, ripping off five straight victories in the brutal Big 12.

Since then, the Jayhawks have hit a series of speed bumps, losing to in-state rival Kansas State in overtime, getting crushed by TCU and falling at Baylor.

Some of the teams in the hellish Big 12 are probably glad to see an SEC team on the schedule this weekend. Kansas, meanwhile, gets a trip to Rupp Arena.

No matter the opponent or the venue, Bill Self probably feels good trotting his best five onto the court. When he has to dip into his bench, Self's confidence takes a major hit. Kansas ranks 345th in bench minutes this season, with Self subbing more by necessity than strategically.

In conference play, there are three Jayhawks averaging 33 minutes or more per game. In eight conference games, Jalen Wilson has played 300 of a possible 325 minutes, including all 45 minutes in the overtime loss at Kansas State.

Per lineup data from EvanMiya, Self's best five have played 470 possessions together. No other Kansas unit has hit 70 possessions.

In March, or in games that feel like March (like a road game in Lexington), depth matters. Foul trouble, injuries and fatigue make an impact — let alone finding a strategic advantage with a new lineup. If Self can't find impact players on his bench, it could bite him.

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Kentucky Wildcats

Every Kentucky season feels like a soap opera, yet this one certainly has had its dramatic moments. The Wildcats played well early in the year, but slowly leaked water, especially offensively.

A loss to a dreadful South Carolina team, at home in front of the Big Blue faithful, felt like a breaking point.

They just kicked this guy out pic.twitter.com/pUttAh1Nmd

— Matt Sak (@MattSakBBN) January 11, 2023

There were members of the fanbase, media and analytical community who thought the answer was apparent. A five-man lineup composed of Cason Wallace, Antonio Reeves, CJ Frederick, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe had only played 20 possessions together through 16 games (when Kentucky was 10-6).

One wild card play for Kentucky: employ the lineup of Wallace, Reeves, Fredrick, Toppin, and Tshiebwe, which has only played 20 possessions together but has put up absurd numbers. Keep in mind that 5-man lineup data can be pretty unreliable in small doses. Still, very intriguing. pic.twitter.com/OEwztzagc6

— Evan Miyakawa (@EvanMiya) January 11, 2023

The light bulb went off for John Calipari and he's trusted that five-man unit in recent weeks. Since doing so, Kentucky has boosted its performance on both ends of the floor.

The lineup that has changed Kentucky's season now has the highest Adjusted Team Efficiency Margin in the entire country for all D1 lineups (60+ possessions at https://t.co/cegyfz96ax).

In fact, Wallace/Reeves/Fredrick/Toppin/Oscar has the highest mark of any lineup since 2019-20 pic.twitter.com/VVBrPMmz43

— Evan Miyakawa (@EvanMiya) January 18, 2023

That grouping prioritizes shooting and experience, largely in favor of Sahvir Wheeler's playmaking off the dribble. Through a four-game sample size, that looks like the right move.

This new lineup needs to be tested, more than it has been to date. Kentucky started its winning streak at Tennessee, but the Volunteers shot just 3-of-21 from deep that night. The Wildcats then beat three teams not projected to reach the NCAA Tournament (per Bracket Matrix).

The Jayhawks offer a real test.


Kansas vs. Kentucky Betting Pick

Those team breakdowns featured a lot of talk about five-man lineups, so it's logical to think this game gets decided by the matchup of those units.

The Kansas starting five, though versatile and malleable, is small up front. No Jayhawk starter tops 6-foot-8, with both Gradey Dick and Jalen Wilson playing more on the perimeter than inside.

That's a scary proposition against reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe. The big man is the best rebounder in college basketball, ranking top five in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate. No team in the country nabs more of its own misses than the Wildcats.

Self is always dangerous as an underdog, but he's 1-2 this season ATS and straight-up when getting points. Without an answer on the glass and in the middle, I like Kentucky to win.

Pick: Kentucky Moneyline

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