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: Oakland vs. No. 3 Kansas, 7 p.m. Friday, Allen Fieldhouse (KMCI (Ch. 38), Spectrum Sports KC, ESPN3)
Opponent’s record: 2-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 112
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Point spread: KU by 21.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Three-point defense: For the first time this season, KU is facing a defense that tries to limit threes. In fact, Oakland is No. 1 in the nation in three-point prevention, as only 21 percent of opponents’ shots have been threes.
▪ Outside shooting: Oakland shoots more threes than an average team and has made 37 percent of those tries this season.
▪ Transition offense: The Grizzlies run often while also ranking in the 99th percentile when it comes to scoring in transition, according to Synergy’s logs.
▪ Turnovers ... both ends: Oakland ranks 253rd in offensive turnover percentage and 312th in defensive turnover percentage, so this is one area where KU could dominate Friday.
▪ Transition defense: Oakland hasn’t gotten back well defensively, allowing a high number of transition opportunities and also a higher shooting percentage in those situations than NCAA average.
▪ Scoring inside: Oakland does not have a tall team, and partly because of that, it has been greatly affected by shot blockers.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-3 guard Kendrick Nunn (No. 1)
Plus: Unquestioned go-to player offensively
Plus: Career 38-percent three-point shooter
Plus: Good passer
Minus: Struggles to finish shots at rim
Minus: Rarely gets to free-throw line
6-foot-6 guard Martez Walker (No. 35)
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Plus: Does great job creating contact and is good free-throw shooter
Plus: Well-above-average shooter at rim and in mid-range
Minus: Doesn’t create much for others
Minus: Probably not as aggressive as he should be considering his strong efficiency
6-foot-8 forward Isaiah Brock (No. 10)
Plus: Efficient player who has made 72 percent of twos
Plus: Team’s best defensive rebounder
Plus: Good shot-blocker
Minus: Almost never shoots it; no need to respect him away from basket
Minus: Can be foul prone
This will be an interesting test for KU offensively in a game where open threes won’t be as easy to come by.
Look for the Jayhawks to put more emphasis on driving, and that should be effective against a short Oakland team — especially when Brock is not in. KU also could have success going back to some of coach Bill Self’s old post-scoring plays where the team throws passes over the top for uncontested looks inside.
Defensively, KU needs to be wary of the three-point line (Oakland can shoot), but if the Jayhawks pressure up the floor, they should be able to get steals and potentially transition opportunities.
In the end, the line seems about right to me. I’ll take Oakland to cover, but this still should be a comfortable win for KU, especially if it can get out and run like other teams have against the Grizzlies.
Kansas 88, Oakland 71
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Oakland
Hawk to Rock
If he can avoid foul trouble, Udoka Azubuike could have a huge game on both ends. He’s KU’s best interior option against a defense that guards the three-point line, and he’s also the Jayhawks’ best shot-blocker against a squad that ranks fourth-worst nationally when it comes to having its shots swatted.
Last game prediction: Kansas 96, Texas Southern 59 (Actual: KU 114-71)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 2-1
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 60-44-3