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: UMKC at No. 3 Kansas, 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse (Jayhawk TV/ESPN3)
Opponent’s record: 6-3
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 207
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Point spread: None set.
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Three-point shooting: UMKC has shot the 67th-highest percentage of threes, and for good reason. The Roos rank eighth nationally in three-point percentage at 42 percent.
▪ Forcing turnovers: The Roos rank 80th in steal rate and 67th in defensive turnover percentage, though they will be shorthanded without suspended guard Martez Harrison, who is best on the team in steal rate.
▪ Shot selection: Most of UMKC’s attempts are threes or at the rim, which are the two more efficient shots to take. Only 23 percent of the team’s tries come in the midrange, which is the 93rd-best split nationally.
▪ Transition defense: Uh-oh. This probably the worst weakness to have while playing KU at Allen Fieldhouse, and the Roos have been poor both at getting back and reducing shooting percentages in transition.
▪ Defensive rebounding: UMKC ranks 336th in average height, and that lack of size makes it especially tough on the defensive glass, where the Roos rank 320th in defensive rebounding percentage.
▪ Fouling: UMKC puts teams on the line often (264th in defensive free throw rate) while also not providing much in the way of rim protection inside.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot guard LaVell Boyd (No. 4)
Plus: Takes whopping 34 percent of his team’s shots when he’s in
Plus: Efficient player who also is team’s best passer
Plus: High-volume, accurate three-point shooter (42 percent career)
Plus: Gets fouled often and doesn’t miss many free throws
Minus: Awful shooter at rim and in midrange
Six-foot-8 center Darnell Tillman (No. 54)
Plus: Elite offensive rebounder
Plus: Strong on defensive glass, too
Plus: Has made 67 percent of twos
Minus: Strictly a role player offensively who doesn’t create for himself
Minus: Not a shot-blocking threat
Six-foot-4 guard Isaiah Ross (No. 2)
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Plus: Scored 17 while starting last game against South Dakota State
Minus: Will not shoot inside arc (six attempts)
Minus: Does not create contact (one free throw)
UMKC appears to have made some recent strides, moving from 286th in KenPom’s rankings two years ago to 207th this season.
This still is the easiest team left on KU’s schedule, with the Roos facing the added challenge of playing without one of their top players in Harrison.
The good news for UMKC is the best way to beat KU’s defense so far this season has been three-pointers, which has been the Roos’ greatest strength offensively. The Jayhawks have done a great job of limiting those outside shots in recent games, but part of that was helped by the fact that Long Beach State and Stanford avoid threes as a general rule.
It’s not crazy to think UMKC will be able to have spurts of offensive success against KU. The problem lies in transition defense, as the Roos shouldn’t have much answer for the Jayhawks’ four-guard attack that has been able to beat most teams down the floor.
In the end, KU should push for 100 points, with the walk-ons determining whether that happens or not.
Kansas 97, UMKC 62
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: N/A
Hawk to Rock
UMKC has been particularly poor at stopping opponents from finishing at the rim in transition. It’s not a bold pick, but Frank Mason has been KU’s best in this area so far, meaning a 20-plus-point game is likely even if his minutes are limited.
Last game prediction: Kansas 74, Stanford 55 (Actual: KU 89-74)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 4-3
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 45-30-2