LJWorld.com weblogs Five-minute Scout
San Jose State features good size, a go-to guy and a really bad free throw shooter
Team: San Jose State
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 270
(Note: All team statistics are from KenPom and do not include San Jose State's win over Div. III UC-Santa Cruz unless otherwise noted.)
• Defensive rebounding: This has been the biggest strength of San Jose State so far, as the Spartans have grabbed 76 percent of the available defensive rebounds this year (11th nationally). The Spartans actually do have good size for a mid-major, which includes six-foot-11 Alex Brown and 6-9 Chris Cunningham on the front line. SJSU ranks 36th nationally in KenPom's "effective height" measure, which ranks a team's average height of the center and power forward positions (Pomeroy has found it is more vital — especially defensively — to have height at those two positions compared to the other spots on the floor).
• Three-point prevention: Much like Saint Louis, San Jose State has done a great job of preventing opponents' three-point shots. Just 18.8 percent of the field goals against SJSU in D-I games have been threes this year, which ranks second nationally (Saint Louis is third). D-I opponents have made 36.4 percent of their threes against the Spartans, which means teams still have been able to make a few of the rare perimeter tries they get.
• Three-point shooting: This might be a small sample size, but the Spartans have shown the ability to shoot it from deep this year. Though SJSU doesn't shoot many threes (averaging 14.5 per game through four contests), it has made 43.1 percent of them (25 of 58). Guard D.J. Brown has helped that percentage the most, making 9 of 14 threes (64.3 percent) this year.
• Turnovers: Though George Nessman's SJSU teams traditionally have been great at protecting the basketball (San Jose State ranked in the top 13 in turnover percentage in each of the last two years), this team has been careless against weak competition early. The Spartans have turned it over on 22.1 percent of their possessions against D-I competition (21.1 percent in NCAA average), and that's especially troubling when SJSU hasn't exactly been playing defensive juggernauts in New Orleans (337th in KenPom rankings), Houston (200th) and Weber State (196th).
• Fouling too often: San Jose State has surrendered 20 free throws per game through four contests, which includes three home dates. Three of SJSU's rotation players also average more than six fouls per 40 minutes, meaning there's a good possibility for at least one foulout in Monday night's game (along with quite a few free throws for KU).
• Forcing turnovers: SJSU has not been above NCAA average in forcing turnovers in any of Nessman's eight years with the school. This season hasn't been any different so far, as the Spartans have created turnovers on 20.3 percent of opponents' possessions (198th nationally) despite going against below-average NCAA teams.
3 Players to Watch
• Six-foot-2 guard James Kinney (No. 33) is the go-to guy and then some for SJSU. He has taken 37.7 percent of his team's shots this year, which ranks seventh nationally. He's actually been somewhat productive in that role, making 53 percent of his twos while turning it over at an acceptable rate for as much as he handles it. He's also not likely to foul (1.8 fouls per 40 minutes) and is the Spartans' best perimeter defender (4.5 percent steal percentage, 125th nationally).
• Six-foot-9 forward Chris Cunningham (No. 15) has been a welcome addition after transferring in from Santa Clara. Not only is he an elite defensive rebounder (grabbing 28.9 percent of the available defensive boards, which ranks 15th nationally), but he's also given the Spartans an offensive boost inside. So far this year, he's made 22 of 32 twos (68.8 percent), which puts him in the top 40 in effective field-goal percentage.
• The good news for 6-11 forward Alex Brown (No. 44) is that he does a great job of getting to the free throw line. The bad news is that he's truly awful when he gets there. The junior has made just two of 16 free throw attempts this year (12.5 percent), a percentage that is pretty astounding when you think about it. Brown's size still has given SJSU a nice lift defensively, as he blocks 8.9 percent of opponents' two-pointers while he's in (74th nationally) while coming away with a decent number of rebounds.
This game could end up being a bit of basketball culture shock for SJSU. The Spartans haven't played an above-average D-I opponent yet this year and are coming to Allen Fieldhouse following a 40-point home win over a Div. III team.
The Spartans addressed one of their glaring weaknesses by bringing in more size this year, and the combination of Alex Brown and Cunningham could make it difficult on KU's bigs offensively if they are able to avoid foul trouble.
Still, this doesn't look like a game that should be close, especially if KU can force turnovers and get transition points against an SJSU team that hasn't taken care of it well so far this season.
Kansas 85, San Jose State 56
Hawk to Rock
This looks like another game where Travis Releford could thrive. The reigning Big 12 player of the week will most likely be matched up on Kinney defensively, so pay close attention to the matchup on that end. The senior should also get some opportunities in transition, where he's been one of KU's best players, making 65 percent of his shots at the rim this season. Mark me down for double-figure points, three steals and solid, on-ball defense from Releford.
5-0 record, 57 points off (11.4 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)
Average: 5.4th in KUsports.com ratings