Kentucky Draws Kansas for Big 12/SEC Challenge

Collegiate basketball’s two all-time winningest programs will meet for the seventh time in eight seasons when Kentucky travels to Kansas on Jan. 29 as a part of the annual Big 12/ Challenge in 2021-22. The full slate of games was announced Wednesday by the respective leagues.

It will mark the 33rd all-time meeting between the two schools and the ninth during the John Calipari era. The Wildcats own a 23-10 all-time record against the Jayhawks, but Kansas has won four of the last five meetings, including a 65-62 win in the Champions Classic last season. Kentucky last visited Allen Fieldhouse in 2016. The Jayhawks prevailed 90-84 in overtime.

The 2022 slate of Big 12/ Challenge games will mark the ninth season of the annual event between the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 and the seventh straight in which all 10 games of the challenge will be played on the same day.

Ten of the SEC’s 14 teams will participate in the 2022 challenge against all 10 of the Big 12’s institutions, with each conference hosting five games apiece. The four teams not participating will play each other in conference games the same day.

All 10 games will be air across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU and will be available on the ESPN app. ESPN’s College GameDay– the Saturday roadshow that discusses the top storylines of the college basketball season – will originate from one of the Challenge games.

In addition to game times, network designations will be announced at a later date for the challenge.

The Big 12/ Challenge has been balanced over the last five seasons. The leagues split the games in 2017, the SEC won it 6-4 in 2018 and the Big 12 edged the SEC 6-4 in 2019. The leagues tied 5-5 in 2020 and the SEC earned a 5-4 win in 2021.

UK is 4-3 all-time in the challenge but missed last season’s matchup slated to be against Texas inside of Rupp Arena due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kansas was 21-9 in 2020-21 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s second round before falling to Southern Cal. The Jayhawks are projected to be one of the best teams in the country once again paced by the return of David McCormack who was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.4 points per game.

In addition to Kansas, UK has already announced nonconference matchups vs. Duke on Nov. 9 in the Champions Classic in New York, a road game at Michigan on Dec. 4, a neutral-site meeting against Notre Dame on Dec. 11 and a matchup with North Carolina in the Sports Classic on Dec. 18.

Additional nonconference matchups and the full slate of games will be announced at a later date.

Kentucky will meet what is expected to be another demanding test head on with what looks to be a solid blend of talent and experience.

The Wildcats welcome back junior forwards Keion Brooks Jr. (10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in 2020-21) and Jacob Toppin (5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game), sophomore guard Dontaie Allen (31 3-pointers and 5.4 points per game), and sophomore forward Lance Ware (2.0 points, 3.0 rebounds in 2018-19). Kentucky could also return its leading scorer in Davion Mintz who averaged 11.5 points per game and sank 56 3-pointers. He has until July 7 to remove his name from NBA Draft consideration and return to school.

UK will also gain additional experience with four transfers in forward and guards CJ Fredrick, and Sahvir Wheeler. Combined the four have appeared in 266 collegiate games. Tshiebwe spent the spring semester with the Wildcats and is a former All-Big 12 performer from who has 12 career double-doubles. Fredrick, from Iowa, is an All-Big 10 performer who owns a career 46.6% percentage from long range. Grady is a four-time All-Atlantic 10 player who suited up for Davidson and has more than 2,000 career points and a career average of 17.4 points per game. Wheeler is an All- player who led the league in assists per game (7.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7) at Georgia as a sophomore.

The Wildcats will add three consensus four- or five-star prospects in Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins and TyTy Washington. Collins is ranked as high as the No. 10 overall player in the class and averaged 35.2 points, 14.4 rebounds. 7.0 assists and 6.2 blocks per game and was named the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year. Hopkins averaged 24.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game as a senior and is a top-25 prospect. He was the MaxPreps Illinois High School Player of the Year. Washington averaged 24.0 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game this past season to lead Compass Prep to a 30-2 record. He connected on 48% of his shots and 41% from 3-point range and is ranked as high as the No. 12 overall player in the class.

 

Opponent 2020-21 Record Postseason Final NET Ranking Final Ranking (AP/Coaches) KenPom.com Final Ranking Series History Last Meeting
Duke 13-11 49 -/- 36 UK leads 12-10 Duke won 118-84 on Nov. 6, 2018
Michigan 23-5 Elite Eight 3 4/4 3 UK leads 5-2 UK won 75-72 on March 30, 2014
Notre Dame 11-15 98 -/- 85 UK leads 43-20 ND won 64-63 on Dec. 12, 2020
North Carolina 18-11 NCAA First Round 39 -/- 34 UNC leads 25-16 UNC won 75-63 on Dec. 19, 2020
Kansas 21-9 NCAA Second Round 17 12/16 27 UK leads 23-10 KU won 65-62 on Dec. 1, 2020