Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Friday’s game: UNC Asheville vs. No. 5 Kansas, 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse
Opponent’s record: 3-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 151
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Point spread: None listed.
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Pressure defense: UNC Asheville’s greatest strength is creating havoc, ranking ninth nationally in defensive turnover rate and sixth in steal percentage.
▪ Ball security: UNCA ranks 85th in offensive turnover rate this year after struggling in that stat the last three seasons under coach Nicholas McDevitt.
▪ Foul avoidance: The Bulldogs are 89th in defensive free-throw rate — the exact same spot they held last season under McDevitt.
▪ Rebounding ... both ends: UNCA is undersized in the frontcourt and has struggled on the offensive and defensive glass because of that.
▪ Rim protection: The Bulldogs have allowed opponents to shoot 56 percent on two-pointers (300th nationally) and 66 percent on shots at the rim (283rd).
▪ Drawing contact: UNCA is 291st in offensive free-throw rate and has averaged only 16 free-throw attempts in its first five games.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-3 guard Ahmad Thomas (No. 14)
Plus: Versatile offensive player
Plus: 56-percent three-point shooter in small sample this season
Plus: Also above average at rim and in mid-range
Plus: Good at creating steals and can block shots
Minus: Doesn’t create as many fouls as you’d expect
Minus: More of a scorer than a passer
Six-foot-3 guard MaCio Teague (No. 31)
Plus: Efficient offensive player
Plus: Has made 44 percent of threes while leading team in those shots
Plus: Almost never turns it over
Plus: Top 200 nationally in steal percentage
Minus: Below-average finisher at rim
Minus: Low assist numbers
Six-foot-3 guard Raekwon Miller (No. 12)
Plus: Team’s best at grabbing steals
Plus: Good passer
Plus: Slightly above average three-point shooter
Minus: Turns it over frequently
Minus: Almost never shoots it inside arc (nine attempts in five games)
This game seems pretty simple for KU: Avoid turnovers, win easily.
UNCA’s best defense comes from getting steals. Get a shot, though, the Bulldogs are typically in trouble, allowing open attempts at the rim and a high percentage of offensive rebounds.
The good news for KU is that it seems to be well-equipped for this type of team (if it avoids fould trouble). Frank Mason, Devonté Graham and Josh Jackson are all good ball-handlers who have done a nice job avoiding turnovers.
UNCA also doesn’t appear to have too much explosiveness offensively. Outside of chasing the aforementioned Thomas and Teague on the perimeter, KU shouldn’t have much to worry about, especially because the Bulldogs don’t appear to be a team that can take advantage of the Jayhawks’ foul-prone ways.
Add it all up, and I’d be surprised if this doesn’t end up topping KU’s 21-point victory over Siena as the biggest blowout of the young season.
Kansas 88, UNC Asheville 60
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: N/A
Hawk to Rock
UNC Asheville is the strange team that is poor on close-shot defense while getting back well in transition. So who is KU’s best at getting to the basket in the half-court? Yep, Frank Mason should be in line for another strong game while not having to worry about shot-blockers.
Last game prediction: Kansas 71, Georgia 63 (Actual: KU 65-54)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 3-2
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 44-29-2