Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Tuesday’s game: Toledo vs. No. 2 Kansas, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Allen Fieldhouse (KMCI (Ch. 38), Spectrum Sports KC, ESPN3)
Opponent’s record: 3-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 154
Point spread: KU by 25.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Ball security: Toledo focuses on getting a shot every possession, ranking seventh nationally in offensive turnover percentage.
▪ Outside shooting: The Rockets are a high-volume, high-accuracy three-point shooting team. They’ve made 40 percent of their perimeter shots against Division I foes, while 42 percent of their attempts have been from the outside.
▪ Foul avoidance: Toledo’s defensive free-throw rate ranks 33rd nationally. Combine that with a Kansas offense that doesn’t get to the line often, and it’ll be surprising if the Jayhawks get more than 15 or so free-throw attempts.
▪ Creating havoc: Toledo is one of the most passive defenses in the nation, ranking 350th (out of 351) in defensive turnover percentage.
▪ Transition defense: The Rockets are below average in both allowing transition opportunities and limiting shooting percentages in those scenarios.
▪ Transition offense: Toledo is a rare team in that has been worse offensively in transition (0.75 points per possession) than in the half-court (1.02 PPP), according to Synergy’s logs.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-7 forward/guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher (No. 4)
Plus: One of team’s go-to guys offensively
Plus: Creates contact and is good free-throw shooter
Plus: Team’s best offensive rebounder
Plus: Has three-point range
Minus: Below-average shooter at rim and in mid-range
6-foot-11 forward/center Luke Knapke (No. 30)
Plus: Takes on large offensive role for Rockets
Plus: Best skill is drawing fouls, and he’s a career 81 percent free-throw shooter
Plus: Good shot-blocker
Plus: Choosy three-point shooter, but he can make them
Minus: Turnover prone
Minus: Not a good defensive rebounder for his size
6-foot-8 forward Nate Navigato (No. 35)
Plus: No. 1 nationally in percentage of minutes played; was in full 40 the last two games
Plus: Must guard on perimeter, as he’s a career 40 percent three-point shooter
Plus: Almost never turns it over
Minus: Not a player who creates for himself or others often
KU is playing above its head. Or is it?
Case in point: Though KenPom’s projections have KU by 22 against Toledo, the Vegas line has pushed up to 25 with bettors believing the Jayhawks can continue to outperform their already gaudy numbers.
And there are reasons to be worried if you’re Toledo. Poor transition defense is one of the worst attributes to have against this KU team, and for whatever reason, opponents this season have struggled to make threes at Allen Fieldhouse.
Having said all that … 25 is a lot of points. It’s difficult to keep playing this well (even at home), and even a small step back offensively for KU would make this a tough cover.
The Jayhawks shouldn’t be seriously challenged, but I don’t think this one will end up lopsided as previous blowouts either.
Kansas 90, Toledo 70
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Toledo
Hawk to Rock
Knowing Toledo is a poor defensive team in transition, it would be wise to take the Jayhawks’ best scorer on the run. That would be Lagerald Vick, who ranks in the 97th percentile in transition opportunities, according to Synergy’s logs. Look for him to also crash the offensive glass after coach Bill Self said last week that the guard needed to improve in that facet.
Last game prediction: Kansas 88, Oakland 71 (Actual: KU 102-59)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 2-2
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 60-45-3