Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Thursday’s game: Kansas vs. Texas, approximately 8:30 p.m., Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
Opponent’s record: 16-15
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 27
Point spread: KU by 2 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Ball security: Texas is a rare team that is able to play slow offensively (287th in offensive pace) while still maintaining a low turnover rate (52nd).
▪ Shot manipulation: The Longhorns rank 16th nationally when it comes to volume of shots taken by opponents in the mid-range — statistically the least efficient shot in basketball.
▪ Three-point volume: In Big 12 play, no team took a higher percentage of its shots from three (43 percent) than Texas.
▪ Defensive rebounding: Texas ranks 258th in defensive rebounding rate, with only one rotation player (Dylan Osetkowski) ranking top 500 individually in that stat.
▪ Easy shots: Though Texas has 129 dunks this year — that’s 50 more than KU’s 79 — the team struggles to get other close shots like layups and dunks, ranking 299th in total percentage of shots taken at the rim.
▪ Bad shooting luck? Big 12 opponents made 39 percent of their threes against Texas ... a number that studies would tell us is likely more misfortune than bad defense.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-11 forward Jaxson Hayes (No. 10)
Plus: Elite shot-blocker
Plus: Great finisher at rim; has made 73 percent of twos and has 74 dunks
Plus: Good offensive rebounder
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Minus: Only a role player offensively who doesn’t create often for himself
Minus: Not as good of a defensive rebounder as you’d expect
6-foot-4 guard Kerwin Roach (No. 12)
Plus: Returning from five-game suspension
Plus: Team’s go-to guy offensively
Plus: Solid passer
Plus: Good decision-maker in pick-and-roll situations
Minus: Poor shooter in mid-range
Minus: Strong finisher at rim but doesn’t get many shots there
6-foot-9 forward Dylan Osetkowski (No. 21)
Plus: Good rebounder, both ends
Plus: Draws fouls often and is 75-percent shooter at line
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Minus: Poor shooter in mid-range and from three
Minus: Not a good passer
You’ll perhaps never find a bigger difference between perception and reality than this matchup between Kansas and Texas.
KU has solidified its place in the NCAA Tournament — likely to get a 3 or 4 seed — while Texas is firmly on the bubble with a 16-15 record.
Yet if one dives deeper into possession-based metrics, though, not as much separates the teams. In KenPom, KU is 18 and Texas is 27. Torvik has KU at 19 and Texas at 29, which again roughly puts the two about the same distance apart. In short, KU has been better at winning close games, while Texas has been more inconsistent while dominating in many of the victories it’s gotten.
Right away, we’re looking at a closer game than most people would expect. That’s reflected in the Vegas line, which has KU only as a 2 1/2-point favorite, even while getting a point or two bump from playing in front of a semi-home crowd at Sprint Center.
I’ve gone into depth about this before, but I like the way Texas has attacked KU’s defense in its two games this season. It best can be seen with this GIF, as the Longhorns have used ball screens to frequently open up shooters for open and semi-guarded threes.
Because KU coach Bill Self likes to defend inside-out — and because the Longhorns have a legitimate dunker teams have to respect in Hayes — it seems unlikely that KU will start off changing its defense much the third time around, perhaps later adapting if Texas makes a lot of threes.
Texas has the second- and third-best point-per-possession games against KU this season, making a combined 27 outside shots in those contests.
There’s no guarantee the outside shots will go in for a third straight game, but if the Longhorns can once again attempt a high volume of perimeter shots, I like their chances of pulling off a mini-upset with help from efficient offense.
Texas 75, Kansas 71
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Texas
Hawk to Rock
This is actually a good matchup for David McCormack. Texas gives up lots of offensive rebounds and also has been poor defending opponent stickbacks, and McCormack will have the strength advantage inside when he’s battling for boards with the 220-pound Hayes. Even without hunting for his shot, McCormack should have a good chance to get back to double-figure scoring Thursday night.
Last game prediction: Kansas 77, Baylor 72 (Actual: KU 78-70)
2018-19 record vs. spread: 18-13
Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 95-75-3