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: Stanford, around 10 p.m. Central, Golden1 Center, Sacramento, Calif.
Opponent’s record: 6-6
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 107
Point spread: KU by 14 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Creating contact: Stanford is 12th nationally in offensive free-throw rate, a number that is helped by forward Reid Travis, who set an opponent record against KU with 22 free throws shot and 19 free throws made in last year’s game at Allen Fieldhouse.
▪ Interior defense: The Cardinal ranks 37th in two-point defense, and it’s able to do that with a below-average block rate. The team has done a good job of keeping teams away from the rim while forcing poor accuracy in mid-range.
▪ Rebounding: Stanford ranks 40th nationally in average height, and that’s helped the team to above-average rebounding numbers on both ends.
▪ Turnovers ... on offense and defense: The Cardinal is 315th in offensive turnover percentage and 283rd in defensive turnover percentage. For KU, that means pressuring up the floor defensively will be especially important against a mistake-prone team.
▪ Three-point defense: Stanford is likely due for some better three-point defense luck as the season goes on, as opponents have made an unsustainable 38 percent of their outside shots thus far. The Cardinal still has allowed more threes than NCAA average, so KU should have some openings Thursday.
▪ Three-point shooting: This is a secondary part of Stanford’s offense. The Cardinal shoots OK from the outside (35 percent) but ranks 264th in the rate of three-pointers it takes.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-8 forward Reid Travis (No. 22)
Plus: Unquestioned go-to guy offensively
Plus: Does great job getting fouled and has made 71 percent at the line
Plus: Above average shooter at rim and in mid-range
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Minus: Will occasionally shoot threes, but has only made 25 percent in tiny sample
6-foot-3 guard Daejon Davis (No. 1)
Plus: Gets to foul line more often — on per-possession basis — than Travis
Plus: Has team’s top assist rate
Plus: Can create his own shot and has made 54 percent of twos
Minus: Astronomical turnover rate; must pressure him defensively
Minus: Synergy lists him as “average” defender who especially struggles in ball-screen situations
6-foot-9 forward Michael Humphrey (No. 10)
Plus: Elite defensive rebounder
Plus: Doesn’t shoot threes often, but has made them this year (11 of 20)
Plus: Draws fouls and is 82 percent free throw shooter
Minus: Shoots inefficient mid-range jumpers too often ... a spot where he’s only made 30 percent this year
The Stanford matchup appears to present one big challenge — and also one huge opportunity — for KU entering Thursday’s game.
The Jayhawks’ biggest potential problem? Fouls. Stanford should look to force-feed it inside, and while KU coach Bill Self is hopeful to get two additional big bodies before the end of this season, those guys won’t be available to the team Thursday.
So Udoka Azubuike will have to be careful. So will Mitch Lightfoot. Walk-on Clay Young is still KU’s third big man at this point, and him entering in the first half against this Stanford front line is a scenario the Jayhawks will want to avoid.
The Jayhawks’ biggest opportunity comes if they can play with defensive energy. Stanford gives it away — a lot — and if KU’s defenders can get up the floor and play passing lanes, steals should be available along with transition opportunities on the other end.
In the end, it’s difficult to not see KU facing at least some foul issues. Add to that the reality that the Jayhawks are a different shooting team away from home, and I’ll take Stanford to keep this closer than the Vegas line.
Kansas 76, Stanford 68
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Stanford
Hawk to Rock
In a matchup where steals and three-pointers should be available, Devonté Graham is the pick for KU player of the game.
Last game prediction: Kansas 90, Omaha 64 (Actual: KU 109-64)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 4-6
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 62-49-3