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.
▪ 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.
▪ 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)
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)
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)
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
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