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: No. 9 Kansas vs. Kansas State, 6 p.m., Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
Opponent’s record: 22-10
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 40
Point spread: KU by 7 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Defensive pressure: Kansas State finished No. 1 in Big 12 play in both defensive turnover rate and steal percentage — an impressive feat considering both West Virginia and Texas Tech are known for that type of defensive style as well.
▪ Finishing close shots: Thought the Wildcats get fewer opportunities at the rim than an average team, they've had great success there, ranking ninth nationally in accuracy on those shots.
▪ Free throws: K-State was third in Big 12 play in offensive free throw rate while also ranking 67th nationally for the season in free throw percentage.
▪ Rebounding ... both ends: K-State is 312th in defensive rebounding percentage and 249th in O-board rate, and those numbers look even worse when you take into account that the Wildcats played a weak non-conference schedule.
▪ Rim protection: The Wildcats ranked last in the conference in block rate and also were next to last in two-point percentage defense.
▪ Three-point defense: K-State allows a high percentage of outside shots, which has been a problem in its two previous losses against KU this year. The Jayhawks made 10 of 23 threes at Allen Fieldhouse, then 9 of 20 outside shots at Bramlage Coliseum in the rematch.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-3 guard Barry Brown (No. 5)
Plus: Voted second-team All-Big 12 by AP and coaches
Plus: Takes on team's largest offensive load
Plus: Gets fouled often and is 77 percent shooter at line
Plus: Ranks 93rd nationally in steal rate
Minus: Below-average three-point shooter
Minus: Takes too many mid-range attempts considering his poor accuracy there
6-foot-5 forward Xavier Sneed (No. 20)
Plus: Strong finisher at the rim
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Plus: Synergy lists him as "good" defender who is team's second-best at creating steals
Minus: Takes a lot of threes, but only a 33-percent shooter there
Minus: Only a role player offensively with below-average usage rate
6-foot-9 forward Makol Mawien (No. 14)
Plus: Role player who should have larger role if Dean Wade sits out with injury, as reported
Plus: Strong shot-blocker
Plus: Decent offensive rebounder
Plus: Above-average shooter at rim and in mid-range
Minus: Synergy lists him only as "average" overall defender
Minus: Limited player offensively who struggles to create his own shot
The big talking point Friday will obviously be K-State forward Dean Wade, an All-Big 12 first-team selection who is sitting out because of a foot injury.
Wade is a great player — and easily K-State's best — but I think there will be an overreaction when it comes to how much his absence affects the Wildcats' chances.
For one, we shouldn't forget KU will still be missing one of its most valuable players in Udoka Azubuike. Though the Jayhawks managed OK without him in the Big 12 Tournament opener against Oklahoma State, that doesn't mean it won't be tougher in Game 2 with the team still adjusting to an unfamiliar style.
A Wade absence also probably wouldn't affect the team's pressure defense much — and that's a characteristic the Jayhawks have struggled against at times this season.
Both teams will likely have lengthy scoreless stretches against defenses that should have them scouted well. In the end, I like the Jayhawks in a close game (they always seem to win those against the Wildcats), though I don't think it'll be as easy as most expect.
Kansas 69, Kansas State 66
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas State
Hawk to Rock
Against K-State this season, Devonté Graham had 23 points in one game and 11 assists in the other. He'll be the most important player when it comes to KU attacking K-State's pressure defense, and don't be surprised if his aggressiveness leads to double-digit free throw attempts and also 20-plus points.
Last game prediction: Kansas 77, Oklahoma State 70 (Actual: KU 82-68)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 16-15
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 74-58-3