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. 5 Kansas at No. 12 Oklahoma, 6 p.m., Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, Okla.
Opponent’s record: 14-4
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 19
Point spread: Pick ’em.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Transition offense: Oklahoma gets the seventh-most fast-break shots according to Hoop-Math, while also ranking in Synergy’s 91st percentile on those transition opportunities.
▪ Outside shooting: The Sooners and Jayhawks are similar when it comes to both three-point shooting percentage (40 for Oklahoma, 41 for KU) and volume (both teams shoot 42 percent of their shots from the perimeter).
▪ Foul avoidance: Oklahoma ranks eighth nationally in defensive free-throw rate and also has been the best in Big 12 play at avoiding whistles.
▪ Creating havoc: Oklahoma plays passive defense, ranking 267th in defensive turnover percentage. That percentage has gotten worse since conference play began.
▪ Three-point defense: Opponents have shot an above-average number of threes against Oklahoma, with the team’s defense ranking “below average” according to Synergy on spot-up attempts.
▪ Interior play: The Sooners are a below-average rebounding team, and they also don’t have any playmakers down low, ranking in Synergy’s first percentile in post-up situations.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-2 guard Trae Young (No. 11)
Plus: No. 1 in KenPom’s statistical national player of the year standings
Plus: Takes on a larger offensive role than any college player tracked in the last 17 seasons
Plus: Leads the nation in assist rate
Plus: High-volume, accurate three-point shooter
Plus: Gets to line often and is 84 percent shooter there
Minus: Below-average finisher at the rim
Minus: Turnover rate has risen in Big 12 play
6-foot-4 guard Christian James (No. 0)
Plus: Efficient offensive player
Plus: Great three-point shooter
Plus: Above-average accuracy both at rim and in mid-range
Minus: Doesn’t create much for others
Minus: Rarely gets to free-throw line
6-foot-9 forward Khadeem Lattin (No. 3)
Plus: Team’s best offensive rebounder
Plus: Strong shot-blocker
Plus: Good finisher at the rim
Minus: Synergy’s logs list him as “poor” defender who hasn’t performed well in post-up situations
Minus: Only a role player offensively
Maybe the best way to describe this game: KU is about to play a slightly worse statistical version of itself.
A quick look at Ken Pomeroy’s matchup page shows that both teams’ color patterns (green is good, white is average, red is bad) are nearly the same when you compare them.
KU and Oklahoma, though, get their strong scoring numbers in different ways. Young does about everything for the Sooners, but it works, as the attention he gets opens up shots for teammates. That’s helped Oklahoma become an efficient, low-turnover offense that can score in bunches thanks to its strong perimeter shooting.
Defensively, Oklahoma faces some of KU’s same issues. It doesn’t force many turnovers. It’s not great on the defensive glass. And it allows too many three-pointers, which in today’s game can be especially worrisome against an opponent like KU.
Pay attention to which team gets more (and better) three-point attempts. Both teams’ guards are more efficient away from the basket than they are close to it, one team is likely to gain an edge if it can more effectively play to its outside-in style.
I’ll give the slight nod to Oklahoma on Tuesday. In an up-tempo game, the Sooners have better depth, and a KU defense that has already shown a tendency to wear down in the second half of Big 12 games will have the challenge of trying to slow down the nation’s best player without much rest.
That seems, in theory, like a formula that could result in KU’s first “close” loss of the season.
Oklahoma 84, Kansas 80
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Oklahoma
Hawk to Rock
Outside of Young, Oklahoma’s roster is filled with players who are “average” or “below average” when it comes to defending spot-up shooters. That makes Svi Mykhailiuk the pick again this game, as it’s difficult to go away from someone who has averaged 3.7 made three-pointers in seven Big 12 contests.
Last game prediction: Kansas 77, Baylor 64 (Actual: KU 70-67)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 9-9
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 67-52-3