Advertisement

Posts tagged with Ku

Can KU break its two-point jump-shooting slump against Kansas State?

Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder lofts a shot over Kansas center Jeff Withey during the first half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder lofts a shot over Kansas center Jeff Withey during the first half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Team: Kansas State
Record: 15-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 44

3 Strengths

• Offensive rebounding: The Frank Martin identity has not totally left the Wildcats, and that's most evident by their impressive offensive rebounding numbers. Kansas State grabs 40.8 percent of its missed shots, which ranks sixth nationally. New coach Bruce Weber never had a team at Illinois that ranked better than 44th in offensive rebounding, so it's a credit to him that he didn't entirely tear down a positive characteristic that the previous coach left with KSU. Kansas has been the second-best defensive rebounding team in Big 12 games this year, so this will be a matchup of strength versus strength.

• Turnovers: Kansas State has been good on both ends when it comes to turnovers, ranking 104th nationally in offensive turnover percentage and 61st nationally in defensive turnover percentage. Playing at a below-average pace, KSU has a plus-2.5 turnover margin per game while giving it away just 12.4 times per contest. The Wildcats are second during Big 12 play in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage and have turned it over just eight times in each of their last two games.

• Forcing teams into difficult shots: We've talked often about how KU does a poor job of limiting opponents' three-point attempts. KSU, on the other hand, is one of the nation's best, as only 25.5 percent of the field goals taken against the Wildcats are threes (13th-best split nationally). According to Hoop-Math.com, KSU is stingy at the rim as well, as only 28 percent of opponents' field goals are shots at the rim (NCAA average is 28 percent). Basically, KSU's defense has forced teams into a high number of two-point jumpers, which is statistically the worst shot in basketball. KU has struggled with its two-point jumpshots during Big 12 play, as the graph below shows (data from Hoop-Math.com).

KU's two-point jumpshot stats in Big 12 play.

KU's two-point jumpshot stats in Big 12 play. by Jesse Newell

3 Weaknesses

Free throw shooting: The Wildcats have made just 64.8 percent of their shots at the charity stripe, which ranks 283rd nationally. Most of this can be pinned on one player, though: 6-foot-11 senior Jordan Henriquez. The center has made just 11 of 38 tries for a miserable 28.9 percent. Take his numbers out, and KSU's free throw percentage improves almost five percentage points to 69.5 percent.

• Two-point shooting: Though the Wildcats do a great job of forcing others into two-point jumpshots, they also settle for too many jumpers themselves. According to Hoop-Math, 45 percent of KSU's field-goal attempts have been two-point jumpers, which is the 20th-highest split nationally. K-State is actually above the NCAA average when it comes to two-point jumper accuracy (38 percent compared to 35 percent), but taking that many tough shots has dragged the Wildcats' overall two-point percentage down; KSU has made just 45.9 percent of its twos, which ranks 224th nationally and is below the NCAA average of 47.3 percent.

• Defensive rebounding: Playing primarily with a four-guard lineup, KSU has struggled at times grabbing defensive rebounds. The Wildcats come down with 67.7 percent of their opponents' misses, which ranks just below the national average. Six-foot-7 Thomas Gipson and 6-6 Shane Southwell are KSU's best defensive rebounders, pulling down 17.9 percent of the available caroms each. KU is only middle of the pack when it comes to offensive rebounds in Big 12 play, so this weakness might not necessarily hurt the Wildcats too much on Tuesday night.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Rodney McGruder (No. 22) is Kansas State's best player and already has won Big 12 player of the week four times this season. He takes 30.1 percent of KSU's shots (94th nationally) and has still managed to keep up his efficiency by almost never turning it over (11.9 percent turnover rate, 121st nationally). McGruder scores a lot of points on two-point jumpers, as he takes 46 percent of his shots from that range while making an above-average 39 percent of those attempts. Though he's only made 35 percent of his threes (26 of 75), he was a 39-percent three-point shooter last year and a 41-percent shooter his sophomore year. McGruder doesn't get to the free throw line often, meaning KU shouldn't have too worry too much about him driving to get all the way to the rim. Most of McGruder's points should come on jumpshots.

Five-foot-11 guard Angel Rodriguez (No. 13) is responsible for the second-highest number of offensive possessions behind McGruder. The sophomore has a phenomenal assist rate (38.2 percent, 22nd nationally) while also standing out as KSU's best perimeter defender, coming up with steals on 3.3 percent of opponents' possessions (264th nationally). Rodriguez isn't without flaws, though. His turnover rate of 21.7 is higher than you'd like to see from a point guard, and his field-goal shooting has been awful. Rodriguez has made just 37 percent of his twos (23 of 63) and 32 percent of his threes (20 of 62). He's especially struggled at the rim, where he's made just 14 of 40 close-shot attempts (35 percent). His profile would appear to be that of a player that should be affected by a shot-blocker like KU's Jeff Withey.

Six-foot-6 hybrid-forward Shane Southwell (No. 1) deserves credit for improving from an offensive liability the last few years to an above-average contributor this season. Playing as an undersized 4, Southwell has taken advantage of his open looks, making 16 of 33 three-pointers (49 percent). He also has the team's second-best assist rate (21.2 percent, 405th nationally) while emerging as one of the team's best defensive rebounders (even at 6-6). Southwell turns it over a little too often and doesn't get to the free throw line much, but he's accurate when he does shoot it and can be a matchup problem for teams playing big because of his versatility.

