Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Tuesday’s game: Long Beach State at No. 4 Kansas, 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse
Opponent’s record: 1-7
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 165
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Point spread: KU by 26.
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Close-shot defense, half-court: Long Beach State does a good job of keeping teams away from the rim in non-transition, allowing the 58th-lowest percentage of close shots in that situation.
▪ Offensive rebounding: For a team that has only two rotation players 6 foot 8 or taller, the 49ers have done an admirable job crashing the offensive glass against a difficult schedule.
▪ Forcing mid-range jumpers: Long Beach State has a way of coaxing basketball’s least-efficient shot, as 38 percent of opponents’ shots have been two-point jump shots (29th-best mark nationally).
▪ Transition defense: Long Beach State ranks 307th in percentage of shots allowed in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. In other words, expect KU to have lots of opportunities on fast breaks.
▪ Ball security: This goes hand in hand with the weakness above. Long Beach State ranks 338th in offensive turnover rate while giving it away on nearly one-fourth of its possessions.
▪ Three-point shooting: Long Beach State has shot a below-average number of threes and made only 30 percent of those attempts (294th nationally).
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-1 guard Evan Payne (No. 1)
Plus: Team’s go-to guy offensively (even if he doesn’t start)
Plus: Best at free-throw line, where he’s 91 percent shooter
Plus: Above average at drawing fouls
Minus: Below-average shooter at rim, in mid-range and on threes
Minus: Not an efficient player overall
Six-foot-7 forward Gabe Levin (No. 0)
Plus: Good finisher at the rim
Plus: Easily team’s best on defensive glass
Plus: One of team’s most efficient offensive options
Minus: Not a shot-blocking threat
Minus: Poor three-point shooter for career (25 percent)
Five-foot-8 guard Justin Bibbins (No. 21)
Plus: Good three-point shooter for career (36 percent)
Plus: Team’s best passer
Minus: Turnover prone
Minus: Way-below-average shooter at rim and in mid-range
Minus: Hasn’t shot well from three this year (19 percent)
Long Beach State has had the toughest schedule to this point, playing at Wichita State, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, Washington and now Kansas. Whew.
It’s the reason you can basically ignore the team’s 1-7 record while also understanding that the 49ers haven’t been competitive in most of those previous games, so it’s unlikely they’ll keep Tuesday night’s contest close.
KU has a team built to punish opponents that are poor at getting back in transition, especially at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks’ guard trio of Frank Mason, Devonté Graham and Josh Jackson all can create steals defensively and are quick to transition to offense when KU does come away with those turnovers.
Long Beach State’s goal offensively should simply be to get a shot — any shot — then have guards hustle back defensively, where the 49ers have often played strong half-court D.
That’s going to be a lot to ask against KU, though. Expect a fast tempo, lots of dunks and a game that Long Beach State won’t be able to keep close.
Kansas 96, Long Beach State 62
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
Mason and Jackson both have great matchups because of the potential transition opportunities, though I’ll give the slight nod to Jackson because of his ability to anticipate passes to come away with steals. Expect him to also add a few dunks to his team-leading total (10).
Last game prediction: Kansas 88, UNC Asheville 60 (Actual: KU 95-57)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 3-2
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 44-29-2