Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Tuesday’s game: No. 18 Texas Tech at No. 10 Kansas, 8 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse
Opponent’s record: 12-1
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 7
Point spread: KU by 7.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Creating havoc: Texas Tech ranks fourth nationally in defensive turnover percentage and sixth in steal rate. That’s only slightly lower than West Virginia’s ranks in both categories (second and third), which is an impressive feat for a non-pressing team.
▪ Transition defense: Opponents rarely get fast-break opportunities against Texas Tech, and when they do, the Red Raiders have the fourth-best shooting percentage defense in those situations. This is rare, but teams have actually shot better in the half-court against Texas Tech than in transition.
▪ Interior offense: Texas Tech is in the top 65 nationally in offensive rebounding rate, percentage of shots taken at the rim and shooting percentage on close shots. This is an inside-out offense for sure.
▪ Three-point defense: We talked about this last year, and it hasn’t changed much. The Red Raiders allow too many threes, with opponents attempting 42 percent of their shots from the perimeter (70th-highest split nationally).
▪ Three-point shooting: Calling this a weakness is somewhat unfair (Texas Tech has made 38 percent of its threes), but the Red Raiders just don’t rely on the outside shot much while ranking 287th in three-point rate.
▪ Fouls: Texas Tech can be whistle-happy, ranking 206th in defensive free-throw rate while playing a soft schedule that has yet to include a true road game. Drawing contact, though, is not one of this KU team’s strengths.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-3 guard Keenan Evans (No. 12)
Plus: Ranks second behind Oklahoma’s Trae Young in KenPom’s Big 12 player of the year standings
Plus: Go-to guy offensively with excellent efficiency
Plus: Creates for himself offensively and is outstanding shooter at rim
Plus: Team’s best passer
Plus: Gets fouled often and is 79 percent free-throw shooter
Minus: Though he can create steals, Synergy lists him as an “average” overall defender
6-foot-5 guard Jarrett Culver (No. 23)
Plus: Efficient offensive player
Plus: One of team’s best shooters from three-point range
Plus: Strong finisher on close shots
Plus: Good defender who leads team in steal rate
Minus: Poor free-throw shooter in tiny sample (17-for-31, 55 percent)
Minus: Not a great distributor at this point in career
6-foot-8 forward Zach Smith (No. 11)
Plus: Super-athletic player who leads team in block rate
Plus: Great finisher at the rim
Plus: Synergy lists him as “very good” defender who is “excellent” in isolation situations
Minus: Only a role player offensively
Minus: Isn’t playing as well as last year with worse rebounding, turnover and free-throw percentage numbers in 2017-18
Well, let’s start with the obvious: If KU coach Bill Self told his team in the pregame speech last Friday to shoot 35 threes against Texas, he might as repeat the same message Tuesday.
Texas Tech’s defensive weakness is allowing too many threes, and KU certainly is the type of team that can exploit that at Allen Fieldhouse. Keep in mind that the Jayhawks have made 45 percent of their threes in seven home games this season, and their worst outside shooting performance in those contests was a 37-percent effort against Arizona State.
As Friday showed, though, three-point shooting alone isn’t a cure-all. KU was poor on the defensive end then, and Texas Tech should challenge a still-thin Jayhawks front line that is anchored by a less-than-100-percent Udoka Azubuike. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Red Raiders forced foul trouble and also had the better night on the glass, and if that happens, the Jayhawks will need better first-shot defense than they displayed against the Longhorns last week.
Another worry for KU: There shouldn’t be many easy points in transition. Texas Tech does an excellent job getting back, and limiting those plays is one key when going for an upset at Allen Fieldhouse.
I think this one is closer than Vegas’ spread. KU should have perimeter success, but I think Texas Tech will still push this one to the final minutes.
Kansas 78, Texas Tech 76
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Texas Tech
Hawk to Rock
It’s tough to go against Svi Mykhailiuk, especially when facing a poor three-point defense at home. You’ll want to read this next sentence twice: The KU senior has made 28 of 47 threes at Allen Fieldhouse this season (60 percent). Don’t expect much hesitation from Mykhailiuk when he gets even semi-open looks Tuesday.
Last game prediction: Kansas 72, Texas 64 (Actual: KU 92-86)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 5-7
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 63-50-3