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: Davidson vs. No. 3 Kansas, 6 p.m., Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. (ESPN2)
Opponent’s record: 5-3
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 64
Point spread: KU by 15 1/2
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Magic interior defense: Davidson ranks 16th nationally in two-point defense ... and I’m not exactly sure how the Wildcats are doing it. They are average at limiting transition and below average when it comes to blocking shots, but still, opponents are making just 51 percent of their shots at the rim (42nd nationally).
▪ Free-throw shooting: Davidson doesn’t take many free throws, but the team is effective when it gets them (81 percent accuracy, sixth nationally).
▪ Ability to stretch a defense: The Wildcats are rare in that they attempt more three-pointers than they do twos. Davidson has been a poor three-point shooting team so far (31 percent), but it has a person that can shoot long-range shots at every spot on the floor.
▪ Forcing turnovers: Like most of Bob McKillop’s teams, this Davidson squad does not create havoc, ranking 336th in defensive steal rate.
▪ Fouls: Davidson has racked up defensive whistles, as opponents have gotten 24 percent of their points from free throws (35th-highest split nationally).
▪ Transition offense: The Wildcats actually have been worse in transition than in their half-court sets. The team ranks 312th in fast-break shot attempts and 319th in transition shooting percentage.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot guard Jack Gibbs (No. 12)
Plus: Go-to player offensively who shoots a lot
Plus: Team’s best passer
Plus: Does great job drawing fouls and is 83 percent free-throw shooter
Plus: Above-average three-point shooter
Minus: Struggles on shots at rim
Six-foot-8 forward Peyton Aldridge (No. 23)
Plus: Like Gibbs, he takes a lot of shots
Plus: Strength is inside, where he’s above average at rim and in midrange
Plus: 35 percent three-point shooter
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Minus: Doesn’t get to free-throw line as much as you’d expect
Six-foot-11 forward Will Magarity (No. 22)
Plus: Team’s best defensive rebounder and shot-blocker
Plus: Effective at rim (75 percent) and in midrange (55 percent)
Minus: Will take threes, but only has made 27 percent of them in career
Minus: Doesn’t get to free-throw line often
There are a few reasons to like Davidson’s chances to keep this close.
McKillop is respected as one of the nation’s best coaches, and Davidson has had 10 days to prepare. The Wildcats also play an unconventional way with shooters at each position, which has been a lineup that has given Bill Self teams issues in the past.
The only difference this year is that instead of playing primarily two big men, KU has been going with a four-guard look most of the time. That aligns the Jayhawks better defensively for this type of matchup, and if Self wants to take the next step, he could even go to a five-guard lineup if Davidson’s shooters cause too many issues.
Be sure to watch transition — an area KU has dominated this year. If Davidson can limit there, this should remain competitive.
Kansas 82, Davidson 74
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Davidson
Hawk to Rock
Not many teams have a good defensive matchup for Josh Jackson, but Davidson’s foul issues combined with lack of elite rebounders means the setup is there for a big statistical game from the KU freshman.
Last game prediction: Kansas 81, Nebraska 57 (Actual: KU 89-72)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 4-4
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 45-31-2