Prediction

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: Bramlage Coliseum is the toughest place KU plays every year. With first place in the Big 12 on the line, I'd expect the Kansas State students once again to be in a frenzy Tuesday night. It's very hard for teams to get all road wins, but this one is especially tough for KU because of the atmosphere.

All along, I figured this would be the game where I'd pick KU to lose. Thing is, the Wildcats — despite being 15-2 — haven't been able to move up the KenPom rankings much, mostly because they have been in some close games that, on paper, never should have been close (a 52-44 home win against UMKC and 65-64 road victory over West Virginia come to mind).

KSU appears to be a bit overrated — at least when you compare the polls to KenPom — because it has been able to win close games while also taking advantage of a generous early Big 12 schedule.

Even though KU has struggled as of late — and especially on the road — I think the Jayhawks are clearly the better of the two teams.

Because K-State doesn't draw many fouls, I don't see the free throw advantage swinging too much in the Wildcats' favor, even with the home crowd behind them. I think it also helps KU to have four seniors that have played in Manhattan before and know what to expect.

I'm expecting a close game, but I think KU will pull it out in the end.

Kansas 64, Kansas State 58

Hawk to Rock

KU forward Kevin Young seems like a good bounceback candidate after having a tough game at Texas on Saturday. Young appears to be one of KU's best defenders at getting out to three-point shooters, and that should help him guard a guy like Southwell on the perimeter. Not only that, Young should be able to hustle his way to offensive rebounds against a K-State team that has had its issues on the defensive glass. Put me down for double-figure points with at least four offensive rebounds for Young.

Predictions tally
16-1 record, 205 points off (12.1 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)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Average: 4.1st in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

Texas’ only hope for upset might be at free throw line

Kansas center Jeff Withey puts a shot over Texas defenders Jonathan Holmes (10) and Clint Chapman (53) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Frank Erwin Center.

Kansas center Jeff Withey puts a shot over Texas defenders Jonathan Holmes (10) and Clint Chapman (53) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Frank Erwin Center. by Nick Krug

Team: Texas
Record: 8-8
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 86
(All team statistics are from KenPom.com and only include numbers against Div. I competition.)

3 Strengths

Interior defense: Opponents have had problems scoring inside against Texas, shooting just 38.9 percent from two-point range this year (third nationally). Part of the reason for that is the Longhorns' shot-blockers, as UT rejects 14.2 percent of the opposition's two-point attempts (20th nationally). Opponents have made just 54 percent of their shots at the rim against Texas (NCAA average is 61 percent) and 28 percent of their two-point jumpshots (NCAA average is 35 percent). Because of this stinginess inside, the Longhorns lead the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage.

• Limiting opposition's three-pointers: The Longhorns do an above-average job of limiting three-point attempts, allowing them on 31.9 percent of opponents' field goals (132nd-highest split nationally). Also, only 22.4 percent of opponents' points against Texas are coming from three-point range, which is the 43rd-lowest split nationally. Texas also has been blessed with some good fortune, as other teams have made just 23.8 percent of their threes (first nationally). I'm a guy that believes defenses don't have a lot of control over that number, so playing Kansas will be an interesting one-game test study to see if UT can continue to keep opponents' three-point shooting down.

Drawing fouls: Texas has posted the nation's 76th-best free throw rate, which measures how often a team gets to the free throw line. Playing at a just-above-average pace, UT has attempted 23 free throws per game and 26 freebies per game at home while getting 22.4 percent of its points from the line (76th-highest split nationally).

3 Weaknesses

Shooting: Texas is a poor shooting team everywhere you look. Two-pointers? The Longhorns make just 43.4 percent of those (298th nationally). With threes, UT has just 30.2-percent accuracy (283rd nationally). The Longhorns also have been awful shooting team at the free throw line, making 63.8 percent of their tries (304th nationally). Part of Texas' problem is that it takes a high number of two-point jump shots (not including layups/dunks/tip-ins), as according to Hoop-Math.com, 42 percent of its shots come from that location (NCAA average is 33 percent). The 'Horns haven't shot well from there either, making just 32 percent of those attempts (NCAA average is 35 percent).

Turnovers: The Longhorns are extremely careless with the ball, turning it over on 23.2 percent of their possessions (294th nationally). Texas is averaging 16.3 turnovers per game while also not creating much havoc on the other end, forcing opponent giveaways on just 19.3 percent of possessions (230th nationally).

Experience: Texas can claim to be the youngest team in America, as the team ranks 347th (out of 347 teams) in KenPom's "Experience" measure. Texas coach Rick Barnes' nine-man rotation consists of six freshmen and three sophomores. The Longhorns have only two upperclassmen on the entire roster: senior Dean Melchionni, who averages 2 minutes per game, and senior Andrew Dick, who has played just two minutes.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Sheldon McClellan (No. 1) is the best of the bad options for Texas offensively. The sophomore takes 27.7 percent of his team's shots (205th nationally) while posting the team's best turnover rate. His best skill is getting to the free throw line, drawing 6.1 fouls per game (62nd nationally) while notching the nation's 168th-best free throw rate. He's strong at the stripe as well, making 79 of 98 shots (81 percent). McClellan doesn't do much else. He's a poor shooter from two-point range (40 percent) and three-point range (29 percent) while posting low assist, block and steal percentages.

