March Madness 2018: Kentucky vs. Kansas State Sweet 16 matchup, pick, predictions

Kentucky takes on Kansas State in the Sweet 16. Here is everything you need to know for their matchup in Atlanta on Thursday.

A week after griping about Kentucky's NCAA Tournament draw, coach John Calipari's team is the highest seed left in the South region, and the Wildcats have a great opportunity to get to their fifth Final Four under Calipari.

Kansas State is the next in their path after a favorable first-weekend draw, and coach Bruce Weber has a team in the Sweet 16 for the first time since leading Illinois to the national championship game in 2005. Kentucky is a 5.5-point favorite in this one, and that number could move up before Thursday's game.

MORE SWEET 16 GAME PREVIEWS:
Loyola (Ill.)-Nevada | Texas A&M-Michigan | FSU-Gonzaga

Let's take a closer look at this Sweet 16 matchup.

March Madness matchup:
Kentucky vs. Kansas State

How to watch

The Kentucky vs. Kansas State matchup begins at 9:37 p.m. ET. It will be televised on CBS and can be live-streamed on fuboTV (7-day free trial).

No. 5 Kentucky

Coach: John Calipari
Overall record: 26-10
Scoring leader: Kevin Knox (15.7 ppg.)
Rebounding leader: Jarred Vanderbilt (7.9 rpg.)
Assists leader: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (5.1 apg.)
Famous non-athlete alum: Ashley Judd

NCAA TOURNAMENT 2018: Re-ranking the Sweet 16

No. 9 Kansas State

Coach: Bruce Weber
Overall record: 24-11
Scoring leader: Dean Wade (16.5 ppg.)
Rebounding leader: Dean Wade (6.3 ppg.)
Assists leader: Kamau Stokes (3.4 apg.)
Famous non-athlete alum: Kirstie Alley

Best individual matchup: Dean Wade vs. Kevin Knox

This matchup will be great if it materializes. These two forwards have similar body types; Wade (6-8, 225) is a little heavier and Knox (6-9, 215) is a touch taller. Wade missed Kansas State's last three games with a stress fracture in his foot, but he's reportedly "98 percent sure" he'll play.

For Knox, it's about staying out of foul trouble. He had just eight points in the second-round victory against Buffalo after scoring 25 points in the first round. Of course, Kentucky's Jarred Vanderbilt, the team's leading rebounder who missed the last five games, also could be back.

MORE SWEET 16 GAME PREVIEWS:
Clemson-Kansas | W. Virginia-Villanova
Syracuse-Duke | Texas Tech-Purdue

Most eye-popping stat

Kentucky is 6-0 in the Sweet 16 under Calipari, and the average margin of victory in those games is 14.5 points. The last time Kentucky faced a Big 12 team in this round, it routed West Virginia, 78-39, in 2015.

Get to know …

Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was fantastic in the first two rounds of the tournament. The Hamilton, Canada, native averaged 23 points, seven rebounds and 6.5 assists in the first two rounds of the tournament. Gilgeous-Alexander's ability to control tempo and get to the rim is uncanny, and the 6-6 freshman will be a test for Kansas State's guards. Barry Brown (16.1 ppg) needs to come up big for K-State in response.

MORE: 33 best teams that didn't win the NCAA Tournament

Sweet 16 pick: Kentucky

Kentucky can't just show up and win, but the team has shot 52.2 percent in its last five wins while holding opponents to 36.5-percent shooting. If those percentages hold, then there won't be much drama. Wade's status will be a key for K-State, and it will have to rally around the underdog factor. But while those outside of #BBN will be rooting against Kentucky, Calipari, as he so often does, will use that to keep his team focused.