Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Tuesday’s game: Texas Southern vs. No. 3 Kansas, 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse (Cox 22)
Opponent’s record: 0-4
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 259
Point spread: No line listed.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Ball security: Texas Southern is better than NCAA average when it comes to turnovers, and that’s impressive considering the tough schedule the team has faced thus far.
▪ Rim protection: The Tigers have held opponents’ two-point shooting down with help from 7-foot-2 Trayvon Reed, who isn’t an amazing shot-blocker but still is a nice piece to have for a team playing in the SWAC.
▪ Experience: KenPom ranks Texas Southern as the 23rd-most experienced team; the Tigers have two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore in their starting lineup.
▪ Transition defense: Texas Southern allows lots of transition opportunities, and it also doesn’t defend them well, ranking in the 21st percentile in those situations according to Synergy’s logs.
▪ Perimeter defense: KU has yet to play a team this season that tries to take away threes. The Tigers, who play some zone, have allowed opponents to take 46 percent of their shots from three-point range.
▪ Defensive rebounding: Texas Southern is 319th nationally in D-board percentage, and in the opener, the Tigers allowed Gonzaga to grab half of their missed shots (20 of 40).
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-4 guard Donte Clark (No. 1)
Plus: Has played all but five minutes in Texas Southern’s first four games
Plus: Best skill is drawing contact and getting to the line, where he’s a good shooter
Plus: Good defensive rebounder for his size
Minus: Poor shooter from two-point and three-point range
Minus: Synergy lists him as “below average” overall defender
5-foot-7 guard Demontrae Jefferson (No. 3)
Plus: Played all 85 minutes in first two games before sitting out last two
Plus: Last year’s SWAC freshman of the year
Plus: Takes on huge scoring role for Texas Southern
Plus: Like Clark, his best skill is getting to the line
Minus: Struggles to finish against taller players inside
Minus: Inconsistent three-point shooter (32 percent for career)
7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed (No. 5)
Plus: Team’s best offensive and defensive rebounder
Plus: Good-but-not-great shot-blocker
Plus: Efficient scorer inside
Minus: Poor freethrow shooter
Minus: Struggles defensively away from the basket
Minus: Only a role player offensively
KenPom’s numbers have this as the worst opponent KU will play all season, so it’s not surprising that Vegas (as of Tuesday morning) decided to not put out a betting line.
The Tigers also have the two defensive weaknesses you don’t want against this particular Jayhawks’ team. KU should get lots of transition opportunities and open threes, which means a 100-point outing shouldn’t be out of the question, depending on how fast both teams play.
With the state of KU’s roster, though, don’t be surprised if coach Bill Self pulls back on the pace a bit. Three Jayhawks were battling cramps last game in a warmer-than-normal Allen Fieldhouse last Friday, and Self already is going with shorter practices to keep his limited roster fresh.
Either way, this should be a proverbial breather for KU as tougher games (Oakland, Toledo, Syracuse) loom in the next two weeks.
Kansas 96, Texas Southern 59
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: N/A
Hawk to Rock
This seems like a good opportunity for Devonté Graham to snap out of his mini shooting funk. Graham, who has made 4 of 16 threes this year, should get tries in transition and also in the half-court, where he should feel comfortable rising above the 5-7 Jefferson.
Last game prediction: Kansas 84, South Dakota State 74 (Actual: KU 98-64)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 2-1
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 60-44-3