University of Kansas

Quick scout: Why a non-senior could have a big night against Texas

Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.

Monday's game: Texas at No. 8 Kansas, 8 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse

TV: ESPN

Opponent’s record: 17-12

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 43

Point spread: Kansas by 9 1/2.

All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.

3 Strengths

Interior defense: Texas has the nation's 20th-best block rate, and it also ranks 38th in two-point defense. Interestingly, Texas' defense is excellent in mid-range but below average shooting-percentage-wise when opponents get shots at the rim.

Three-point defense: Though KU fired up 35 threes (and made 17) in its 92-86 victory over Texas in December, we shouldn't expect nearly as many of those tries from the Jayhawks on Monday. Texas has been the Big 12's third-best at limiting outside attempts in league play, and no school has shot more than 30 against the Longhorns since KU's hot shooting night.

Foul prevention: Texas is the Big 12's best at avoiding whistles, which could limit some of the positive benefits KU gets from playing at Allen Fieldhouse.

3 Weaknesses

Three-point shooting: This is ugly. Though the Longhorns take more threes than an average team, they've made just 31 percent. That ranks 337th nationally.

Defensive pressure: Texas is ninth in Big 12 play in defensive turnover percentage, which makes some sense. Because the team has good shot-blockers, it's likely not trying to gamble much defensively while forcing opponents to make contested shots.

Mid-range shooting: The Longhorns are not only 327th in two-point jumper percentage, but they're also 313th in free-throw accuracy.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-11 forward Mohamed Bamba (No. 4)

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Note: As of 2:25 p.m., Bamba was ruled out for the game with a left toe injury, according to Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman.

Plus: Fifth in KenPom’s Big 12 player of the year measure

Plus: Elite shot-blocker who had eight swats in first KU game

Plus: Excellent finisher at the rim

Plus: Strong rebounder on both ends

Plus: Draws fouls often

Minus: Poor shooter in mid-range and from three

Minus: Only an "average" defender, via Synergy, in post-up situations

6-foot-4 guard Kerwin Roach (No. 12)

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Plus: Does good job getting to the rim and finishing

Plus: Decent passer

Plus: Team's best three-point shooter still available to play

Minus: Poor mid-range shooter

Minus: Can be turnover prone

6-foot-9 forward Dylan Osetkowski (No. 21)

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Plus: Takes on large offensive role

Plus: Good free-throw shooter

Plus: Above-average finisher at the rim

Minus: Has blocked four shots all year

Minus: Poor three-point shooter who takes too many

Minus: Below-average defender, especially when pulled away from rim

Prediction

I've got conflicting thoughts about his pick.

It's always difficult to anticipate the emotions of Senior Night, as this game will have a different pregame routine with the potential for players to have their minds elsewhere early.

This also sets up to be a tough game for this KU offense. The Longhorns limit threes, get back in transition well and also don't foul often, meaning the Jayhawks will have to run good half-court offense to get open shots.

Texas, though, has its own problems. The team has major offensive issues, and those aren't helped by the fact that one the roster's only decent three-point shooters — Eric Davis — is being held out after being named in a recent Yahoo report relating to the FBI's investigation into college basketball.

Texas certainly has a lot to play for, as it appears on the "last four out" in ESPN's latest Bracketology. This feels like a game where the Longhorns play well early, have a lead for a while, then lose that advantage in the second half when KU's seniors settle themselves.

If that happens, I think it's closer than Vegas anticipates.

Kansas 70, Texas 65

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Texas

Hawk to Rock

Synergy's logs list Texas as a "below average" defensive team in post-up situations, and KU coach Bill Self commented after his team's game against Texas Tech on Saturday that the Jayhawks didn't look inside enough. That makes this an easy choice: Udoka Azubuike, barring foul trouble, should be the biggest part of KU's offensive gameplan.

Last game prediction: Texas Tech 71, Kansas 66 (Actual: KU 74-72)

2017-18 record vs. spread: 14-14

Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 72-57-3

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