Campus Corner

Quick scout: Why KU needs a focused Josh Jackson against Oregon

The defense of KU’s Josh Jackson (top) will be needed again against Oregon.
The defense of KU’s Josh Jackson (top) will be needed again against Oregon. rsugg@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.

Saturday’s game: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 1 Kansas, NCAA Midwest Regional final, 7:49 p.m. at Sprint Center (TBS)

Opponent’s record: 32-5

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 14

Point spread: KU by 7.

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

3 Strengths

▪ Three-point shooting: Like Purdue, Oregon is a high-volume, accurate perimeter shooting team. The Ducks rank 42nd nationally in three-point percentage and actually were better in conference play, making 42 percent of their long-range attempts against Pac-12 opponents.

▪ Rim protection: Oregon is the No. 1 team nationally in block percentage, though that comes with a caveat. Chris Boucher, a top-10 shot-blocker nationally, is out for the season because of a torn ACL, which means the team isn’t as strong in that area now.

▪ Foul avoidance: Oregon, like Purdue, is not a foul-prone team, working defensively to avoid contact. The Ducks are 11th nationally in defensive free-throw rate, and that could help them somewhat counteract the effect of playing at Sprint Center.

3 Weaknesses

▪ Defensive rebounding: Though Oregon is tall and athletic, it hasn’t been great on the defensive glass. The Ducks are right around NCAA average when it comes to D-board percentage while ranking ninth in the stat in Pac-12 play.

▪ Drawing contact: The Ducks, for the most part, aren’t a physical team offensively, ranking 190th in free throw rate.

▪ Allowing threes: Oregon mixes up its defenses, but one constant has been allowing a high number of outside attempts. Opponents haven’t shot well from three against the Ducks, but remember, studies have found that three-point percentages are much more dictated by offenses than defenses, and KU has shot them well all season.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-7 forward Dillon Brooks (No. 24)

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Plus: KenPom’s Pac-12 player of the year

Plus: Takes on huge offensive role with great efficiency

Plus: Gets to line often and is 79 percent shooter there

Plus: Good driver and finisher at rim

Plus: Strong passer

Plus: Have to respect perimeter shot; 42 percent from three

Minus: Struggles to hold ground on defensive glass

Six-foot-4 guard Tyler Dorsey (No. 5)

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Plus: Best skill is three-point shooting (41 percent)

Plus: Can get to rim and is above-average shooter there

Plus: Rarely turns it over

Plus: Doesn’t foul often

Minus: Not a great passer

6-foot-9 forward Jordan Bell (No. 1)

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Plus: Great rebounder, both ends

Plus: Strong shot-blocker

Plus: Well-above-average shooter at rim and in mid-range

Plus: Draws contact often and is 70 percent at line

Minus: Can struggle defensively when pulled away from basket

Minus: Not a three-point shooter (2-for-13)

Kansas City Star sportswriters Gary Bedore and Jesse Newell talked about KU’s big win over Purdue last night, amazing plays by Devonte Graham and Frank Mason, and also previewed Saturday's NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional final game against Oregon

Prediction

Caleb Swanigan was the defensive matchup to watch last game. On Saturday, it will be Dillon Brooks … and this assignment will mostly go to Josh Jackson instead of Landen Lucas or Dwight Coleby.

Jackson has been KU’s Swiss Army knife for most of the season, using his wide range of skills to adapt to the Jayhawks’ opponent each game. Here, KU needs Jackson to simply be a focused defender who doesn’t have mental lapses on the perimeter.

It’s been something Jackson has struggled with at times earlier this year. The most notable game was KU’s home loss to Iowa State, as Deonte Burton was able to attempt numerous three-pointers when Jackson was a step slow and didn’t close out with high hands.

If Jackson doesn’t do well or has foul issues, it’ll be interesting to see where coach Bill Self turns. This actually could be a good defensive matchup for Carlton Bragg, though again, he’d have to be sure to get all the way out to the perimeter to discourage Brooks from shooting threes.

For the overall game … KenPom has KU by five, and that’s with a semi-home environment. I think Sprint Center is more than that, and one could argue Boucher’s absence might be worth downgrading Oregon as well.

This still seems like a line that has swung too far in KU’s direction. The public loves to bet the hot team, and though KU is that, a better reflection of the two squads is what they’ve done over the course of the entire season.

One also has to understand the pressure that will be on KU this game. The team is expected to make the Final Four, and Self on Friday reiterated that this round was the “hardest game of the tournament.” KU will likely need to make some threes against Oregon’s defense, but what happens if a few don’t fall early? Will KU stick with the offensive plan that has gotten it this far, or start to panic a bit?

I think this one’s close. Oregon is not as good as Louisville, but it’s still a good team that has enough athleticism to give KU problems offensively.

Through it all, I like KU to do enough to win in a close game — the type of contest where this team has been strong all season.

Kansas 75, Oregon 72

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Oregon

Hawk to Rock

KU should pick on Jordan Bell defensively, as he’s not great when pulled out to the perimeter by high ball screens. Though that should free up Frank Mason and Devonté Graham for threes, I’m going with someone different for my Hawk to Rock.

There will be a lot at stake for Landen Lucas, who grew up rooting for Oregon after both his parents went there. This still appears to be a great matchup for him; the Ducks have struggled on the defensive glass (Lucas’ strength is offensive rebounds) and Bell doesn’t appear to be a player that is well-equipped to go against Lucas’ physicality. KU’s big man will have to avoid foul trouble — that’s always an issue — but if he does, the potential is there for a big game.

Last game prediction: Kansas 85, Purdue 77 (Actual: KU 98-66)

2016-17 record vs. spread: 16-16-1

Last three seasons’ record vs. spread: 57-43-3

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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