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: No. 1 Kansas at Oklahoma State, 5 p.m. in Stillwater, Okla. (ESPN)
Opponent’s record: 20-10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 18
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Point spread: Oklahoma State by 1.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Three-point shooting: Oklahoma State has made 42 percent of its threes in Big 12 play, which is second in the league behind Iowa State.
▪ Forcing turnovers: The Cowboys aren’t great defensively, but they have done a good job pressuring opponents while ranking 40th nationally in defensive turnover rate.
▪ Free throw shooting: Oklahoma State has the sixth-best free throw percentage, making 78 percent of its shots at the line.
▪ Rim protection: Opponents have gotten 41 percent of their shots against Oklahoma State at the rim — the 44th-highest mark nationally. That’s part of the reason that Big 12 opponents have made 55 percent of their twos against the Cowboys.
▪ Fouls: Oklahoma State has had issues with whistles, ranking 334th in defensive free throw rate.
▪ Transition defense: The Cowboys have struggled to get back defensively, as 27 percent of opponents’ shots have been in transition (55th-highest split nationally).
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-1 guard Jawun Evans (No. 1)
Plus: Sixth in KenPom’s national player of the year standings
Plus: Unquestioned go-to guy offensively
Plus: One of nation’s best passers
Plus: Gets to line often and is 80 percent shooter there
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Minus: Poor finisher at the rim
6-foot-6 guard Jeffrey Carroll (No. 30)
Plus: Versatile offensive player
Plus: 44 percent three-point shooter
Plus: Above-average finisher at rim and in midrange
Plus: Draws contact often and is strong free throw shooter
Minus: Has low assist rate, meaning he creates more for himself than others
5-foot-11 guard Phil Forte (No. 13)
Plus: High-volume, accurate three-point shooter
Plus: No. 1 in nation in free throw percentage (95 percent)
Plus: Almost never turns it over
Minus: Struggles to close out on three-point shooters
Minus: Not much of a threat to score inside arc
It’s an interesting matchup for KU in that it has clear advantages offensively and just-as-clear disadvantages defensively.
KU should have plenty of chances in transition — an area where it thrives most. The Jayhawks also should get little resistance inside, where the Cowboys have struggled to block shots and grab defensive rebounds.
On the other end, Oklahoma State has been tough for anyone to guard the last two months, and the Jayhawks’ struggles to contain dribble penetration and extend to three-point shooters could both be issues Saturday.
It should be a fast-paced, high-scoring contest, and though KU has been good in close games this year, I like the Cowboys’ chances of winning one late if they can avoid excessive foul trouble.
Oklahoma State 88, Kansas 85
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Oklahoma State
Hawk to Rock
Oklahoma State doesn’t appear to have a defensive answer for Josh Jackson, who had 17 free throws in the teams’ first matchup. Jackson also should have opportunities in transition and on the offensive glass, which means the potential is there for a huge statistical game.
Last game prediction: Kansas 90, Oklahoma 68 (Actual: KU 73-63)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 13-14-1
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 54-41-3