Before every KU basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Saturday’s game: Texas Tech at No. 2 KU, 11 a.m. on ESPN
Opponent record: 18-9
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 38
Point spread: KU by 13 1/2 .
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Div. I competition.
▪ Free throws: Texas Tech gets 25 percent of its scoring from the line, which is the 13th-highest percentage nationally. The Red Raiders are the second-best team in Big 12 play at drawing free throws and No. 1 in free-throw accuracy (76 percent).
▪ Ball security: Texas Tech ranks in the top 100 in offensive turnover percentage and is the third-best team in the stat during conference play.
▪ Interior defense: The Red Raiders will affect shots inside, ranking 38th nationally in block percentage and 101st in two-point percentage defense.
▪ Three-point defense: Texas Tech is vulnerable to outside shots, as Big 12 foes have shot frequently from three-point range while making 39 percent of those tries. Remember also that KU enters as a top-five three-point shooting team nationally.
▪ Three-point shooting: Texas Tech is a slightly below-average outside shooting team that only attempts 31 percent of its shots from behind the arc (273rd nationally).
▪ Defensive rebounding: The Red Raiders have struggled on the defensive glass, ranking 253rd nationally in D-rebound percentage. KU, meanwhile, is coming off its best offensive rebounding effort of the season when it grabbed 48 percent of its misses in a 66-60 victory over Baylor on Tuesday.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-8 forward Aaron Ross (No. 15)
Plus: Reserve who has been go-to player offensively for Texas Tech in Big 12 play
Plus: Gets to line often and is Big 12’s best free-throw shooter in league play (91 percent)
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Plus: Well-above-average finisher at the rim
Minus: Not a shot-blocker
Minus: Doesn’t crash offensive glass
Six-foot-6 forward Justin Gray (No. 5)
Plus: One of Big 12’s top shooters
Plus: Leads conference in three-point percentage in league play (52 percent)
Plus: Draws fouls often and is 79 percent free-throw shooter
Minus: Not as aggressive offensively as he should be
Minus: Has lowest assist rate of rotation players
Six-foot-4 guard Toddrick Gotcher (No. 20)
Plus: Efficient player with microscopic turnover rate
Plus: 40 percent outside shooter who takes most threes on team
Plus: 85 percent free-throw shooter
Minus: Defers too often offensively
Minus: Doesn’t get many shots at the rim
It has been an extended cold streak with predictions as KU has continued its strong play.
The Jayhawks have covered the spread in eight straight games, and that seems to have been a factor in the line creeping a bit higher for Saturday’s contest.
Obviously, Texas Tech enters with some red flags. The Red Raiders are unlikely to get a friendly whistle at Allen Fieldhouse, and that could be an issue for a team that relies to heavily on free throws for scoring. Having poor three-point defense also can be costly when going up against KU’s sharpshooters.
Texas Tech has a chance to make it difficult for KU inside, though. Add in the fact that the Red Raiders’ lack of turnovers should help them limit the Jayhawks’ transition opportunities, and I don’t see this game turning into a blowout.
I do see it as a KU win, though.
Kansas 75, Texas Tech 65
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Texas Tech
Hawk to Rock
I’ll take my chances with a three-point shooter, and in Big 12 play, Devonte’ Graham has been KU’s most effective player from the outside. Graham is averaging more than six three-point attempts in his last four games, and if he keeps up that sort of volume Saturday, he has a great chance to be the Jayhawks’ leading scorer.
Last game prediction: Baylor 79, Kansas 75 (Actual KU 66-60)
2015-16 record vs. spread: 14-11
Last two seasons’ record vs. spread: 36-23-1