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: No. 3 Kansas at Texas, 5 p.m. in Austin, Texas (ESPN)
Opponent’s record: 10-18
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 72
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Point spread: Kansas by 8 1/2 .
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Overall defense: Texas ranks 24th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency measure, which is actually four spots ahead of KU. For the season, the Longhorns have kept opponents’ shooting percentages down while also doing a good job of avoiding fouls.
▪ Inside scoring: Texas is top 75 nationally in shooting percentage at the rim and in the midrange. The team also ranks second in Big 12 play in two-point accuracy at 52 percent.
▪ Defensive rebounding: This has been an area of growth since the start of the season, as the Longhorns rank second in Big 12 play in D-board percentage behind only Baylor.
▪ Three-point shooting: Texas ranks 335th in three-point shooting percentage, and its only player who is shooting above NCAA average (Tevin Mack) is suspended indefinitely.
▪ Turnovers ... both ends: This is the third consecutive opponent KU has faced with issues in this area. The Longhorns are ninth in Big 12 play in offensive turnover rate and seventh in the defensive version of the stat.
▪ Half-court offense: Though Texas has had some success on fast breaks, it has struggled in non-transition situations. The team’s 0.82 points per possession in half-court sets is in the 12th percentile nationally, according to Synergy’s logs.
3 Players to Watch
Six-foot-11 forward Jarrett Allen (No. 31)
Plus: Posted 22 points, 19 rebounds in first game against KU
Plus: Strong rebounder on both ends
Plus: Above average shooter at rim and in midrange
Plus: Decent shot-blocker
Minus: Can be turnover prone
Minus: Poor free throw shooter
6-foot-4 guard Andrew Jones (No. 34)
Plus: Get to line often and makes 77 percent there
Plus: Team’s best passer
Plus: Top three-point shooter left without Mack (35 percent)
Minus: Turnover prone
Minus: Poor shooter in midrange
6-foot-4 guard Kerwin Roach (No. 12)
Plus: Like Jones, his best skill is drawing contact and getting free throws
Plus: Listed as “excellent” overall defender by Synergy’s logs
Plus: Has solid assist rate
Minus: Poor shooter everywhere
Minus: Will turn it over
It’s hard to get a good feeling for this game.
KU needs one win to clinch the outright Big 12 title, but that seems a formality with three games left. Texas similarly seems to have little at stake before the Big 12 Tournament.
KenPom has KU by nine, and this is a rare instance where the Vegas line has actually shifted toward the Jayhawks’ opponent.
Texas’ best chance offensively will be going inside and hoping to create foul trouble. We’ve seen how thin KU is defensively in the post behind Landen Lucas, so one could envision a scenario where the Longhorns are able to create an advantage.
Then again, if this happens, KU could always go zone to protect the paint. The Longhorns’ inability to shoot from the outside is a huge detriment here, as leaving perimeter shooters open isn’t likely to burn the Jayhawks.
Add in the fact that this won’t be a true road setting — KU fans always seem to take over the upper deck — and I like the Jayhawks for both the win and cover.
Kansas 75, Texas 62
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
Devonté Graham should have plenty of opportunities to shoot threes, and I’ll feel even better about this pick if there are Dallas Cowboys sitting courtside like last year.
Last game prediction: Kansas 76, TCU 67 (Actual: KU 87-68)
2016-17 record vs. spread: 12-13-1
Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 53-40-3