Six-foot-3 guard Julien Lewis (No. 14) is Texas' secondary option offensively. He takes one-fourth of his team's shots when he's in and is the Longhorns' best shooter from three-point range, making 24 of 61 (39 percent). He's also UT's best two-point jump shooter, making 40 percent of those shots between the rim and three-point line. Because he settles for so many of those jump shots, though, that drags down his overall efficiency. Like McClellan, Lewis doesn't turn it over as much as many of his teammates, but he also doesn't provide much defensively in the way of steals or blocks.

Six-foot-7 forward Jonathan Holmes (No. 10) is UT's best defender in the starting lineup. The sophomore blocks 4.4 percent of opponents' twos (258th nationally) while also providing great production on the glass. He's an excellent offensive rebounder, grabbing 13.4 percent of UT's misses when he's in (74th nationally), and also is 180th in defensive rebounding percentage. Holmes converts on 76 percent of his shots at the rim but can't make much past that, putting in just 26 percent of his two-point jumpers and 29 percent of his threes.

Prediction

Your view of this game basically comes down to one question: Do you think Texas will be able to score enough to win?

The Jayhawks enter as one of the nation's top defensive teams, while Texas has been just brutal offensively. Not only that, the Longhorns have gotten a high percentage of the points they do get from two-pointers — an area that KU dominates because of center Jeff Withey.

That leaves a hot three-point shooting day and a great day at the free throw line as the best options. No. 1 isn't likely, just because Texas doesn't appear to have the shooters. The Longhorns have shot a league-worst 25 percent from three in Big 12 games, and that's only slightly under the team's 30-percent accuracy from beyond the arc this season.

Getting lots of free throws, though, isn't out of the question. KU hasn't been a foul-prone team this year, but crazy things happen on the road in the Big 12, especially if a home underdog can stay close early.

Pay close attention to Texas' free throws and offensive rebounding. If the Jayhawks can limit those two areas, they should be fine even if they have a tough day against Texas' defense.

So to answer my first question: No, I don't think Texas will be able to score enough to win.

KU coach Bill Self likes when his team can grind out victories on the road by making the other team play poorly, and this feels like one of those games.

Kansas 62, Texas 50

Hawk to Rock

KU received good production Monday against Baylor out of Elijah Johnson, and the point guard appears to have a favorable matchup against Texas. The Longhorns' two guards don't force many turnovers defensively, meaning the sometimes-careless Johnson should be able to limit his giveaways while serving as the primary ballhandler. Mark me down for double-digit points for him, as I think he'll find some openings behind the arc to lead the Jayhawks in three-point scoring.

Predictions tally
15-1 record, 198 points off (12.4 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)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

KU’s interior defense will be tested against Baylor

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends as Baylor forward Cory Jefferson scoops a shot from behind the backboard during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends as Baylor forward Cory Jefferson scoops a shot from behind the backboard during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Team: Baylor
Record: 11-4
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 29

3 Strengths

Inside shooting: Baylor is most efficient offensively inside, where it's made 53.4 percent of its two-point attempts (25th nationally). Part of the reason for this high success is that the Bears almost never have their shots blocked; just 6.5 percent of their twos have been swatted (19th nationally). BU has lots of size at its two forward positions, ranking 43rd nationally in KenPom's "effective height" measure. This should be one of the biggest keys for both teams in Monday night's game, as KU enters with the top two-point percentage defense in the nation (37.1 percent).

Ball security: Much like Temple, Baylor rarely turns the ball over, giving it away on just 17.4 percent of its possessions (31st nationally). The Bears are helped in this aspect by having two players that are in the top seven nationally in turnover rate: guard Brady Heslip (No. 1, 5.5 percent of ended possessions) and Cory Jefferson (No. 7, 7.1 percent of ended possessions). Playing at an above-average pace, BU has turned it over just 12 times per game and hasn't given it away more than 14 times in any of its last eight contests.

Foul avoidance: Baylor has done a great job of keeping teams off the free throw line, as its defensive free throw rate ranks 36th nationally. Opponents have averaged just 10.2 made free throws per game against the Bears, with BU fouling just 15.5 times per game. Though KU has averaged 32 free throw attempts in its last two games and is playing at home, don't expect the Jayhawks to have as many opportunities at the line against Baylor on Monday night.

3 Weaknesses

Drawing fouls: Conversely, Baylor isn't a team that gets fouled often. The Bears' free throw rate ranks 222nd nationally, and only point guard Pierre Jackson (94) and Jefferson (64) have more than 40 free throw attempts. BU averages just 20 free throws per game and most likely won't get much help from an Allen Fieldhouse crew. KU, meanwhile, has done a nice job of avoiding fouls on the defensive end, ranking 60th nationally in defensive free throw rate.

• Defensive rebounding: Despite having good size, Baylor has struggled on the defensive glass this year, pulling own just 66.9 percent of opponents' misses (218th nationally). This has long been a weakness of coach Scott Drew's teams at BU, as the Bears have ranked in the top 100 of defensive rebounding percentage just once in his 10 seasons (93rd, 2010-11). KU has been poor on the offensive glass so far, though, bringing down just 32.1 percent of its misses (171st nationally).

