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Expect a snail's pace offensively from American
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 282
• Three-point shooting: American is almost exactly NCAA average when it comes to taking three-pointers (33 percent of its shots are threes), but it is well above average when it comes to making them. The Eagles have made 39.7 percent of their treys this year, which ranks 16th nationally. In addition, AU gets 33.1 percent of its points from the three-point line (56th-highest split nationally).
• Foul avoidance defensively: American ranks 52nd nationally in defensive free throw rate, which compares the number of free throws shot by an opponent to its field goals. Teams are averaging just 14.5 free throws per game against the Eagles compared to 52.2 field goal attempts. AU also has had just two foulouts all season, with both coming from starting center Tony Wroblicky.
• Slow pace: Pace would typically would not be considered a strength or a weakness, but if a team like American is playing a top-10 team in Kansas, it definitely wants to limit possessions to have the best chance at an upset. AU actually is the second-slowest team nationally when it comes to pace, posting an adjusted tempo of just 59.5 possessions per game (NCAA average is 67.1). Eight of the Eagles' 12 games have had 59 possessions or fewer; KU, meanwhile, has yet to have a game with fewer than 59 possessions (The Jayhawks' lowest total was 63 against Washington State.).
• Turnovers: American has been miserable on both ends when it comes to turnovers. The Eagles give it away on 23 percent of their possessions (273rd nationally) while forcing turnovers on just 17.7 percent of their defensive possessions (293rd nationally). AU is especially poor when it comes to steals, as opponents have doubled up the Eagles on steals this year (94-47).
• Three-point defense: American is the rare team that not only allows tons of threes but also surrenders a high percentage — perhaps a result of the change-up zone defenses it plays. The most striking number is that 41.5 percent of opponents' field goal attempts against the Eagles have been threes (ninth-highest split nationally). Teams have made 36.5 percent of their threes against AU (276th nationally) and have scored 38 percent of their points against American from the three-point line (second-highest split nationally).
• Shooting inside: The Eagles have made just 42 percent of their two-point shots this year, which ranks 314th nationally. A big problem has been blocked shots, as 13 percent of AU's two-pointers have been rejected this season (315th nationally). No Eagles player is shooting better than 50 percent from inside the arc; to compare, KU has six players in its rotation that have made 50 percent or more of their twos this year.
3 Players to Watch
• Six-foot-8 senior Stephen Lumpkins (No. 32) takes on the biggest offensive load for American. He puts up a team-high 25.4 percent of AU's shots, and though he's just under 50 percent from two-point range (59 of 119, 49.6 percent), his best skill is getting to the free throw line. Lumpkins draws 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes and has the nation's 50th-best free throw rate, getting to the line 85 times while shooting just 120 field goal attempts. He make the shots when he gets to the line, too, posting a 73-percent free throw percentage this season. Lumpkins also is AU's best rebounder, grabbing 10.6 percent of his team's offensive boards (308th nationally) and 20.2 percent of his team's defensive caroms (206th nationally) when he's in.
• Six-foot-5 sophomore guard John Schoof (No. 22) has one of the most fascinating statistical lines I've seen from any player this season. Schoof has made 50 percent of his threes (24 of 48), 20 percent of his twos (four of 20) and, get this, 100 percent of his free throws (20 of 20). I guess the scouting report would be to guard him on the perimeter and let him do whatever he wants in the lane (while doing everything possible to not foul him). Schoof barely shoots, taking 13.8 percent of his team's shots, but his line was too weird to not bring up. He's also extremely turnover-prone for the limited role he has offensively.
• Though 6-foot senior guard Daniel Munoz (No. 2) is second on the team in scoring with 10.4 points per game, he's far from being an efficient player. Munoz is a good three-point shooter in a small sample size (17 of 36, 47.2 percent) and can make free throws when he gets to the line (22 of 24, 91.7 percent), but basically everything else about his offensive game is a mess. He's made just 37 percent of his two-pointers this year (26 of 71) while tying for second on the team in two-point attempts. Like Schoof, he also turns it over at an alarming rate, posting a team-high 39 giveaways in 12 games (that number looks even worse considering the slow pace AU plays at). The senior posts a decent assist rate, assisting on about a-fourth of his team's made baskets while he's in, but the overall offensive profile still doesn't look pretty for the high-usage guard.
At No. 282 in KenPom's rankings, American figures to be the second-worst opponent KU plays all season. Having said that, Chattanooga was the worst (No. 293), and KU trailed by eight at half to the Mocs at Allen Fieldhouse before pulling away for a 14-point win.
I'm not expecting American to compete in this game, even with a slow tempo and a heavy reliance on three-point shots. The biggest reason is turnovers, as the Eagles figure to be "out-possessioned" in this one, getting up far fewer shots than the Jayhawks do.
KU should roll in a low-possession game, with American struggling to crack the 50-point barrier if it doesn't hit a large number of threes.
Kansas 74, American 47
Hawk to Rock
If a team ranks in the 300s in offensive block percentage, I'm almost automatically going to default to putting KU center Jeff Withey as my Hawk to Rock.
Some teams are good at getting shots around big men, while some teams just aren't. AU has not shown the ability to avoid blocks, and the Eagles haven't faced a shot-blocker of Withey's caliber yet this season.
Not only that, AU is an extremely poor offensive rebounding team, meaning Withey should be able to gather a high number of defensive rebounds.
Triple-doubles are extremely hard to get, but Withey's points and rebounds should easily get to double figures against American, and his block total should get to five at the least.
I'll go ahead and predict right now that Matt Tait's story on American after the game will begin with the Eagles talking about how great Withey is/was defensively.
10-1 record, 169 points off (15.4 points off/game)
Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings