1. Can KU Serve Cold Dish?
The last time the Wildcats and Jayhawks met was one of the most memorable games in the history of a rivalry that has featured more than its fair share of unpredictable lopsided affairs. The series history features only 28 matchups, but Kentucky has won games by 29, 30, 37, 27 and 32 points along the way. Kansas owns the infamous 55-point win and a 27-point blowout. In the third game of last season, Kentucky romped to a 72-40 win over Kansas in the Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. In reality, the game wasn't even as close as that score indicated. The Cats' defense suffocated the Jayhawks, holding Bill Self's club to 19.6 percent shooting from the field. Kentucky blocked as many shots (11) and Kansas made on the night. Most of the UK team that administered that beating has moved on to the NBA, but four of the KU starters are back and will no doubt have that sour taste lingering with a thirst for revenge. The Jayhawks' expected starting backcourt on Saturday -- Wayne Mason III, Devonte Graham and Wayne Selden Jr. -- may be particularly salty. They combined to hit only five of 25 shots in last year's matchup. Remember, UCLA was in a similar mood when the Cats visited Pauley Pavilion earlier this season. The Bruins upset UK 87-77 a year after being blasted 83-44.
2. Can UK Handle The Atmosphere?
There's little doubt that Kansas' Phog Allen Fieldhouse is one of the most difficult venues to play in all of college basketball. The Jayhawks boast a 34-game winning streak on their home court, including a thrilling 109-106 triple-overtime victory over current No. 1 Oklahoma earlier this month. It's been a particularly daunting arena for non-conference opponents, who have won only twice there since 2006. On Friday leading up to the matchup, UK coach John Calipari called Allen Fieldhouse one of the loudest arenas that his players will ever visit. "It’s like you’re at a concert and you’re near the bass. Boom! Boom! You feel it," the UK boss said. Whether the young Cats can handle the pressure and maintain their composure will go a long way toward determining the outcome on Saturday night. Kentucky got off to a shaky start on the road this season, falling at UCLA, LSU and Auburn, but was impressive the last time out with an 80-66 win at Arkansas' formidable Bud Walton Arena. The Cats may also have a trump card in the form of unflappable Tyler Ulis. The sophomore point guard has scored 65 points, dished out 18 assists and turned the ball over only six times in his last three outings. Ulis has two turnovers of less in 14 of the 19 games he has played this season.
3. Which Frontcourt Will Shine?
Kentucky and Kansas somewhat mirror each other with potent three-man backcourts. The Cats are better off the bounce, but the Jayhawks have been a better 3-point shooting team. Both squads get occasional bursts of star power from combo forwards Alex Poythress and Perry Ellis, but big man play has been wildly inconsistent. Derek Willis has been a huge "X-factor" for the Cats of late, averaging 12.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game the last four games. His ability to stretch the floor has prevented recent opponents from packing in the zone against UK and opened more driving lanes for guards Ulis, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe. Skal Labissiere has also shown signs of life with 11 points against Arkansas and 12 points against Missouri after struggling royally for more than a month. Marcus Lee is now trying to break out of a slump which has seen him score only 25 points and grab just 36 rebounds in the last seven games. Three times during that stretch Lee has fouled out. The Cats can't afford that in this matchup if they want to leave Lawrence with a W. Kansas, meanwhile, hopes to get more production from one-time UK recruits Carlton Bragg (4.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and Cheick Diallo (4.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg) than it has to date.