Forcing turnovers: Baylor has been only an average team at taking the ball away, creating turnovers on 20.9 percent of its defensive possessions (165th nationally). Almost all of BU's steals come from the perimeter, as senior A.J. Walton (89th-best steal rate nationally) and Pierre Jackson lead the team with 30 and 29 steals, respectively. Pay close attention to KU guard Elijah Johnson, who will be going against those BU guards. The senior has been careless of late, turning it over 15 times in his last three games.

3 Players to Watch

Kansas guard Travis Releford wrestles on the floor for a loose ball with Baylor guard Pierre Jackson during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford wrestles on the floor for a loose ball with Baylor guard Pierre Jackson during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Five-foot-10 point guard Pierre Jackson (No. 55) is Baylor's best player and a surefire All-Big 12 first-team selection provided he stays healthy. The senior takes on a huge scoring responsibility for the Bears, shooting 27.5 percent of his team's shots when he's in (225th nationally). He's good inside, where's he's made half of his twos, and capable outside, where he's a 36-percent three-point shooter. He's especially dangerous off the bounce, drawing 5.8 fouls per game (114th nationally) while racking up more than six free throws per contest. Jackson also is a gifted passer (34th nationally in assist rate) and a strong defender, coming away with steals on 3.4 percent of opponents' possessions (241st nationally). With the struggles KU has has had keeping opposing guards out of the lane, Jackson could be in for a huge offensive game. Is he too quick for Travis Releford to guard? I'm not sure KU has any good answers (short of playing zone) to counter Jackson's speed and driving ability.

Six-foot-9 forward Cory Jefferson (No. 34) continues to improve and is one of the nation's best scorers in the paint. Hoop-Math.com's latest numbers have Jefferson as an 86-percent shooter on dunks, layups and tipins, which has to be among the highest percentages in the nation in that category. The junior has made 64 percent of his twos (83 of 129) and also is a good free throw shooter, connecting on 49 of 64 shots there (76.6 percent). As mentioned before, Jefferson almost never turns it over, posting just 10 giveaways in 455 minutes. He's also BU's most consistent rebounder — ranking 237th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 246th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage — and is a defensive presence, blocking 7.1 percent of opponents' two-point attempts (103rd nationally).

Seven-foot-1 Isaiah Austin (No. 21 with goggles) is tall, but his numbers look more like that of a small forward than a center. The freshman, who is No. 6 in DraftExpress' latest 2013 NBA Mock Draft, actually is a good jump-shooter, making 57 percent of his twos (73 of 128) and 36 percent of his threes (13 of 36). Hoop-Math's numbers indicate he has a decent mid-range game, as he's made a team-high 44 percent of his two-point jumpshots (does not include shots at rim). Austin is not a threat to get to the free throw line, attempting just 39 freebies in 14 games. Austin is also BU's second-best rebounder behind Jefferson, but he's not much of a shot-blocker, rejecting just 3.3 percent of opponents' twos (420th nationally).

(• I'm only supposed to list three players to watch, but not mentioning 6-2 junior guard Brady Heslip [No. 5] would be a glaring omission. He's made just 35.7 percent of his threes (30 of 84) this year after making 45.5 percent (100 of 220) last season, but I'd still consider him as dangerous as they come as far as three-point shooting goes.)

Prediction

There's a lot to like about this Baylor team, especially with Jackson, who should cause all sorts of problems for KU defensively on the perimeter.

It's still hard for me to think the Bears will keep this one close.

BU just hasn't performed that well recently at Allen Fieldhouse. Add to it that this game — an important one in the Big 12 standings — is on ESPN's Big Monday, and this feels like a night where KU should be charged up, even during a four-game-in-nine-days stretch.

The Bears' strength offensively is inside, and if KU center Jeff Withey stays out of foul trouble like he has all season, that obviously provides a huge obstacle.

KU will have to find some way to score in transition, though. As mentioned above, Baylor doesn't turn it over much and also doesn't get many shots blocked, and those are the two main ways KU has started its fast breaks this year.

I think the Jayhawks will find a way, and after watching Baylor play at Allen Fieldhouse in previous years, I'm hesitant to pick a close score until the Bears prove that they're capable of producing one in Lawrence.

Kansas 73, Baylor 58

Hawk to Rock

After playing two games in a row where teams tried to pull him to the perimeter, Jeff Withey will be able to stay in the paint defensively against a team that will try to go big-on-big against him. The Jefferson-Withey battle should be a fun one to watch, but I think Withey will win it, registering a few blocks that will help lead to transition points for KU. Give me a double-double for Withey to go with a strong performance on the offensive glass.

Predictions tally
14-1 record, 196 points off (13.1 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)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

Texas Tech doesn’t have the shooters to bomb away against KU

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets up to block a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets up to block a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

Team: Texas Tech
Record: 8-5
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 253

3 Strengths

• Forcing turnovers: Texas Tech has done a great job of pressuring defensively, creating turnovers on 24.1 percent of opponents' possessions (31st nationally). The Red Raiders get most of those turnovers off steals, as 13.1 percent of their defensive possessions end in steals (26th nationally). Josh Gray (No. 5) and Daylen Robinson (No. 10) are the two best swipers, as both rank in the top 65 nationally in steal percentage. Kansas has done a good job of avoiding turnovers this year (89th nationally), but it is of note that the Jayhawks' worst turnover contest came in its only true road game of the year against Ohio State.

Offensive rebounding: Like Iowa State, Texas Tech has excelled on the offensive glass this season, grabbing 38 percent of its missed shots (32 percent). Some of that strength has fallen off in Big 12 play, where the Red Raiders are pulling down just 31 percent of their misses. This strength matches up with another KU strength, as the Jayhawks rank 53rd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.

