Campus Corner

Quick scout: Why Texas could have scoring issues against Kansas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart
Texas head coach Shaka Smart The Associated Press

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: Texas vs. No. 2 Kansas, 1 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse (CBS)

Opponent’s record: 7-11

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 75

Point spread: KU by 17

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

3 Strengths

▪ Two-point shooting: Texas ranks 71st in shooting percentage at the rim and 84th on mid-range shots. This effectiveness inside is impressive considering the Longhorns’ three-point struggles.

▪ Transition defense: The Longhorns rank 64th in limiting opponents’ transition opportunities, and that’s a particularly important quality when trying to limit this Kansas team at Allen Fieldhouse.

▪ Defensive rebounding: We’ll call this a half-strength, as Texas struggled in this area until Big 12 play started. Since then, the Longhorns are leading the conference in defensive rebounding rate while grabbing 72 percent of opponents’ misses.

3 Weaknesses

▪ Three-point shooting: Texas has made 29.7 percent of its threes — a number that ranks 327th nationally. If there ever was a time for Kansas coach Bill Self to test out his team’s zone defense, this would be it.

▪ Offensive rebounding: Texas is just below the national average in offensive rebounding rate and also has been the worst Big 12 team in this area since conference play began.

▪ Carelessness: The Longhorns give it away often, ranking second-to-last in the Big 12 in turnover percentage. Though KU’s defense hasn’t created much havoc lately, it should have opportunities to get steals Saturday.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Andrew Jones (No. 1)

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Plus: Team’s go-to guy offensively with guard Tevin Mack still suspended

Plus: Great finisher at the rim for a guard

Plus: Has team’s best steal rate

Plus: Gets to line often and makes 74 percent of free throws

Minus: Not a great three-point shooter

Minus: Turnover prone

Six-foot-11 forward Jarrett Allen (No. 31)

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Plus: McDonald’s All-American who considered KU

Plus: Finishes strong at rim

Plus: Good shot-blocker

Plus: Gifted offensive rebounder

Minus: Not a focal player in Texas’ offense

Minus: Will turn it over

Six-foot-4 guard Kerwin Roach (No. 12)

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Plus: Drawing contact and fouls is his specialty

Plus: Leads team in assist rate

Plus: Rates second on team in steal rate

Minus: Poor shooter in mid-range and from the outside

Minus: Has high turnover rate while playing out of position at point guard

Prediction

Texas coach Shaka Smart announced Friday that Tevin Mack remains suspended, which is significant news, as the guard is the Longhorns’ top scoring option and best three-point shooter.

This already is a poor Texas offense, and Mack being unavailable should allow Kansas to focus even more of its effort inside, where it’s already been strong this season.

The Longhorns’ best hope offensively will be scoring in transition. It’s less likely the Jayhawks will turn it over excessively at Allen Fieldhouse, but because the Longhorns have been rebounding better lately, perhaps there’s a path to some runouts and baskets against an unset KU defense.

That seem like a lot to ask, though, especially when Texas has faced turnover issues itself.

This seems like a game where KU — with five days of rest — should be able to lock in defensively, especially because Texas likely will have to be one-dimensional in the half-court with a lack of outside shooters.

I always like the Jayhawks’ chances of making threes at home, and if they can add in a few transition points off steals, I think the potential is there for a 20-plus-point win.

Kansas 83, Texas 60

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

Though Texas’ defense has been solid this season, it’s struggled guarding pick-and-rolls, especially when it comes to hedging and trying to stop a driving ball-handler. That’s not encouraging for a team looking to hold down Frank Mason, who should have his pick of shots in the half-court if he remains aggressive off ball screens for Kansas.

Last game prediction: Kansas 83, Iowa State 73, (Actual: KU 76-72)

2016-17 record vs. spread: 8-8

Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 49-35-2

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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