Where things stand in race between Kentucky and Kansas basketball in all-time wins race

·3 min read

LEXINGTON – Almost three months into the college basketball season, and Kentucky has held serve in the quest to maintain its lead in all time wins.

After UK’s season-opening loss to Duke and Kansas’s season-opening win over Michigan State in the Champions Classic, the Jayhawks moved within three wins of Kentucky for the wins lead. That is still the margin leading into a head-to-head matchup between the two blue blood programs in Lawrence, Kansas Saturday.

Kansas, ranked No. 5 in the most recent USA TODAY Coaches Poll, is 17-2 on the season. No. 13 Kentucky is 16-4. The Wildcats now lead the wins race 2,343 to 2,340.

Of course, a win for the favored Jayhawks Saturday would cut the lead to two games. Kansas also has one more game than Kentucky remaining in the regular season.

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With challenges ahead for both teams, the race could be a dead heat by the time postseason play begins.

Kentucky still has to play road games at KenPom.com top-50 teams Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida with home games against top-50 squads Florida, Alabama and LSU. Kansas has road games at top-50 squads Iowa State, Texas, West Virginia and Baylor and home games against top-50 opponents Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.

KenPom projects Kansas to finish the regular season at 25-6. It projects Kentucky to enter postseason play at 24-7.

The conference tournaments could provide another opportunity for one team to gain an advantage in the race depending on how far each team advances, but it will be the NCAA Tournament that likely decides which team ends the season on tip in the wins race.

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Both Kentucky and Kansas can be considered among the contenders to reach the Final Four, but Kentucky’s resume currently lacks the type of top-end wins needed to compete with Kansas and others for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Of course, winning Saturday would go a long way to improving Kentucky’s seed and maintaining its lead in the wins race.

To do that, Kentucky will need to win in Lawrence for the first time since 1984. The Wildcats have lost four games at Kansas in that span, including an overtime loss in the last meeting in Lawrence in 2016.

Kentucky holds a 23-10 advantage all time against Kansas but has lost four of its last five games against the Jayhawks. UK is 4-4 against Kansas in the John Calipari era. One of those wins came in the 2012 national championship game.

“I think Kansas is going to be a great matchup for us,” junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe said after UK’s win over Mississippi State Tuesday. “We’re going there to go play and go fight. If you’re not really willing to go die, to fight for these people, you’re not going to get anything in your life. You got to fight for everything.”

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky basketball vs. Kansas: All-time wins lead in play

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