Interior scoring: Tech has shot a great percentage from two-point range, making 52.4 percent of its inside shots (33rd nationally). Nine of the Red Raiders' 11 rotation players are shooting 50 percent or better from two-point range, including Jaye Crockett (No. 30), who has made 65 of 105 twos (61.9 percent). Once again, though, this lines up directly with a KU strength, as the Jayhawks lead the nation in two-point percentage defense (37.3 percent).

3 Weaknesses

Three-point shooting: The Red Raiders have been dreadful from long range, making just 67 of 247 threes (331st nationally). Only one player — reserve Dusty Hannahs (No. 2) — has made more than 32 percent of his three-point tries this year. Texas Tech doesn't shoot a lot of threes, but it doesn't avoid them, either; thirty-two percent of the Red Raiders' field-goal attempts have been threes (217th-highest split nationally).

• Turning it over: While playing at a fast tempo, Texas Tech has a tendency to be careless, giving it away on 21.4 percent of its possessions (217th nationally). Tech averages 15.3 turnovers per game, with the highest turnover rates coming from guards Gray and Robinson. KU's guards haven't shown much ability to turn people over in the last few games (Fun stat: In the last five games, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young and Jamari Traylor [nine] have more combined steals than Elijah Johnson, Naadir Tharpe and Travis Releford [eight]), but they should be able to pick up at least a few Saturday afternoon.

Competition: Texas Tech has faced one of the worst schedules in the nation so far, with its slate ranking 346th (out of 347 teams) according to KenPom.com. The Red Raiders have only played one road game (at TCU) and have taken on five teams ranked 313th or worst in KenPom's standings. Tech hasn't played well when it has faced top competition at home, losing by 28 to Arizona and 34 to Baylor.

3 Players to Watch

• As mentioned earlier, 6-foot-1 guard Josh Gray (No. 5) has been great on the defensive end, coming away with steals on 4.8 percent of opponents' possessions (32nd nationally). Offensively, though, he's been a huge liability, taking on a lot of offensive responsibility while producing an inefficient line. The freshman is extremely turnover-prone, giving it away on 28.6 percent of the possessions he ends. He's also a miserable three-point shooter, going 9-for-41 (22 percent). Gray takes a team-high 25.9 percent of his team's shots when he's in the game, but KU shouldn't be too worried when he has the ball in his hands.

• Six-foot-7 forward Jaye Crockett (No. 30) is Tech's best scoring option, but for some reason, he doesn't start. He's a great finisher at the rim and also can get to the free throw line, drawing five fouls per game while shooting a team-high 53 free throws. The junior also is a gifted rebounder, bringing down 23.9 percent of the available defensive rebounds (67th nationally) and 13 percent of the available offensive rebounds (95th nationally). Crockett takes 24.4 percent of Tech's shots when he's in, and he's the main guy that the Jayhawks should key on defensively.

Six-foot-11 forward Dejan Kravic (No. 11) has performed well when he's out there, though he's played less than half of Tech's minutes. The junior has three main strengths: inside shooting, where he's made 56 of 98 shots (57.1 percent); offensive rebounding, where he's grabbed 11.9 percent of his team's misses when he's in (156th nationally); and shot-blocking, as he's swatted 8.8 percent of opponent twos (56th nationally).

Prediction

The biggest challenge for KU in Lubbock usually is bringing its own energy. Typically, United Spirit Arena is the emptiest gym that the Jayhawks play in front of all year.

Other than that, there's really not many reasons to think KU will struggle. Tech's strength offensively is inside, and KU has center Jeff Withey to clean that up. Another strength for Tech is offensive rebounding, and the Jayhawks do a nice job on the defensive glass.

If KU can somehow find a way to get turnovers, this one could get ugly quickly. Even if the Jayhawks don't, though, I still don't think they'll be challenged against one of the Big 12's two worst teams.

Kansas 86, Texas Tech 56

Hawk to Rock

After his 33-point game against Iowa State, guard Ben McLemore said KU coach Bill Self talked to him about working harder without the ball while also looking for his shot more. This game should be the perfect test run to see if McLemore can start to be more aggressive.

I think he will be. Put me down for 20-plus points with at least four three-pointers from the talented freshman.

Predictions tally
13-1 record, 180 points off (12.9 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)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

Iowa State’s turnovers will go a long way towards deciding outcome

Kansas forward Kevin Young defends against a shot from Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Kevin Young defends against a shot from Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Team: Iowa State
Record: 10-3
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 47

3 Strengths

Rebounding: Iowa State is the best rebounding team KU has faced this season. The Cyclones are an elite rebounding squad on both ends, pulling down 39.8 percent of their missed shots (14th nationally) and 74.7 percent of their opponents' misses (10th nationally). So far this year, KU has been a great defensive rebounding team but a poor offensive rebounding team, meaning a big turning point will be which team can win the battle on the glass when ISU misses a shot.

Three-point shooting: It feels like I've said this about every KU opponent that has entered the Fieldhouse, but the Cyclones really do rely a lot on outside shots. ISU has made 35.8 percent of its threes this year (81st nationally) while attempting a ton of them (39.1 percent of team's field goals are threes, 50th-highest split nationally). Because of that, ISU gets 33.2 percent of its points from threes, which is the 48th-highest split in the nation. It's hard to key on one shooter, too, as ISU's top six rotation players all have attempted at least 21 threes. KU's defense did a great job of limiting three-pointers against Temple on Sunday, but the Jayhawks still rank 293rd nationally when it comes to allowing opposition three-pointers. In other words ... expect a lot of threes from ISU on Wednesday night.

