University of Kansas

Quick scout: How Oklahoma State will test KU’s defense

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: No. 13 Kansas vs. Oklahoma State, 11 a.m., Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence


Opponent’s record: 9-13

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 92

Point spread: KU by 11 1/2.

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

3 Strengths

Three-point shooting: Oklahoma State has made 38 percent of its threes (25th nationally) while attempting more of those shots than an average NCAA team.

Rim protection: The Cowboys are 40th in two-point percentage defense and also 45th in block rate.

Ball security: Oklahoma State has improved in this area recently, ranking second in the Big 12 in offensive turnover rate during league play.

3 Weaknesses

Three-point defense: Oklahoma State, which plays zone about a quarter of the time, allows a higher volume of three-point shots than any other Big 12 school.

Creating havoc: The Cowboys defense is super passive, as they rank last in league play in both defensive turnover percentage and steal rate.

Scoring inside: Though Oklahoma State has some tall guys, it struggles to score close to the basket, ranking 299th in two-point percentage and 341st in accuracy on shots at the rim.

3 Players to Watch

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


Plus: Gets to line often and is good free-throw shooter

Plus: Solid rebounder, both ends

Plus: Decent shot-blocker

Plus: Capable three-point shooter who isn’t afraid to take them

Minus: Poor finisher at rim

6-foot-6 guard Lindy Waters (No. 21)


Plus: High-volume, accurate three-point shooter

Plus: Gets to line decent amount and has 95 percent accuracy there

Plus: Does good job creating his own space for threes when isolated

Plus: Solid passer

Minus: Not much of a threat inside arc; poor shooter at rim and in mid-range

6-foot-10 forward Yor Anei (No. 14)


Plus: Overland Park native who also played preps at Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West

Plus: Has increased playing time since Big 12 play began

Plus: Elite shot-blocker

Plus: Good offensive rebounder

Minus: Turnover prone

Minus: Only a role player offensively


Oklahoma State should test KU’s biggest defensive weakness — three-point containment — on Saturday, though there are reasons to think the Jayhawks could be improved in this area.

For one, KU has proven it can take away three-point shooters if it emphasizes that. A good example was the Wofford game earlier this season, as the Terriers were below their season average for perimeter-shot volume, with top threat Fletcher Magee held to an 0-for-9 effort while hounded by KU’s defenders all night (he made 7 of 15 threes in his last game against East Tennessee State, in case you were wondering).

The Jayhawks also have been burned frequently from deep when putting extra focus on opponents’ dangerous big men, and that shouldn’t be as much of a threat here. Oklahoma State doesn’t hurt opponents at the rim often, and outside of Yor, the entire roster is basically worse than NCAA average at making close shots.

For all his offensive talents, KU’s Lagerald Vick also rated by far as the Jayhawks’ worst perimeter defender. Synergy’s logs had him allowing 1.36 points per possession on opponents’ spot-up attempts — a number that ranked in the third percentile nationally while continuing a negative trend from previous years.

Offensively, KU should do much better with turnovers compared to its previous game. Not only is Oklahoma State a risk-averse defense, but KU has shown a pattern of better ball security when playing at Allen Fieldhouse.

Oklahoma State has decent interior defense, but KU should have other opportunities for efficiency with transition and open threes. Both of those have seemed to come easier for the Jayhawks at home, making me think a bounceback offensive performance could be coming.

I see it all adding up to a second straight home blowout for KU.

Kansas 81, Oklahoma State 63

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

Devon Dotson should have an opportunity for a big game, as his strengths match up with Oklahoma State’s defensive weaknesses. Dotson is good in transition, a solid three-point shooter, and besides that, he’s also likely to go against Isaac Likekele, who has been Oklahoma State’s worst defender according to Synergy. Something like 16 points and eight assists could be the type of line Dotson finishes with Saturday.

Last game prediction: Kansas 59, Kansas State 57 (Actual: K-State 74-67)

2018-19 record vs. spread: 12-11

Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 89-73-3

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.