Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Friday’s game: South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Kansas, 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse (KMCI (Ch. 38), Spectrum Sports KC, ESPN3)
Opponent’s record: 3-0
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 107
Point spread: KU by 21 1/2 .
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Outside shooting: South Dakota State might attempt more three-pointers than any other team KU faces this year. So far, 57(!) percent of the team’s field-goal attempts have been threes, with the Jackrabbits hitting an impressive 48 percent of those shots.
▪ Foul avoidance: The Jackrabbits have worked to avoid whistles in each of coach T.J. Otzelberger’s two seasons, ranking 22nd nationally in defensive free-throw rate last year and 33rd this season. KU already is showing signs of being a team that won’t get to the line often, which suggests this could be a low-free throw game.
▪ Ball security: South Dakota State ranks 58th nationally in offensive turnover percentage, as getting a shot every possession combined with strong outside shooting has been key to the team’s thriving offense.
▪ Inside shooting: South Dakota State has made just 33 percent of its twos (342nd nationally) while especially struggling on its in-between game. The Jackrabbits, so far, have made just 16 percent of their mid-range jumpers. That’s remarkable for a team has made 48 percent of its threes.
▪ Perimeter defense: For the third straight game, KU is facing a team that struggles to defend the arc. Forty-one percent of opponents’ scoring against South Dakota State has been from the perimeter, which is the 31st-highest mark for any defense.
▪ Transition defense: I’m speculating a bit here, as South Dakota State playing teams like College of Mary and Alabama State make it difficult to trust some of this year’s numbers. A year ago, the Jackrabbits had trouble stopping teams in transition, and though that hasn’t shown up in the stats this season, it’s likely to be the case against a team like Kansas that will have the athleticism advantage.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-9 forward Mike Daum (No. 24)
Plus: Last year’s Summit League player of the year
Plus: Takes on huge scoring role with elite efficiency
Plus: High-volume outside shooter who’s made 43 percent of threes in career
Plus: Gets to line often and has 86-percent career accuracy there
Plus: Great defensive rebounder
Minus: Not great on the offensive glass, though that could be a coaching decision to help team’s transition defense
6-foot-2 guard Dan Jenkins (No. 5)
Plus: Impressive offensive player who shoots a lot
Plus: Has made 9 of 17 threes against Division I teams in small sample
Plus: Draws contact and has been good free-throw shooter
Plus: Almost never turns it over
Minus: Has struggled to make shots at rim or in mid-range when teams don’t foul him
6-foot-7 guard/forward Reid Tellinghuisen (No. 23)
Plus: Versatile player who is good at many things
Plus: Good passer this season who has 8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio
Plus: Career 37-percent three-point shooter
Plus: Synergy’s logs list him as “excellent” defender
Minus: Below-average rebounder
KenPom has this line at KU by 19, which makes Vegas’ 21 1/2 -point spread a little puzzling to me.
KU, as you likely know, is preparing to play without Billy Preston on Friday night as the compliance department continues to look into his vehicle. That likely leaves the Jayhawks thin again with seven scholarship players available, which includes just two true big men.
This also seems like a tough matchup for KU’s Udoka Azubuike. Fans saw some of the best of the big man in a 13-point, eight-rebound effort against Kentucky, but remember, the Wildcats have a huge front line, which allowed Azubuike to mostly stay comfortable defensively in the lane.
That should change Friday night. South Dakota State’s shooting ability should push Azubuike out to the perimeter where he’ll be challenged more defensively. That could lead to open threes or even additional fouls, with Azubuike doing his best to defend in space.
South Dakota State will need to shoot well to stay competitive. The team has been awful inside (against bad opponents too) but has been able to make up for it by creating open threes while also reducing its turnovers.
For this game to get out of hand, the Jayhawks likely will have to overwhelm the Jackrabbits in transition. If that doesn’t happen, though, I could see South Dakota State posing enough matchup issues to make this a closer game than what the sportsbooks believe.
Kansas 84, South Dakota State 74
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: South Dakota State
Hawk to Rock
Though he’s been great offensively, Jenkins has drawn below-average marks on defense in his first three games. Jenkins will likely be guarding Malik Newman, who should have a chance for a 20-plus-point night if he remains aggressive even after struggling to score off the drive against Kentucky.
Last game prediction: Kansas 74, Kentucky 73 (Actual: KU 65-61)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 2-0
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 60-43-3