Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Thursday’s game: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 TCU, around 2 p.m. at the Sprint Center (ESPN2)
Opponent’s record: 18-14
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 38
Point spread: Not set.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Getting close shots: TCU ranks 76th nationally in percentage of shot attempts at the rim. The Horned Frogs also made 51 percent of their twos in Big 12 play, which was the second-best mark in the conference.
▪ Shot blocking: Helped mostly by Vladimir Brodziansky, TCU challenges most shots at the rim, ranking 47th nationally in block percentage.
▪ Three-point prevention: TCU was best in the Big 12 during conference play at discouraging opposing three-point attempts.
▪ Turnovers ... both ends: TCU is likely to lose the turnover battle, ranking eighth in conference play in offensive turnover rate and ninth in the defensive version of the stat.
▪ Creating contact: The Horned Frogs were last in the Big 12 in offensive free throw rate, meaning KU should be less likely to battle foul issues on a day it will be missing Josh Jackson.
▪ Allowing close shots: Forty-one percent of opponents’ shots against TCU come at the rim — the 289th-best defensive mark nationally. The Horned Frogs challenge those shots well, but they still allow a lot of attempts from close range.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-11 forward Vladimir Brodziansky (No. 10)
Plus: All-Big 12 second-team selection
Plus: Ranks 20th nationally in block rate
Plus: Efficient offensive player who is great at rim and in midrange
Plus: Gets to line often and is 79 percent shooter there
Plus: Doesn’t shoot threes often but can make them
Minus: Better help defender than on-ball defender
6-foot-7 guard Kenrich Williams (No. 34)
Plus: Team’s best rebounder on both ends
Plus: Finishes well at the rim and in transition
Plus: Doesn’t turn it over often
Plus: Solid three-point shooter
Minus: Not as aggressive as he should be offensively
6-foot-2 guard Jaylen Fisher (No. 0)
Plus: High-volume, accurate three-point shooter
Plus: One of team’s best passers
Plus: Had nine assists in team’s first game against KU
Minus: Struggles to make shots at the rim
Minus: Turns it over way too often
An interesting subplot will be watching to see how often TCU goes to a zone. The Horned Frogs have played zone 15 percent of their defensive possessions, according to Synergy Sports’ logs, and that could make a lot of sense considering the Jayhawks’ zone-busting specialist Jackson isn’t playing.
KU guarded TCU much better in the second matchup (0.96 points per possession compared to 1.08 PPP), and having more familiarity with the Horned Frogs’ unique offense should only help the Jayhawks’ chance for success Thursday.
Offensively, KU will have a major adjustment without Jackson. His usage rate of 27 percent is fourth-highest in the Big 12, which means multiple Jayhawks will have to step out of their normal comfort zones to show more aggressiveness.
This seems to me like it’ll be a low-scoring game where both defenses are better than the offenses. These Jayhawks haven’t been affected much on court by off-court incidents this year, and this seems like another time where the team might play better than outside expectations.
Though KU’s rotation will be thinner, I like the Jayhawks for a comfortable victory in front of the home crowd.
Kansas 73, TCU 62
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: N/A
Hawk to Rock
Without Jackson, KU coach Bill Self said he’s likely to go more to a traditional two-big lineup than in games past. Combine that with TCU’s inability to keep teams away from the rim, and the potential is there for a big scoring game from Landen Lucas if he can avoid foul trouble. Self ran lots of plays for Lucas in the first matchup when the senior scored 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting, so don’t be surprised if Self goes to his big men often again while trying to get them angles for easy baskets.
Last game prediction: Oklahoma State 88, Kansas 85 (Actual: KU 90-85)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 13-15-1
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 54-42-3