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: No. 2 Kansas at Oklahoma, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Opponent’s record: 6-8
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 75
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Point spread: KU by 12 1/2
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Rim protection: Thanks mostly to Khadeem Lattin, Oklahoma ranks 42nd in defensive block rate. The Sooners also rank 55th in opponents’ field-goal percentage at the rim ... though they’ve surrendered a lot of those shots.
▪ Defensive pressure: Oklahoma ranks 38th in steal percentage and 74th in defensive turnover percentage. Unfortunately for the Sooners, one of their best defenders — Jordan Woodard — will be sitting out against the Jayhawks because of a leg injury, according to coach Lon Kruger.
▪ Transition defense: Only 20 percent of opponents’ shots have come in transition against Oklahoma — a split that is 14th-best nationally.
▪ Three-point defense: Oklahoma’s biggest defensive issues have come on the perimeter, as the team has surrendered lots of three-point attempts with teams making 36 percent of those tries.
▪ Inside shooting: The Sooners rank 260th in field-goal percentage at the rim and 319th in mid-range accuracy. Oklahoma has especially struggled in Big 12 play, making a league-worst 41 percent of its two-point shots.
▪ Three-point shooting frequency: Like Texas Tech, Oklahoma has a strong three-point percentage (40 percent, 23rd nationally), but part of the reason for that is because the Sooners hardly ever shoot from there. Only 31 percent of the the Sooners’ attempts are outside shots (293rd nationally), meaning they have been mostly one-dimensional while playing inside-out.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-9 forward Khadeem Lattin (No. 12)
Plus: 45th-ranked shot-blocker nationally
Plus: Rare big man who thrives at creating steals (56th nationally)
Plus: Does decent job of getting to line and is 77 percent free-throw shooter
Plus: Solid rebounder on both ends
Minus: Shoots too many mid-range jumpers
Minus: Not a go-to guy offensively with low usage percentage
Six-foot-4 guard Christian James (No. 3)
Plus: One of team’s only good three-point shooters with Woodard out (48 percent)
Plus: Synergy lists him as a “good” defender who excels at closing out on outside shooters
Plus: Decent defensive rebounder for a guard
Minus: Awful mid-range shooter (21 percent)
Minus: Overall inefficient player who is also prone to turnovers
Six-foot-10 forward Matt Freeman (No. 5)
Plus: Strength is three-pointers (14-for-32, 44 percent)
Plus: Synergy’s logs lists him as “excellent” overall defender
Minus: Minutes have been limited
Minus: Not a great rebounder for his size
The line has moved 3 1/2 points toward KU in the last few hours, partly because of Woodard officially being ruled out.
Honestly, there’s not much to like about Oklahoma statistically, though part of that is because the Sooners loaded up with a difficult nonconference schedule.
Oklahoma gets a lot of close shots, but it doesn’t make them. The team gets back in transition, but it allows too many threes.
Without Woodard, Oklahoma has no proven scoring threat, and this also isn’t a team KU will have to worry about from the outside with the Sooners not attempting many threes.
KU might struggle at times offensively because of Oklahoma’s solid transition defense. But it’s hard to see the Sooners keeping this competitive given their recent scoring issues.
Kansas 86, Oklahoma 66
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
According to Synergy’s logs, Oklahoma’s defense has had issues guarding the ballhandler in pick-and-roll situations. Combine that with the team’s struggles defending the perimeter, and everything is in line for a big offensive game for Frank Mason, who could make a run for his season-high of 30 points.
Last game prediction: Kansas 80, Texas Tech 75, (Actual: KU 85-68)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 6-7
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 47-34-2