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: Stanford vs. No. 2 Kansas, 4:30 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence
Opponent’s record: 4-3
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 109
Point spread: KU by 20.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Three-point defense: Stanford ranks No. 1 nationally when it comes to limiting opponents’ three-point attempts.
▪ Creating contact: The Cardinal’s most effective way of scoring has been getting to the line, as it ranks 38th in offensive free throw rate.
▪ Size: Stanford is third in KenPom’s “average height” measure, and that appears to have especially helped the team keep opposing shooting percentages low.
▪ Carelessness: Stanford ranks 319th in turnover percentage, which also has been a cause of one of its biggest defensive issues, which is ...
▪ Transition defense: The Cardinal struggles to get back defensively to stop fast breaks, ranking 301st in limiting transition attempts.
▪ Three-point shooting: Stanford has the double whammy of not attempting many threes while also being inaccurate (30 percent) on those select attempts.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-9 forward K.Z. Okpala (No. 0)
Plus: Does great job of creating contact and fouls
Plus: Excellent free throw shooter
Plus: Has improved three-point accuracy this season
Plus: Team’s best finisher in transition
Minus: Poor shooter in mid-range who attempts too many there
Minus: Not a shot-blocking presence
6-foot-3 guard Daejon Davis (No. 1)
Plus: Like Okpala, does good job of getting to the line
Plus: Team’s best assist man
Plus: Can create steals
Minus: Turnover prone
Minus: Poor shooter inside the arc; best to not foul him
Minus: Synergy lists him as “poor” defender who struggles in pick-and-roll situations
6-foot-5 guard Cormac Ryan (No. 23)
Plus: Three-point bomber who’s averaged seven attempts per game
Plus: Strong free throw shooter
Plus: Synergy lists him as “very good” overall defender
Minus: Hasn’t been a great three-point shooter yet (31 percent)
Minus: Rarely shoots from two-point range
Minus: Doesn’t get to line often
Both teams should look to attack the other inside.
For Stanford ... that’s out of necessity. The Cardinal lacks the three-point shooters to space the floor properly, so the gameplan should be to put KU’s big men in uncomfortable spots while hoping to get a friendly whistle.
For the Jayhawks ... that’s simply because of the matchup. No team does a better job of getting out to perimeter shooters than the Cardinal, and the mismatch for KU lies in Udoka Azubuike (he has a clear strength advantage) and also on the glass, where the Jayhawks should be able to dominate the offensive boards against a subpar rebounding team.
A big key for KU will be its pressure defensively. With good energy, the steals will be there for the taking, which would lead to potential easy baskets on the other end. With passive defense, though, Stanford could find success offensively while able to navigate around its biggest weakness.
I like KU for both the win and cover. Stanford’s carelessness should be a big concern at Allen Fieldhouse, and taking away threes from this KU team isn’t the problem it would have been the last two seasons.
Kansas 88, Stanford 63
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
If he can stay out of foul trouble, this has the makings of a big game for Udoka Azubuike. Stanford had no answer for him in a 24-point, 12-for-15 shooting game last season, and even without forcing shots, Azubuike should get plenty of opportunities for easy shots against a Stanford defense that can’t match up with his physicality.
Last game prediction: Kansas 73, Tennessee 68 (Actual: KU 87-81, OT)
2018-19 record vs. spread: 3-2
Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 80-64-3