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: TCU at No. 10 Kansas, 8 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse
Opponent’s record: 16-7
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 25
Point spread: KU by 7 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Shot selection: TCU — like Kansas — does a great job of avoiding mid-range jumpers. That’s helped the Horned Frogs become the most efficient Big 12 offense in league play.
▪ Rebounding ... both ends: For the season, TCU is 24th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 42nd in the defensive version of the stat.
▪ Three-point shooting: The Horned Frogs take fewer outside shots than an average NCAA team, but they have been accurate on those attempts (41 percent from three for season, 42 percent in league play).
▪ Defensive havoc: TCU is a below-average defensive team when it comes to takeaways, ranking 225th in defensive turnover percentage. That number has improved slightly in Big 12 play, but not by much.
▪ Transition defense: The Horned Frogs are a roughly average team when it comes to getting back and limiting opponents’ shot percentages on fastbreaks. This is an area where KU typically thrives at home, though it wasn’t able to Saturday because of a lack of steals and defensive rebounds.
▪ Three-point defense? This is a weird one. TCU, for the season, ranks 225th when it comes to allowing threes, but it also has been the best Big 12 team in conference play at limiting opponents’ outside attempts. Synergy’s logs show that spot-up attempts have been among the best ways to score against these Horned Frogs, so KU should at least look to find the open shots many other teams have gotten.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-11 forward Vladimir Brodziansky (No. 10)
Plus: Team’s best offensive player
Plus: Thrives scoring at rim and when catching passes as roll man in pick-and-roll
Plus: Good shot-blocker, especially when helping
Plus: Gets to line often and is 80 percent shooter there
Minus: Non-physical player who is poor on the defensive glass
Minus: Synergy’s logs have him as “below average” defender who struggles in post-up situations
6-foot-7 guard Kenrich Williams (No. 34)
Plus: One of team’s most efficient players
Plus: 41-percent three-point shooter
Plus: Strong rebounder on both ends
Plus: Good finisher at the rim
Minus: Not a shot-blocking threat
6-foot-1 guard Alex Robinson (No. 25)
Plus: Great passer
Plus: Doesn’t shoot many threes, but has improved in Big 12 play
Plus: Rarely fouls
Minus: Turns it over way too often
Minus: Struggles to make shots at rim
Minus: Synergy’s logs list him as “below average” defender
This is a tough prediction to make because the rational and emotional sides likely would lead you to different conclusions about this game.
From a pure numbers perspective, this isn’t a great matchup for KU. The Jayhawks struggled to limit TCU’s offense in the first meeting, with the Horned Frogs scoring 1.17 points per possession — the fifth-highest total against KU this season.
There’s one big change from then, though: Point guard Jaylen Fisher is now out because of injury, which has left the more inefficient Robinson to take over point-guard duties. Though his individual numbers have been disappointing, TCU hasn’t dropped off much since the change, so KU should still expect a dangerous offense that combines good shooting and rebounding with strong ball security.
If the Horned Frogs around that 1.17 PPP level again, KU will not cover the 7 1/2. It’s that simple. So the Jayhawks will need a better effort defensively, which leads us to the second factor at play here:
KU coach Bill Self just went crazy on his team Monday during a meeting with reporters. He called guys out for selfishness and also said, as a coach, he needed to put guys in who would give better effort.
It was a long-term move, but it also could bring a short-term boost. How could KU’s players not be fired up after reading those headlines? And, in turn, how could the fans at Allen Fieldhouse not be especially energetic Tuesday night after seeing what Self had to say?
I like TCU’s team. And I think KU’s offense could be negatively affected if Self sticks with his two-big starting lineup for extended stretches, as the Jayhawks won’t be as familiar playing that style.
But this sort of Self motivational ploy has worked out too many times in the past for me to believe that it’s going to fall short here. A boost of energy might not turn KU’s defense from average to great, but I think it’ll be enough to get a comfortable win and slight cover.
Kansas 87, TCU 78
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
Devonté Graham couldn’t ask for a better matchup on paper. TCU allows opportunities in transition, doesn’t always get out to three-point shooters and also has been forced to play a below-average defender at point guard. Though Graham hasn’t scored 20 points in any of his last six games, it seems likely he’ll get to that mark Tuesday.
2017-18 record vs. spread: 13-9
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 71-52-3