Campus Corner

Quick scout: Why Texas A&M could remind KU fans of another recent foe

Robert Williams (with ball) and the Texas A&M Aggies lost at LSU their last time out.
Robert Williams (with ball) and the Texas A&M Aggies lost at LSU their last time out. The Associated Press

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: Texas A&M at No. 5 Kansas, Allen Fieldhouse

TV: ESPN

Opponent’s record: 13-7

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 33

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

▪ Interior defense: Texas A&M is one of the tallest teams in the nation, so it’s not surprising that it has a strong defense inside. The Aggies rank 10th nationally in block rate and 24th in two-point percentage defense.

▪ Offensive rebounding: Some of Texas A&M’s best offense comes from crashing the glass, as the team ranks 29th in offensive rebounding percentage.

▪ Getting close shots: Forty-four percent of Texas A&M’s shots come at the rim, which is the 14th-highest mark nationally. The Aggies are right about at NCAA average when it comes to making those tries.

3 Weaknesses

▪ Three-point shooting: Texas A&M has the double-whammy when it comes to outside shooting: The team barely ever takes threes, and it’s largely unsuccessful (288th nationally in three-point percentage) when it does.

▪ Three-point defense: The Aggies typically don’t do a good job of running teams off the three-point line, as 39 percent of opponents’ shots against them have been from the outside.

▪ Free throws: Texas A&M doesn’t draw many fouls and also ranks 243rd in free-throw percentage.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-10 center Tyler Davis (No. 34)

Davis_Tyler_0637

Plus: Top-35 prospect out of high school who originally had KU on his list of potential schools

Plus: Good rebounder on both ends, though offensive boards are his strength

Plus: Strong shot-blocker

Plus: Specialty is finishing shots at the rim

Minus: Below-average free-throw shooter

Minus: Doesn’t shoot threes often (6 for 19)

6-foot-10 forward Robert Williams (No. 44)

Williams_Robert_0625

Plus: Top-100 rebounder on both ends

Plus: Elite shot-blocker

Plus: Nearly automatic finisher at the rim

Minus: Turnover prone

Minus: Below-average shooter at line (50 percent) who also mostly avoids threes (0 for 6)

6-foot-3 guard Duane Wilson (No. 13)

Wilson_Duane_0704

Plus: Team’s best passer

Plus: Strong free-throw shooter

Plus: Synergy’s logs list him as “excellent” overall defender

Minus: Poor three-point shooter (27 percent)

Minus: Can be careless

Minus: Below average on shots at rim

Prediction

Texas A&M, in many ways, will resemble KU’s last home opponent: Baylor.

Both teams are ranked similarly in KenPom’s rankings (Texas A&M at 33; Baylor at 41). Both play two traditional big men, have good rim protection and also have defenses that are clearly better than their offenses.

KU, as you probably remember, ended last Saturday’s game on a 9-0 run to complete a 70-67 comeback victory over Baylor.

The biggest difference here is that Texas A&M has no point guard at the level of Manu Lecomte. Wilson and his backup, T.J. Starks, are both inefficient players overall, meaning KU should mostly have to worry about defending the interior.

The Jayhawks should get a few additional opportunities in transition (Texas A&M is decent in this area, but not as good as Baylor) and also should be able to create open perimeter shots as long as Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy doesn’t completely alter his team’s defensive style.

KU will have to battle on the glass to make up for its size disadvantage, but this still seems like a game where the Jayhawks offense should be good enough to create separation for a comfortable victory — something that hasn’t happened at Allen Fieldhouse in more than a month.

Kansas 78, Texas A&M 68

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

LSU point guard Tremont Waters was his team’s MVP in two earlier games against Texas A&M, which included a 15-point, nine-assist effort this week and a 21-point contest on Jan. 6. Waters, statistically, is similar to KU’s Devonté Graham, serving as a talented outside shooter who also is his team’s best passer. Graham appears to be a good pick to rebound after a rare off-shooting night Tuesday against Oklahoma.

Last game prediction: Oklahoma 84, Kansas 80 (Actual: OU 85-80)

2017-18 record vs. spread: 10-9

Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 68-52-3

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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