Finishing at the rim: Iowa State enters with the 40th-best two-point percentage nationally (52.2 percent), but it gets that percentage in an interesting way. The Cyclones don't shoot many "close" shots with only 24 percent of their field-goal attempts coming at the rim (NCAA average is 34 percent). When the Cyclones get those close shots, though, they almost never miss. ISU is shooting 81 percent on shots at the rim this year, which leads the nation, according to Hoop-Math.com. To compare, the NCAA average for close shots is 61 percent, while KU is shooting 65 percent. ISU would appear to be a team that doesn't like to take contested layups at the rim, which means that KU center Jeff Withey's defensive impact could be limited, especially with ISU coach Fred Hoiberg scheming ways to get the big man away from the basket.

3 Weaknesses

Turnovers: From watching his press conference on Monday, I could tell this is Hoiberg's biggest fear with his team as it enters Allen Fieldhouse. Playing a weak schedule so far (298th nationally, according to KenPom), Iowa State has been careless with the basketball while not forcing many turnovers itself. The Cyclones turn it over on 20.2 percent of their possessions (149th nationally) while taking it away on 20.7 percent of opponents' possessions (exactly the NCAA average). The problem for ISU is that at the Fieldhouse, turnovers often turn into transition points on the other end for KU, which feeds the crowd and makes the game even tougher. Hoiberg knows that avoiding turnovers isn't just important for his offense ... it's also important to help limit KU's offense as well.

Drawing fouls: Iowa State rarely gets to the free throw line, posting the nation's 289th-best free throw rate. Though the Cyclones play at the nation's 31st-fastest tempo, they have averaged just 19.5 free throws per game. ISU is only an average free throw shooting team as well, making 68.8 percent of its tries this year (172nd nationally).

Getting back defensively: As mentioned above, Iowa State is successful offensively at the rim, making 81 percent of its shots there. Turns out the opposite is true as well: opponents are making 80 percent of their shots at the rim against the Cyclones. Hoop-Math.com shows an ISU team that has had lots of problems getting back defensively in transition.

ISU early in shot clock defensively.

ISU early in shot clock defensively. by Jesse Newell

This isn't a huge sample size, but this much is clear: If you can get the ball to the rim quickly against the Cyclones, they will not put up much resistance — especially after a make or following a steal.

Look for KU to push the pace to try to take advantage.

3 Players to Watch

• Though 6-foot-2 guard Tyrus McGee (No. 25) hasn't started in Iowa State's last 11 games, he's still the Cyclones' best offensive player. He ranks 12th nationally in offensive rating while shooting a team-high 24.6 percent of his team's shots when he's in. The senior has been spectacular from three-point range, making 38 of 79 this year (48.1 percent). Though he doesn't score much inside and doesn't get to the free throw line often, part of his skill-set is that he never turns it over, ranking 50th nationally in turnover rate. He also posts a team-high 3.3 percent steal rate, is solid on the defensive glass and can block an occasional shot. It's a bit surprising McGee's talent and production hasn't landed him a starting spot for ISU.

Six-foot-6 forward Melvin Ejim (No. 3) will be the guy to watch on the glass for Iowa State. The former teammate of KU guard Naadir Tharpe (Brewster Academy) has become one of the nation's top rebounders, pulling down 27.1 percent of the available defensive rebounds (12th nationally) and 14.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds (59th nationally). He's also second on the team in steal percentage and can hit an occasional three (eight of 21, 38 percent). Ejim is great at finishing at the rim (82 percent close shot percentage), but he's extremely turnover prone, which brings down his production enough that he's only a slightly above-average offensive player.

Six-foot-7 guard Will Clyburn (No. 21) is the rare player on ISU's roster that can create for himself. He's posted the 283rd-best free throw rate so far while drawing 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes (226th nationally). The senior has been successful once he gets to the line, making 81.5 percent of his free throws. Like most of ISU's players, Clyburn is strong at the rim (72 percent), with only 44 percent of those shots coming from an assist. Clyburn's weaknesses so far have been turnovers and also three-point shooting, as he's made just 12 of 44 treys (27.3 percent).

Prediction

After forcing just four turnovers and recording one steal against Temple in a 69-62 victory Sunday, the Jayhawks enter a game where defensive pressure will be vital against a solid Iowa State team.

The Cyclones have had just one game in their last three weeks, meaning Hoiberg has had plenty of time to scout and scheme the Jayhawks. That most likely will result in Withey being pulled to the perimeter and ISU putting up a lot of threes to try to avoid blocks inside.

The key, though, is turnovers. Almost every opponent steal this season against ISU has resulted in two points on the other end, and KU has thrived with its fast breaks at home.

There's no transition without the original defensive pressure, though. If the Jayhawks guard like they did against the Owls — and ISU is able to get up shots on most possessions to keep KU out of its transition game — then the Cyclones have the shooters to put a scare into KU.

I don't think that'll happen, though, especially because ISU has fewer players that are dangerous off the dribble. Defensive pressure had to be the message from KU coach Bill Self the last three days, and I think the Jayhawks' guards will create much more havoc against a turnover-prone team Wednesday night.

