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: Omaha at No. 14 Kansas, 6 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse
Opponent’s record: 3-10
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 274
Point spread: KU by 33 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Three-point shooting: Omaha shoots from three-point range slightly less than an average NCAA team, but it has 37 percent accuracy on those attempts. Five different players have hit 10 or more threes for the Mavericks.
▪ Offensive rebounding: Though the Mavericks are a short team, they’ve been decent on the offensive glass. Some of that is helped by forward Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, who ranks 95th nationally in O-board percentage.
▪ Foul avoidance: Omaha is 119th in defensive free-throw rate. Combine that with KU’s non-contact offensive ways, and one shouldn’t expect many free throws from the Jayhawks on Monday.
▪ Interior defense: The Mavericks rank 314th in two-point defense and 320th in defensive block percentage, which means there’s been little resistance for opponents who have gotten close to the rim.
▪ Turnovers ... both ends: Omaha has been careless on the offensive end and passive defensively. KU should be able to pick up a few extra shots based on those characteristics.
▪ Physicality? Omaha ranks in the bottom 15 in offensive free throw rate and bottom 10 when it comes to getting shots blocked. Those two stats combined would suggest the Mavericks play with more finesse than strength inside.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-5 guard Zach Jackson (No. 25)
Plus: Wichita native is team’s best offensive player
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Plus: Team’s only driving threat; gets to line often and 79 percent shooter there
Plus: Can get to rim in both transition and non-transition situations
Minus: Low assist rate, which means he’s better creating for himself than others
6-foot-9 forward Lamar Wofford-Humphrey (No. 3)
Plus: Elite offensive rebounder
Plus: Strong finisher at the rim
Plus: Can shoot in mid-range and occasionally from three
Minus: Rarely gets to free throw line
Minus: Synergy lists him as “below average” defender who struggles guarding post
6-foot guard K.J. Robinson (No. 5)
Plus: Team’s best passer
Plus: Must guard on perimeter; 41 percent three-point shooter
Minus: Turns it over way too often
Minus: Struggles inside; doesn’t get to free-throw line and is 33 percent shooter at the rim and from two-point range overall
Those familiar with the quick scout blog know that, in nonconference games for KU at Allen Fieldhouse, I like to start by looking at how an opponent defends threes and in transition. Teams that are poor in those two areas tend to get walloped in Lawrence.
For Omaha, the news here is mixed. The team does a decent job of limiting three-point attempts, but it’s been bad in transition while allowing a high number of shots (and a high percentage) in fast-break situations.
This is a tricky game to predict for KU offensively in the half-court. The Jayhawks haven’t been great creating shots inside off the bounce, and they’ve also been affected often by shot-blockers. On Monday, those guards should be able to get to the rim frequently ... and this time there will be no shot-blockers. Will players like Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk have the confidence to go up with those shots in traffic even if past results haven’t been good? That’ll be something to watch.
In the end, 33 1/2 is a big number, even for a KU team that has played well at home. KenPom has the Jayhawks by 28, and given this team’s shaky past few weeks, it’s tougher for to envision the type of blowout that was commonplace in late November.
Kansas 90, Omaha 64
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Omaha
Hawk to Rock
This location predicted a big game for Udoka Azubuike against Nebraska over the weekend, and there’s no reason to change it up for this matchup. Omaha already has a leaky two-point defense, and the Mavericks have no one with the size or defensive ability required to limit Azubuike inside. KU’s big man likely won’t get double-digit rebounds Monday, but his second straight 20-point night is a good bet if he can avoid fouls against a team that doesn’t draw them.
Last game prediction: Kansas 74, Nebraska 61 (Actual: KU 73-72)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 4-5
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 62-48-3