Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Wednesday’s game: Kansas vs. Marquette, 6 p.m. central, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Opponent’s record: 3-1
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35
Point spread: KU by 8 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Three-point shooting: Steve Wojciechowski’s teams at Marquette have shot a lot of threes and made a lot of them too. Last year, the Golden Eagles were third nationally in three-point accuracy and 42nd in outside-shot frequency.
▪ Interior defense: In a small sample this season, Marquette ranks 11th in two-point percentage defense and 71st in block rate.
▪ Free throw shooting: Marquette has increased its free throw attempts this year, and that’s been a big positive because of the team’s shooting ability. The Golden Eagles have made 78 percent of their shots at the line, and also have shot at least 78 percent there each of the last two seasons.
▪ Transition defense: Marquette ranks in the bottom 85 nationally when it come to surrendering fast-break attempts, and though opponents have not shot great in those scenarios, that likely speaks more to Marquette’s schedule than its ability to hold down transition shooting percentages.
▪ Turnovers? The Golden Eagles have been good at limiting giveaways the last two seasons, but through four games this year, they rank 279th in turnover percentage.
▪ Transition offense? Marquette loves to run, but that hasn’t paid off this season yet. The team actually has shot worse in transition opportunities than it has in the half-court.
3 Players to Watch
5-foot-11 guard Markus Howard (No. 0)
Plus: Outstanding, high-volume three-point shooter
Plus: Team’s best passer
Plus: Great free throw shooter who has upped his attempts this season
Plus: Has above-average accuracy in mid-range
Minus: Synergy listed him as “average” defender last year who struggled to get out to spot-up shooters
Minus: Can be turnover prone
6-foot-8 forward/guard Sam Hauser (No. 10)
Plus: Dangerous spot-up shooter
Plus: Has made 46 percent of threes in career
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Plus: Decent defensive rebounder
Minus: Rarely creates for himself and almost never gets shots at the rim
Minus: Synergy’s logs categorized him as “average” defender last season
6-foot-9 forward Joey Hauser (No. 22)
Plus: Creates contact often and has made 16 of 17 free throws
Plus: Good passer for his size
Plus: Solid defensive rebounder
Plus: Will shoot threes
Minus: Struggles with turnovers
Minus: Can have issues getting out to perimeter shooters
The secret is out on KU’s defensive weakness: The Jayhawks, to this point, have struggled to prevent three-point shots.
This wouldn’t appear to be a great time for KU to face Marquette then. Wojciechowski’s teams chuck as well and as frequently as any NCAA team, meaning KU should be challenged again in this regard Wednesday.
I just can’t think that KU coach Bill Self will continue to allow these sorts of open attempts for a third straight game. He spoke honestly about his team’s perimeter defense issues during a Monday press conference, and even hinted that KU might have to shift to a defensive style guarding ball screens that would be uncomfortable for him personally but perhaps better for the team overall.
The rest of this matchup seems OK for KU. The Jayhawks might find some resistance inside from talented shot-blocker Theo John, but the Golden Eagles shouldn’t pressure out too much against a KU team that has been careless at times. KU also should get plenty of transition opportunities, and though the team hasn’t been as good as Self’s past squads there, it should only improve in that area moving forward.
Having said all that ... Marquette’s ability to get and make threes is likely to be the game’s most important factor. If KU improves there, I see a comfortable victory for the Jayhawks.
Kansas 81, Marquette 67
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
Marquette’s biggest defensive weaknesses are getting back in transition and guarding the perimeter. Those would seem to match up with Quentin Grimes’ strengths, as he’s excelled in both areas when he’s chosen to play aggressively. Even after a quiet game against Louisiana, he could be in for a big statistical night Wednesday.
Last game prediction: Kansas 98, Louisiana 67 (Actual: KU 89-76)
2018-19 record vs. spread: 1-2
Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 78-64-3