Kansas 78, Iowa State 63

Hawk to Rock

I need a guy who can score in transition and is good at forcing turnovers. Luckily for me, KU has just that guy ... senior guard Travis Releford. After a poor defensive game against Temple, look for Releford to provide more pressure against Iowa State while continuing his amazing shooting run with a lot of easy shots in transition against the Cyclones.

Predictions tally
12-1 record, 173 points off (13.3 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)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Average: 3.8th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

Temple ready to try its luck on the three-point wheel against KU

Temple's Khalif Wyatt looks to shoot after driving past Syracuse's Brandon Triche, right, during the first half of  the Gotham Classic tournament at Madison Square Garden, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, in New York. Temple defeated Syracuse, 83-79.

Temple's Khalif Wyatt looks to shoot after driving past Syracuse's Brandon Triche, right, during the first half of the Gotham Classic tournament at Madison Square Garden, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, in New York. Temple defeated Syracuse, 83-79.

Team: Temple
Record: 10-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 64

3 Strengths

Ball security: Temple rarely turns it over, giving it away on just 16.6 percent of its possessions (18th nationally). The Owls also don't have it stolen often, as only 8.2 percent of their offensive possessions end with steals (40th nationally). Temple, which plays an above-average pace, turns it over just 11.3 times per game and hasn't turned it over more than 15 times since its season-opener on Nov. 13 against Kent State.

Three-point defense: Temple has done a good job of limiting opponent three-point shots this season, as only 29.3 percent of opposing team's shots have been three-pointers (67th-lowest split nationally). Opponents haven't done much with those limited three-point tries either, making just 30.8 percent of their treys against the Owls (73rd nationally). Add it all up, and only 23.7 percent of opponents' points have come via the three-pointer (68th-lowest split nationally).

Creating steals: Temple comes away with steals on 12.7 percent of its defensive possessions, which ranks 38th nationally. Six-foot-2 sophomore Will Cummings is the team's best thief, grabbing steals on 5.1 percent of opponents' possessions (26th nationally). Somewhat interestingly, Temple has a high steal number but only an average defensive turnover number, as the Owls force turnovers on 21.3 percent of their opponents' possessions (146th nationally).

3 Weaknesses

Three-point shooting: For a team that takes a lot of three-pointers (37.7 percent of Temple's shots are threes; 76th nationally), Temple sure doesn't make many of them. The Owls have made just 31 percent of their treys this year, which ranks 256th nationally and is 2.5 percent below the NCAA average. It hasn't helped that the team's most frequent three-point shooters — starting guards Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall — are both shooting worse than 26 percent from three this year.

Rebounding: Playing a slightly above-average schedule, Temple has not been a particularly good rebounding team on either end. The Owls grab 32.6 percent of their offensive misses (151st nationally) and 68.7 percent of opponents' missed shots (148th nationally). The Owls aren't very tall in the post, ranking 246th in KenPom's "effective height" measure, which calculates height for the team's top two players in the game. Temple also can't afford foul trouble from the sometimes-whistle-prone Anthony Lee, as the 6-foot-9 forward has been spectacular on the defensive glass this season (17th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage).

Interior defense: Temple has done a nice job of limiting threes, but that hasn't helped too much because teams have been successful inside. Opponents have made 46.4 percent of their twos this year (156th nationally) with 57.6 percent of the points scored against Temple coming from two-point baskets (38th-highest split nationally).

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Khalif Wyatt (No. 1) shoulders most of the offensive load for Temple. The senior puts up 27.2 percent of his team's shots when he's in (242nd nationally) while also maintaining a high assist rate (130th nationally). Wyatt's best skill is getting to the free throw line, as he draws 5.7 fouls per game (153rd nationally) while boasting 83.6-percent accuracy from the stripe. In Temple's upset of Syracuse, Wyatt scored 33 points, which included 15-for-15 accuracy from the free throw line. As mentioned before, he's struggled from three-point range, making only 17 of 68 (25 percent) after shooting 38 percent and 42 percent from three the last two seasons. Wyatt comes in cold as well, having made just three of his last 20 treys in his last three games (15 percent).

Six-foot-9 forward Anthony Lee (No. 3) is Temple's best scoring threat inside. The sophomore has made 47 of 83 twos (56.6 percent) while also drawing 5.3 fouls per game (234th nationally). One of Lee's best skills is his ability to avoid turnovers; his turnover rate ranks 73rd in the country, as he has just 10 turnovers in 261 minutes this year. Lee also is an elite defensive rebounder (26.8 percent defensive rebound percentage) and a decent shot-blocker (4.2 percent, 291st nationally). As mentioned above, Lee sometimes is prone to getting whistles, as he averages a team-high 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes.

Six-foot-9 forward Jake O'Brien (No. 22) could present some problems for KU off the bench as he appears to be a prototypical "stretch 4." O'Brien has come in firing, as he puts up 25 percent of Temple's shots when he's in the game. What makes him dangerous is his outside shooting; the senior has made 20 of 45 three-pointers this year, and his 44.4-percent three-point accuracy is tied for the best on the team. O'Brien rarely turns it over (120th-best turnover rate) and also can be a shot-blocker, rejecting 3.3 percent of opponents' twos. Stretch 4s have created some matchup problems in the past for KU, so be sure to pay attention to who's guarding No. 22 on the perimeter when he checks into the game.

