Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Wednesday’s game: TCU at No. 3 Kansas, 6 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse (ESPN2)
Opponent’s record: 17-10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 43
Point spread: Kansas by 12 1/2 .
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Inside scoring: TCU has the top two-point percentage in Big 12 play at 52 percent. Part of the reason is that the Horned Frogs get close shots often ... 39 percent of their attempts are at the rim, which is 84th nationally.
▪ Foul avoidance: This is a good attribute to have heading into Allen Fieldhouse. TCU has the best defensive free-throw rate in conference play, meaning it’s been tougher to get to the line against the Horned Frogs than any other team.
▪ Offensive rebounding: Though this skill has tapered off a bit in recent months, TCU remains 29th nationally in offensive-rebounding percentage. Defensive rebounding also has been an issue for KU in each of its last four games.
▪ Turnovers ... both ends: Like Baylor, TCU has struggled both with giveaways and creating havoc defensively. The Horned Frogs are eighth in conference play in offensive-turnover percentage and ninth in the defensive version of the stat.
▪ Interior defense: Forty percent of opponents’ shots against TCU have been at the rim — that ranks 294th nationally — and according to Synergy’s logs, the Horned Frogs rank in the 14th percentile when it comes to post-up defense. TCU does have shot-blockers, but that doesn’t mean its two-point defense has been sound.
▪ Drawing contact: TCU is last in Big 12 play in offensive free-throw rate, meaning the Horned Frogs don’t typically play games with many free throws on either end.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-11 forward Vladimir Brodziansky (No. 10)
Plus: Super-efficient player who is team’s go-to guy offensively
Plus: Scored 28 points and made 10 of 11 free throws in previous game against KU
Plus: Ranks 23rd nationally in block rate
Plus: Above average shooter at rim, in midrange and at free-throw line
Plus: Thrives on offensive glass
Minus: Synergy ranks him as a “below average” overall defender
6-foot-7 guard Kenrich Williams (No. 34)
Plus: Team’s best rebounder on both ends
Plus: Almost never turns it over
Plus: Great finisher in transition
Minus: Only an average three-point shooter
Minus: Has struggled at the line (56 percent)
6-foot-1 guard Alex Robinson (No. 25)
Plus: Team’s best passer
Plus: Can create steals defensively
Plus: Synergy’s logs rank him as “very good” overall defender
Minus: Below-average three-point shooter
Minus: Overall inefficient player who will turn it over some
Something interesting happened to this particular betting line: After weeks of KU getting a couple of extra points of respect in Vegas, the 12 1/2 -point spread is almost exactly what KenPom’s projection has (KU by 12).
This makes some sense. KU is just 9-15-1 against the spread this year, so it was only a matter of time before people stopped giving the Jayhawks more credit than their underlying numbers suggested.
It makes this a trickier pick, though. TCU has a couple of characteristics that should help against KU: It gets back in transition well (where KU thrives) and also doesn’t foul often (which can be an issue for opponents at Allen Fieldhouse). There’s also opportunity there to get second-chance points against a KU team that has struggled in that area recently.
TCU’s biggest worry should be turnovers, as those likely will turn into automatic points for KU on the other end. It’s also unlikely Brodziansky will have as big of a game Wednesday, with Bill Self and staff certainly giving him lots of scouting-report attention.
Having said all that ... TCU seems like it should have a chance to keep this close, and KU certainly hasn’t been great at turning big early leads into blowouts.
Mark me down for a comfortable-but-not-too-comfortable KU win.
Kansas 76, TCU 67
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: TCU
Hawk to Rock
It’s a dream game for Landen Lucas, as Self knows about TCU’s struggles inside and is likely to call set plays for KU’s big man over and over again to expose Brodziansky’s deficiencies. If Lucas avoids foul trouble, matching or surpassing his season high of 18 points shouldn’t be out of the question.
Last game prediction: Kansas 70, Baylor 67 (Actual: KU 67-65)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 12-12-1
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 53-39-3