Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Monday’s game: No. 5 Kansas at Kansas State, 8 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
Opponent’s record: 16-5
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35
Point spread: KU by 2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Shooting ... everywhere: In Big 12 play, K-State is No. 1 in both two- and three-point shooting. Not surprisingly, that’s helped the Wildcats become the league’s most efficient offense through eight games.
▪ Creating havoc: K-State’s defensive turnover percentage ranks second in Big 12 play behind only West Virginia.
▪ Creating contact: The Wildcats have the top offensive free-throw rate in conference play, and they’ve also taken advantage of those tries, making 76 percent of their freebies this season.
▪ Rebounding ... both ends: K-State ranks last in the Big 12 in offensive rebounding percentage and ninth in D-board percentage. This is the rare KU opponent that shouldn’t have the advantage on the glass.
▪ Interior defense: Big 12 opponents have made 56 percent of their twos against K-State, and Synergy’s logs show that the Wildcats’ defense is especially vulnerable on post-ups and cuts to the basket.
▪ Fouls: K-State ranks 257th in defensive free throw rate, with that number getting worse since the start of league play.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-10 forward Dean Wade (No. 32)
Plus: One of the most efficient offensive players nationally
Plus: Outstanding shooter both at rim and in mid-range
Plus: Has made 45 percent of limited three-point tries
Plus: Gets to line often and is 72 percent shooter there
Plus: Team’s best defensive rebounder
Minus: Has been more aggressive in Big 12 play, but he still doesn’t shoot enough considering his elite offensive numbers
6-foot-3 guard Barry Brown (No. 5)
Plus: Best skill is creating contact and making free throws (81 percent)
Plus: Strong finisher at the rim
Plus: Takes on large offensive load for Wildcats
Plus: Decent passer
Minus: Below-average three-point shooter
Minus: Synergy’s logs have him as “average” defender who struggles most at getting out to spot-up shooters
6-foot-4 guard Cartier Diarra (No. 2)
Plus: Scored career-high 18 points against KU in teams’ first matchup in Lawrence
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Plus: Like Brown, he does a great job finishing at the rim for a guard
Plus: Synergy lists him as “excellent” overall defender
Minus: Extremely turnover prone
Minus: Still only a role player offensively who doesn’t shoot often
Expect a lower-scoring rematch, as both defensive-minded coaches are likely to correct their mistakes from the previous game.
For KU, that means putting up more resistance inside. The Wildcats made 56 percent of their twos in their near-upset on Jan. 13, and that combined with solid outside shooting led them to 1.15 points per possession — the fifth-highest mark against the Jayhawks this season.
K-State, meanwhile, did not run KU off the three-point line. The Jayhawks went 10-for-23 from the outside, and they needed each one in their one-point win.
Because the Wildcats are at home Monday, you’d expect them to force more turnovers. They also should get to the line more than the 11 times they did in the first game.
I still expect KU’s scouting report defense to be sound. And in the end, it's tough to pick against Bill Self and these Jayhawks, who more often than not have been at their best in the final minutes of close games.
Kansas 70, Kansas State 66
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
K-State’s defensive weakness is on the interior (and in post-up situations), and that means Udoka Azubuike is the likeliest Jayhawk to have a big night offensively. The 7-foot Azubuike had 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting in the first game, and he’ll almost certainly get an opportunity to try out his new free-throw technique against the foul-happy Wildcats on Monday.
2017-18 record vs. spread: 11-9
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 69-52-3