Five things to watch when KU faces Eastern Kentucky

03/21/2014 2:37 PM

03/21/2014 2:37 PM

Let’s get it. No. 2 seed Kansas begins its NCAA Tournament against No. 15 Eastern Kentucky at 3:10 p.m. Friday here inside the Scottrade Center. While we wait for tip, here are five things to know about the matchup:

1. If you haven’t read about Eastern Kentucky’s Eric Stutz, please do so now .

But here’s one more thing about the Colonels’ lone big man … and resident hippie. He may be the only player in the NCAA field who dreams of owning a waste-disposal company when he graduates from college.

“There’s always going to be trash,” Stutz said. “ … I think that’s got a pretty good future in it. If I can get a degree in accounting, I’ll know the business aspect of it. All you got to do is learn to pick up trash.”

You know what? Stutz is right. Pro tip: Listen to Stutz.

2. A closer look at Eastern Kentucky.

The advanced numbers suggest the Colonels are a dangerous offensive team with major issues on the defensive end. Eastern Kentucky ranks 47th in the country in offensive efficiency, while rating 235th on the defensive end. These are some extreme numbers.

Eastern Kentucky is fourth nationally with an effective field-goal percentage of 57 percent. But the Colonels give nearly all of it back on defense, allowing opponents a 55.5 effective field-goal percentage. (That’s 341st in the country.)

3 So why is Eastern Kentucky so dangerous on offense?

Senior guard Glenn Cosey has a 118.6 offensive rating, mostly because he shoots 42 percent from three and is solid at limiting turnovers. If Cosey is missing from deep, Orlando Williams (40 percent), Tarius Johnson (40 percent), and to a lesser extent Corey Walden (33 percent) can all make shots. The Colonels also shoot 56 percent from two-point range, but here’s the catch: Just 43 percent of Eastern Kentucky’s points come from inside the three-point line. That ranks 342nd nationally. Get ready for some Colonel-bombing in St. Louis.

4 So how does Kansas match up?

Good question. The Jayhawks are allowing opponents to shoot 35.9 percent from three, not the best number. The Division 1 average from three is 34.4 percent, and the Jayhawks’ three-point defense ranks 257th nationally. But the Jayhawks should also have the length to bother Eastern Kentucky’s shooters. The Colonels also have limited scoring options inside, so Kansas can risk running at shooters.

It’s a good matchup for Eastern Kentucky, but if the threes aren’t falling, it could get out of hand in a hurry.

5 The turnover question.

Kansas ranks 232nd in the country in turnover percentage, averaging 19 per 100 possessions. It’s been an Achilles’ heel all season. Eastern Kentucky rates fourth in the nation at forcing turnovers, producing 24.2 turnovers per 100 possessions.

Most of this damage, of course, came against Ohio Valley Conference opponents, but Eastern Kentucky has also played three NCAA Tournament teams. The Colonels forced 16 turnovers against VCU, 11 against Wisconsin, and 10 against NC State. Those numbers sound a little more reasonable.

If Kansas can limit its turnovers to the 10 to 12 range, that would be a positive sign.

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