University of Kansas

Quick scout: How will KU do without Udoka?

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

Thursday's game: No. 9 Kansas vs. Oklahoma State, about 2 p.m., Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.

TV: ESPN2

Opponent’s record: 19-13

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 52

Point spread: KU by 5.

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

3 Strengths

▪ Offensive rebounding: Oklahoma State ranks 34th in O-board percentage and also grabbed 45 percent of its misses in Wednesday's 71-60 victory over Oklahoma.

▪ Defensive pressure: The Cowboys ranked fourth in Big 12 play in defensive turnover percentage and third in steal rate while forcing 17 KU turnovers in the teams' last game on Saturday.

▪ Rim protection: Oklahoma State is 68th nationally in two-point percentage defense and 82nd in block rate. The team has been especially effective limiting opponents' accuracy at the rim.

3 Weaknesses

Defensive rebounding: The Cowboys rank 272nd nationally in D-board percentage, though it's worth noting that KU's best offensive rebounder, Udoka Azubuike, will be sitting out.

Getting easy shots: Oklahoma State ranks 297th in percentage of shots at the rim, meaning it will be more reliant on jump-shooting than most teams.

Free throws ... both ends: The Cowboys rank 233rd in both offensive and defensive free-throw rate. It shouldn't be a surprise if the Jayhawks get fouled more often Thursday.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-6 guard/forward Jeffrey Carroll (No. 30)

Carroll_Jeffrey (1).jpeg
Jeffrey Carroll

Plus: Takes on large offensive role

Plus: One of team's best at getting to rim on drives

Plus: Gets fouled a decent amount and is 77 percent shooter at line

Plus: Synergy's logs list him as "very good" defender

Minus: Just a 32-percent three-point shooter this year after making 44 percent last season

Minus: Doesn't create often for teammates

6-foot-3 guard Kendall Smith (No. 1)

Kendall Smith
Kendall Smith

Plus: Had season-high 24 points in first game against KU, then posted new season-high with 25 against Jayhawks on Saturday

Plus: High-volume shooter

Plus: Good passer

Plus: Strong three-point shooter

Minus: Overall inefficient offensive player

Minus: Settles for too many mid-range jumpers

6-foot-7 forward Cameron McGriff (No. 12)

McGriff_Cameron.jpeg
Cameron McGriff

Plus: Was Oklahoma State's best player against Oklahoma on Wednesday with 18-point, nine-rebound effort

Plus: Great on the offensive glass

Plus: Gets fouled often and is 87 percent free-throw shooter

Plus: Above-average at rim and in mid-range

Minus: Poor defender who especially struggles in post-up situations

Minus: Can be turnover prone

Prediction

We've already discussed in the first and second Quick Scouts how Oklahoma State is a tough matchup for KU.

The Cowboys pressure defensively, which can cause this KU offense issues — something that certainly happened in Saturday's lopsided loss.

The Jayhawks' struggles on the defensive glass are exacerbated against Oklahoma State, while KU's own inability to get to the offensive glass or draw fouls keeps the team from fully capitalizing on two of the Cowboys' weaknesses.

Having said all that ... KU is better than Oklahoma State, or we would have believed that if Azubuike were healthy and available Thursday.

Without him playing, this pick is more difficult. How will KU respond? Will the Jayhawks play five guards more often? How will Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa perform with more extended roles? Will the Cowboys be able to improve on their rebounding dominance?

I'm going to go against the grain here. A huge key for Oklahoma State against KU has been making 22 of 51 threes in the two-game sample (43 percent), which has meant the Cowboys scored about nine points per game more than expected thanks to good outside shooting luck.

If that percentage moves close to season averages, I actually like KU's chances to avoid a three-game sweep against Oklahoma State — with help from transition points and some good outside shooting of its own.

Kansas 77, Oklahoma State 70

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

Because of the circumstances, I think Mitch Lightfoot could have a big statistical game. Though Lightfoot struggles on the defensive glass, his specialty is offensive rebounds, and there should be plenty of openings for those against an Oklahoma State team that has trouble clearing opponents' missed shots. Lightfoot's career high for rebounds is eight, and I think he surpasses that against the Cowboys on Thursday.

Last game prediction: Kansas 81, Oklahoma State 80 (Actual: Oklahoma State 82-64)

2017-18 record vs. spread: 15-15

Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 73-58-3

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