Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Saturday’s game: Nebraska at No. 3 Kansas, 2:15 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse (ESPN)
Opponent’s record: 5-4
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 83
Point spread: KU by 19 1/2
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Two-point defense: Nebraska ranks 77th in opponents’ field-goal percentage at the rim and also has forced teams into a high number of two-point jumpshots — the least efficient shot in the game.
▪ Ball security: Even against a tough schedule early, the Huskers rank 21st in offensive steal rate and 129th in offensive turnover percentage — an indication the team has capable ball-handlers.
▪ Transition defense: Opponents have gotten about an average amount of transition opportunities against Nebraska but haven’t shot well then (48 percent effective field-goal percentage, 67th-best defensive mark nationally).
▪ Three-pointers: Like Stanford last week, Nebraska lacks outside shooting, rarely taking those attempts while making just 29 percent from the perimeter.
▪ Creating contact: Nebraska is a good free-throw shooting team (77 percent), but it almost never gets there, ranking 308th in offensive free-throw rate.
▪ Shot selection: Nebraska makes it difficult for itself offensively. It doesn’t run much in transition, which hurts the team’s number of close shots. It also doesn’t take threes, which means the Huskers rank 22nd in two-point jumpshots. That’s a bad way to try to get efficient offense.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-4 guard Ty Webster (No. 0)
Plus: Efficient player on an inefficient offense
Plus: Team’s best passer
Plus: Gets to rim often and strong finisher there
Plus: Creates contact and is good free-throw shooter
Minus: Awful in-between game (19 percent accuracy in midrange)
Six-foot-7 forward Ed Morrow (No. 30)
Plus: Elite offensive rebounder
Plus: Above-average finisher at rim
Plus: Good defensive rebounder as well
Minus: Turnover prone
Minus: Not a physical player who has rarely gotten to free-throw line
Six-foot guard Glynn Watson (No. 5)
Plus: Ranks 69th in defensive steal rate
Plus: Doesn’t turn it over often
Minus: Not a good three-point shooter
Minus: Above-average shooter in midrange but takes a lot of those shots
The good news for Nebraska: The quickest way to get run out of Allen Fieldhouse is to have poor transition defense, and the Huskers appear to be decent in that aspect.
The bad news? The Huskers have stunk so far offensively, relying on a high number of two-point jumpshots that KU does a great job of challenging. Add in that Nebraska doesn’t get many points from free throws and threes, and it’s tough to see a path for Nebraska to efficient offense Saturday.
KU could have its own problems scoring at times and will have to adjust without forward Carlton Bragg. But if the Jayhawks can simply play scouting report defense (help on Webster and don’t foul) while forcing the Huskers into those tough midrange shots, they shouldn’t be challenged in this one.
Kansas 81, Nebraska 57
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
In Nebraska’s last game, Creighton 5-foot-10 point guard Maurice Watson was the game’s best player, as he was able to get to the rim in half-court settings while also finding teammates for eight assists. KU’s version of Watson is Frank Mason, who should have a chance for another productive day if he attacks offensively.
Last game prediction: Kansas 97, UMKC 62 (Actual: KU 105-62)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 4-3
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 45-30-2