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: Oklahoma at No. 13 Kansas, 8 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse
Opponent’s record: 16-10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 38
Point spread: KU by 8 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Transition offense: Oklahoma gets a higher percentage of fast-break opportunities than any major-college program, and the team is efficient with those chances too. The Sooners have an “excellent” transition ranking in Synergy while ranking 45th in fast-break points per possession.
▪ Three-point shooting: Oklahoma has taken the second-highest percentage of threes in Big 12 play while making 37 percent of those attempts.
▪ Free throws ... both ends: The Sooners have done a great job avoiding whistles all season, and in league play, they’ve also done a better job at drawing contact to get to the line.
▪ Defensive pressure: Oklahoma has the most passive defensive team in the Big 12, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the ball-secure Jayhawks keep their turnovers to 12 or fewer, even in a high-possession game.
▪ Carelessness: The Sooners’ offense has regressed with giveaways in conference play, as both the team and star guard Trae Young have seen recent increases in turnover rate.
▪ Getting back: Oklahoma ranks 292nd when it comes to limiting opponents’ shots in transition.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-2 guard Trae Young (No. 11)
Plus: Ranks first in KenPom’s national player of the year measure
Plus: Takes on greatest offensive load of any college basketball player in last 18 seasons
Plus: Has top assist rate in nation
Plus: Gets fouled often and is 86-percent free throw shooter
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Minus: Has started to turn it over more often in Big 12 play
6-foot-9 forward Brady Manek (No. 35)
Plus: Scored 14 points and made 4 of 6 threes in first game against KU
Plus: High-volume, accurate three-point shooter
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Plus: Solid defensive rebounder
Minus: Doesn’t create much offense for himself
Minus: Almost never gets to free-throw line
6-foot-4 guard Christian James (No. 0)
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Plus: Finishes well at the rim and can create his own shot there
Plus: Doesn’t turn it over often
Minus: Synergy lists him as “average” defender who can struggle to get out to perimeter shooters
Minus: Has low assist rate for a guard
This line honestly surprises me.
I understand KU is coming off a home win where it covered the spread, and Oklahoma has lost five straight. But I still see a lot of reasons to like the Sooners’ chances to keep this close.
Here are a few things I see working against KU:
1. The Jayhawks had trouble guarding Young the first game, and that problem likely won’t fix itself in the rematch. KU’s best defensive success was probably with its “Combo” Triangle-and-2 defense, and the Sooners likely will be more prepared for that this time too.
2. There will be a lot of emphasis on the officiating after KU out-free-throwed West Virginia 35-2, and that isn’t likely to play in the Jayhawks’ favor. It won’t be surprising at all if Monday’s officials try to over-correct for last game while making sure the fouls and free throws appear more even in this one.
3. It’s a short-rest game that should be fast-paced, and Oklahoma has a much deeper bench.
The Sooners, to be fair, have some of their own problems to worry about. A defense that is poor in transition and allows a healthy amount of threes has the potential to get shredded at Allen Fieldhouse, especially if the Jayhawks shoot like they are capable.
To me, though, that defensive concern doesn’t outweigh the other three factors above. I’ll take KU to win, but in a tighter game than Vegas expects.
Kansas 86, Oklahoma 84
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Oklahoma
Hawk to Rock
Devonté Graham should be ready for this one. He made just 4 of 19 field goals in the teams’ first matchup this season and also had a blown defensive assignment that led to a crucial Manek three in the final 30 seconds of KU’s 85-80 loss. Graham should have plenty of opportunities for threes and assists again Monday, and that means the potential is there for a big statistical night.
Last game prediction: Kansas 78, West Virginia 71 (Actual: KU 77-69)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 14-12
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 72-55-3