Before every KU basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Thursday’s game: No. 1 Kansas vs. Kansas State, around 2 p.m. on ESPN2
Opponent record: 17-15
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 48
Point spread: KU by 11 1/2 .
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Offensive rebounding: Kansas State grabs 37 percent of its missed shots, the 19th-best mark nationally.
▪ Forcing turnovers: The Wildcats trailed only West Virginia in steal percentage during Big 12 play.
▪ Getting to the line: Kansas State’s offensive free-throw rate ranks 38th nationally, though that number fell back a bit in conference games.
▪ Three-point shooting: This is the Big 12’s worst outside shooting team (30 percent) ... and that’s in a league with many teams that have struggled in this area.
▪ Turnovers: The Wildcats are worst in the conference when it comes to turnovers, giving it away on 22 percent of their conference possessions.
▪ Interior defense: K-State allowed Big 12 opponents to make 52 percent of their twos — the second-worst mark in the Big 12.
Player to Watch
Six-foot-10 forward Dean Wade (No. 32)
Plus: Scored career-high 20 points in Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma State
Plus: One of team’s most efficient offensive players who rarely turns it over
Plus: Strong finisher at the rim (77 percent)
Plus: Thrives on offensive glass and gets to line often
Minus: Still working on shooting range, as he’s below-average free-throw and three-point shooter
Minus: Not as aggressive as he should be considering K-State’s other offensive options
Though Kansas doesn’t have much at stake in this week’s Big 12 Tournament with a No. 1 seed all but locked up, the Jayhawks still should have plenty of motivation to beat their in-state rival for a third time.
KU coach Bill Self has hinted that bench players might get additional minutes later in the Big 12 Tournament, but reading between the lines, I think he’d like to get at least one victory before changing up his rotation later on.
Kansas State continues to be a strange team. The Wildcats plays opponents close often, but in Big 12 games, they were just 1-9 in contests decided by 10 points or fewer. That one win was Wednesday’s victory against Oklahoma State.
KenPom has KU by nine, and that seems about right to me. I see the Wildcats keeping it competitive, but if the starters play full minutes, I like the Jayhawks to win comfortably as the better team.
Kansas 71, Kansas State 62
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas State
Hawk to Rock
K-State coach Bruce Weber can rest well Thursday night knowing he never again will have to face KU forward Perry Ellis. The senior has — and continues to be — a matchup nightmare for the Wildcats, who don’t have any good options to guard him inside with an interior defense that is already suspect at best. Ellis should lead KU in scoring with 20-plus points even if this becomes a low-possession, grind-it-out game.
Last game prediction: Kansas 90, Iowa State 77 (Actual KU 85-78)
2015-16 record vs. spread: 15-13
Last two seasons’ record vs. spread: 37-25-1