Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Saturday’s game: Stanford at No. 4 Kansas, 2:30 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse (ESPN)
Opponent’s record: 6-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 68
Point spread: KU by 16 1/2 .
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Defensive rebounding: First-year coach Jerod Haase has quickly turned last year’s weakness into a strength, as Stanford ranks 38th in defensive rebounding percentage. Playing primarily man defense (as opposed to zone) appears to have particularly helped.
▪ Three-point defense: Stanford has done a good job of preventing three-point attempts while also holding down shooting percentages. Opponents have been much more effective scoring against the Cardinal with two-pointers and free throws so far.
▪ Forcing turnovers: Helped by three players in the top 300 in steal rate, Stanford ranks 80th in defensive turnover percentage.
▪ Three-point offense: Haase definitely hasn’t fallen far from the Roy Williams tree when it comes to three-point avoidance. Stanford has shot the eighth-fewest percentage of outside shots of any NCAA team while also making only 30 percent of those tries.
▪ Ball security: The Cardinal ranks 255th in offensive turnover percentage, with the biggest issue appearing to be a lack of reliable ball-handlers in the backcourt.
▪ Making close shots: Forty-one percent of Stanford’s shots come at the rim (that’s good!) but the Cardinal has made just 54 percent of those shots (that’s bad!). The team gets fewer shots blocked than an average NCAA team, which suggests this is a skills issue more than it is Stanford being undersized.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-8 forward Reid Travis (No. 22)
Plus: Team’s go-to guy offensively who has decent efficiency
Plus: Elite at drawing contact and getting to line
Plus: Above-average shooter at the rim
Plus: Top-200 rebounder on both ends
Minus: Career 52 percent free-throw shooter
Minus: Does not attempt threes
Six-foot-5 guard/forward Dorian Pickens (No. 11)
Plus: Stanford’s other top option offensively besides Travis
Plus: Easily team’s best three-point shooter
Plus: Above-average midrange shot
Minus: Not much of a rebounder on either end
Minus: Doesn’t get to rim often and is below-average shooter there
Six-foot-9 forward Michael Humphrey (No. 10)
Plus: Not afraid to take shots
Plus: One of team’s best with blocks and steals
Minus: Inefficient offensive player
Minus: Turns it over too often
Minus: Poor shooter at rim and doesn’t get to line often
Stanford is a strange team that has similar things happen on both ends.
Offensively, the Cardinal gets lots of close shots but doesn’t make many of them. Defensively, opponents get lots of close shots but haven’t been converting either.
KU has been great finishing at the rim this season, so this seems like a potential positive part of the matchup for the Jayhawks.
The potential negative, though? Stanford’s big men forcing those shots could create fouls, and KU’s big men have had a major issue avoiding whistles so far.
Outside of free throws, though ... this Stanford offense doesn’t seem scary. While KU shouldn’t get the same points off transition or three-pointers as it has the last two games, it still should score enough to take a comfortable victory against an opposing offense that hasn’t been effective so far.
Kansas 74, Stanford 55
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: KU
Hawk to Rock
Stanford forces the ball inside, and we know from the past that one of KU coach Bill Self’s biggest pet peeves is giving up offensive rebounds. Because of that, I’ll head way down the bench and pick Dwight Coleby as HTR, as he appears to be a good fit for this game based on his strong defensive rebounding percentage and ability to avoid fouls better than KU’s other frontcourt players.
Last game prediction: Kansas 96, Long Beach State 62 (Actual: KU 91-61)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 4-2
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 45-29-2