Before every KU basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Monday’s game: No. 1 KU at No. 23 Texas, 8 p.m. on ESPN
Opponent record: 19-10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 26
Point spread: KU by 3.
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Three-point defense: Coach Shaka Smart’s Longhorns have the Big 12’s best perimeter defense. Only 30 percent of league opponents’ field-goal attempts have been threes (best in conference), and teams have made just 33 percent of those tries.
▪ Ball security: Texas is first in conference play in offensive turnover percentage, giving it away on just 15 percent of its possessions. KU, meanwhile, is second-worst in the Big 12 at forcing turnovers.
▪ First-shot defense: Center Prince Ibeh has made it difficult for opponents to score inside, as the Longhorns are 60th in block percentage and 44th in two-point field-goal percentage defense.
▪ Defensive rebounding: Outside of Ibeh, Texas has no other player that ranks in the top 500 in defensive rebounding percentage. This has been the Longhorns’ biggest weakness defensively, as they rank 292nd in grabbing opponents’ misses.
▪ Free-throw shooting: Texas gets to the line at a decent clip but hasn’t capitalized as much as it could. The Longhorns have made 67 percent of their free throws, a percentage that ranks 281st nationally.
▪ Offensive rebounding: Since conference play began, Texas has been the Big 12’s worst on the offensive glass.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-3 guard Isaiah Taylor (No. 1)
Plus: Team’s go-to player offensively
Plus: Much more efficient player this season after reducing his two-point jump shots taken
Plus: Uses quickness to draw contact and is 81 percent free-throw shooter
Plus: One of nation’s best passers
Minus: Not a three-pointer shooter (26 percent)
Minus: Below-average finisher at rim and in mid-range
Five-foot-11 guard Javan Felix (No. 3)
Plus: Efficient offensive player
Plus: Strong shooter in mid-range (47 percent)
Plus: Above-average three-point shooter
Plus: Makes 84 percent from line
Minus: Doesn’t get to free throw line often
Six-foot-11 center Prince Ibeh (No. 44)
Plus: Top-10 nationally in block percentage
Plus: Team’s best rebounder on both ends, though he’s better on offensive glass
Plus: Automatic finisher when he gets it at the rim (80 percent)
Minus: Barely shoots and is not comfortable creating his own shot
Minus: Horrific free-throw shooter (39 percent)
A week ago, I picked Baylor to win because I believed KU’s players were human and likely wouldn’t have the same motivation as the Bears. That didn’t go well for me.
I’m stuck in the same spot for this one.
A lot of factors are playing against KU here. For one, the turnaround from Saturday at home to Big Monday on the road is difficult from a travel and recovery standpoint. Add in that it’s Texas’ Senior Night, the Longhorns are on an uptick and KU has already clinched a share of the Big 12 title, and it’s almost understandable why the Jayhawks might not play well Monday.
If KU wins? I’ll be impressed considering the circumstances. No one should blame the Jayhawks if — after nine straight victories — this one doesn’t seem as important as many of the others. The reality is, it’s not.
In the end, I’ll take Texas in a close one while banking the Jayhawks being human. Of course, that’s already burned me once this past week ...
Texas 74, Kansas 72
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Texas
Hawk to Rock
Perry Ellis had one of his worst games of the year Saturday against Texas Tech, and he doesn’t often have consecutive poor outings. Rebounds will be there for the taking, so if he makes it a point to attack the glass, he’s got a chance for a 20-point, 10-board-type effort.
Last game prediction: Kansas 75, Texas Tech 65 (Actual KU 67-58)
2015-16 record vs. spread: 15-11
Last two seasons’ record vs. spread: 37-23-1