No. 2 Kansas is coming off its first conference loss of the season to take on No. 4 Kentucky on Saturday in one of the 2016-17 season's most-anticipated matchups. Both teams are coming off conference losses, as Kansas lost to No. 18 West Virginia and Kentucky lost to unranked Tennessee, both on Tuesday.
The Kansan spoke with Chris Angolia — associate sports editor of the Kentucky Kernel, Kentucky's student newspaper — about the game on Saturday.
Kansan: What did you think about Kentucky's loss to Tennessee?
Angolia: I wasn't fully surprised. I was a little surprised. I just didn't think [Kentucky] played well. In terms of just looking at all the stats, they shot terribly and they didn't put together their customary run. There was no flow to the game. It was just out of control almost, at times. [The Wildcats] had a chance to cut it to four, and they go down and miss a wide open layup. Tennessee comes down and scores, and then [the Wildcats] turn the ball over on the next possession. So it was just one of those, but I definitely think it was a difficult game.
Tennessee is the most successful team against [Kentucky] in the past couple years. I mean [Kentucky was] up 21 down there last year, and they came back and beat [Kentucky.] So this is no stranger, I just didn't expect it with this team in particular.
Kansan: What's the outlook on De'Aaron Fox, who suffered an injury a week ago against South Carolina?
Angolia: He's fine. In all seriousness, he's completely fine. [Kentucky coach John Calipari] said Saturday after the game they forced him to wear the boot at the game just to prevent swelling. It's more of a precaution, just based on the matchup on Saturday.
Kansan: Any glaring problems with Kentucky?
Angolia: It finally happened yesterday [against Tennessee]. They kept giving Bam [Adebayo], and that was a problem because they had no scoring. They'd just try to beat teams from the outside.
I say it's a lack of depth. If you look at the team, they have [sophomore forward] Isaac Humphries coming off the bench, [senior guard Mychal] Mulder, [senior forward] Derek Willis, and [senior guard Dominique] Hawkins and all these guys. But when you really look at it, their production is very low. It's really minimal. They're basically there to eat minutes and [prevent] foul trouble.
Kansan: What have you seen from Kansas this season?
Angolia: I love [Frank Mason III] and [Devonte'] Graham. I'm a big guard guy. I love watching guard play. Mason's unbelievable. He's absolutely ridiculous, and he's probably a contender for national player of the year. And I like Graham a lot just for what he does for the team.
[Josh] Jackson is finally starting to come around, I noticed, which is huge because of how good he's supposed to be.
The teams are really similar. When you look at it, the teams are basically carbon copies of each other. Even in last year's game, only two guys taller than 6-foot-4 had double figures. [Alex] Poythress and Perry Ellis had double figures. So when you look at it now, it's clearly Jackson, Mason and Graham against Monk, Fox and Briscoe.
Kansan: What have you seen out of De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk?
Angolia: Fox is the quickest guard by far. He's lightning, and [Tuesday night] he would do little things. He'd press, the guy would beat him and he'd sprint down the court [to defend the ball-handler.] Off the dribble, he's insanely quick to the rim. He flies all over the place, and for me, it's something. He's worked on his jump shot, it hasn't really been all there yet. To me, he hasn't really put it together shooting-wise. But he can get to the rim at will, much like your [UCLA guard] Lonzo Ball, [NC State guard] Dennis Smith, [Washington guard] Markelle Fultz, even Mason. They all just get to the rim at will, and he's one of those guys.
In terms of Monk, there's nothing on the court that he can't do, in all seriousness. He's a freak, that's the best way to describe it.
Kansan: John Calipari joked recently that Brad Calipari would replace De'Aaron Fox if Fox was injured because of pressure from his wife. Who do you think would win in a one-on-one game: Tyler Self or Brad Calipari?
Angolia: I'd probably say Tyler.
Brad just hasn't played a lot of basketball recently. He's had a lot of knee injuries. I haven't really seen Tyler play a lot.
Kansan: What are your picks for the Final Four this season?
Angolia: Final Four: I'd definitely say Kansas, North Carolina, I'm on the fence with UCLA, if Villanova gets [Phil] Booth back, that's a very good possibility that they get back to the Final Four.
I think a sleeper team in all seriousness is Louisville. It has a mark of a Louisville team that could go far. Because they can defend, they put up points. They put up over 100 points against Pitt.
— Edited by Ashley Hocking