Campus Corner

Quick scout: KU’s depth likely to be tested against Kansas State

Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (middle) defended a shot by Kansas State Wildcats forward D.J. Johnson during a game in last year’s Big 12 Tournament.
Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (middle) defended a shot by Kansas State Wildcats forward D.J. Johnson during a game in last year’s Big 12 Tournament. skeyser@kcstar.com

Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.

Monday’s game: Kansas at Kansas State, 8 p.m. in Manhattan (ESPN)

Opponent’s record: 16-7

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 28

Point spread: Kansas by 3

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

3 Strengths

▪ Forcing turnovers: This is surprising: Kansas State has the best defensive turnover rate in Big 12 play (25 percent) — a number that is even higher than West Virginia.

▪ Creating contact: Kansas State is the Big 12’s best in offensive free-throw rate, and it should receive some extra benefit in this area while playing at home Monday.

▪ Interior defense: The Wildcats ranks 15th nationally in two-point defense and second in the Big 12 since league play began.

3 Weaknesses

▪ Three-point defense(?): Big 12 opponents have made 46(!) percent of their threes against Kansas State in conference play. Synergy’s logs also have the Wildcats’ three-point defense in the ninth percentile. Some of those numbers are probably bad luck (Kansas State is above average at limiting threes, which is more controllable), but it’s probably not a stretch to say the Wildcats have had some issues closing out on shooters too.

▪ Defensive rebounding: Kansas State ranks 292nd nationally in D-board percentage, meaning there should be openings inside for both Landen Lucas and Josh Jackson to steal extra possessions.

▪ Turnovers: The Wildcats are below average when it comes to giveaways offensively even after playing an easy nonconference schedule.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-9 forward D.J. Johnson (No. 4)

Plus: Top-100 shot-blocker nationally

Plus: Thrives on offensive glass

Plus: Strong finisher at the rim

Plus: Team’s best at getting to the free-throw line

Minus: Only 63 percent free-throw shooter

Minus: Doesn’t do as well on the defensive glass as you’d expect

6-foot-10 forward Dean Wade (No. 32)

Plus: Efficient offensively

Plus: Strong three-point shooter

Plus: Great finisher at the rim

Plus: Almost never turns it over

Minus: Low usage percentage indicates he’s still way too timid offensively

Minus: Not a great defensive rebounder

6-foot guard Kamau Stokes (No. 3)

Plus: Team’s best and most frequent three-point shooter

Plus: Good passer

Plus: Gets to line often and makes 73 percent there

Minus: Has dreadful shooting numbers at rim and in mid-range

Minus: Can be careless with the ball

Prediction

There are some things to like about Kansas State’s matchup in this particular game.

For one, the Wildcats are forcing lots of turnovers, which has been a recent issue for the Jayhawks. K-State’s ability to create fouls offensively also should test KU’s lack of depth.

The Jayhawks have to hope that they can utilize their own strengths. KU is the fifth-best outside shooting team in the nation, and K-State’s three-point defense, even if unlucky, appears vulnerable. The Jayhawks’ best offensive weapon also is in transition, where the Wildcats have only been so-so this year.

The Saturday-home-Monday-away turnaround is a difficult one, and it could play an even bigger role after four Jayhawks played 41 minutes (or more) in Saturday’s game against Iowa State.

I’ve liked K-State’s chances of winning this game since before the season began, and even though my predictions have stunk lately, I’ll stick with that pick in a game where fouls and free throws should play a big role.

Kansas State 70, Kansas 68

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas State

Hawk to Rock

K-State has struggled in transition and with defending spot-up shooters. Those are both areas where Frank Mason thrives, and he’s also likely to stay on the court while avoiding foul trouble.

Last game prediction: Kansas 85, Iowa State 72, (Actual: ISU 92-89)

2016-17 record vs. spread: 9-12

Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 50-39-2

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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