Prediction

Here's the scary part about this game for KU: Temple is a team that shoots a lot of threes with players that haven't shot well this season but have made treys in past years. A one-game correction is entirely possible.

So, here's the non-scary part for KU: Another team will come into the Fieldhouse hoping to try its luck on the three-point wheel, and it certainly didn't work for teams of similar ability like Belmont and Richmond.

Once again, the three-point shot creates a wide range of potential outcomes, making this a tough game to predict. A Temple win is unlikely but possible. A 40-point Temple loss on a poor shooting day is possible as well.

My hunch is that Wyatt will have a good game and also will put pressure on KU's perimeter defense — an area that hasn't always been strong this season. If Wyatt plays well — and other guys like Scootie Randall and O'Brien can knock down some shots — then Temple should stay competitive for most of the game.

I'll still take a double-digit win for KU, which has been playing at an unbelievable level over its last five games.

This one will probably be closer than the last few in the Fieldhouse, though.

Kansas 82, Temple 72

Hawk to Rock

Facing a team that doesn't rebound well and that allows a high number of shots inside makes me think that Kevin Young could be in line for a big game. The senior ranks in the top 100 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage and only shoots the close ones, making 27 of his 41 two-pointers this year (65.9 percent). Young shouldn't be overmatched or undersized against Temple's front line, so mark me down for a double-digit rebounding performance from him.

Predictions tally
11-1 record, 170 points off (14.2 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)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Average: 4th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

Expect a snail’s pace offensively from American

Team: American
Record: 4-8
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 282

3 Strengths

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.).

3 Weaknesses

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.

Prediction

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.

Predictions tally
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

Reply

Richmond looks a lot like a team KU just played

Team: Richmond
Record: 9-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 66

Old Dominion's Donte Hill, right, defends Richmond's Darien Brothers during their game, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in Norfolk, Va.

Old Dominion's Donte Hill, right, defends Richmond's Darien Brothers during their game, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in Norfolk, Va.

3 Strengths

Shooting: Much like Belmont, Richmond enters Allen Fieldhouse as one of the top shooting teams in the country. The Spiders rank 19th in effective field goal percentage and also are in the nation's top 50 in two-point percentage (52.1 percent) and three-point percentage (38.8 percent). Richmond's three-point percentage is especially impressive considering 41 percent of their field-goal tries are three-pointers, which is the 23rd-highest split nationally.

Drawing free throws: Richmond ranks 29th nationally in free throw rate — a statistic used to show how often a team gets to the line compared to its field goal attempts. Despite playing at the nation's 299th-fastest pace, the Spiders still average more than 23 free throws per game. That's especially valuable with the way Richmond shoots freebies, as it has made 77 percent of its charity tries this year (21st nationally). Add it all up, and the Spiders get 24 percent of their offensive output from free throws, which is the 42nd-highest split nationally.

Forcing turnovers: Richmond thrives on taking the ball away, registering steals on 13.4 percent of their defensive possessions (30th nationally). Overall, opposing teams turn it over on 24.6 percent of possessions against Richmond (41st nationally). The team's best ball-swipers are on the perimeter, as starting guard Cedrick Lindsay (No. 2) and reserve guard Wayne Sparrow (No. 4) both rank in the nation's top 120 in steal percentage.

3 Weaknesses

Defensive rebounding: Richmond plays extremely small in the post, ranking 319th in KenPom's "effective height" measure (which takes into account only the two tallest players on the floor). Because of this, the Spiders have struggled corralling defensive rebounds, grabbing just 64.9 percent of their opponents' misses (260th nationally). Richmond only has two rotation players 6 foot 9 or taller, and both average fewer than 15 minutes per game.

Fouling too often: Though Richmond thrives in offensive free throw rate, it's not so great at defensive free throw rate, ranking 211th nationally in the stat. Opponents are averaging just over 20 free throws per game, which has ended up hurting the Spiders quite a bit. Those opponents have made 73.3 percent of their free throws against Richmond, which might suggest the Spiders have fouled too many good free throw shooters (read: guards) this season.

Getting shots rejected: Richmond is a team that has a lot of shots blocked, as 11.9 percent of its two-pointers are rejected (289th nationally). It's amazing, then, how accurate Richmond has been on close shots despite getting all those shots swatted. The Spiders are still shooting 66 percent on layups/dunks, which is still well above the NCAA average of 61 percent. Once again, this shows Richmond is very selective with the shots it takes inside the arc.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-6 junior Derrick Williams (No. 34) is Richmond's best player. Offensively, his greatest strength is getting to the free throw line, as he's third nationally in free throw rate (and also a 79-percent free throw shooter). The forward actually has shot more free throws this year (84) than field goals (78), something that's extremely rare this late into a season. Williams also ranks 75th in effective field goal percentage, helped by 65-percent accuracy from two-point range (44 of 68) and 80-percent shooting on layups/dunks.

Williams also is easily the Spiders' best rebounder, grabbing 12.3 percent of the available offensive boards (171st nationally) and 18.3 percent of the available defensive rebounds (343rd nationally). His one glaring weakness is carelessness, as he gives it away more than three times per game while leading the team with 34 turnovers.

• Six-foot-3 senior Darien Brothers (No. 3) is Richmond's biggest threat from the perimeter. He's made more than half of his threes this year (28 of 54) while posting the nation's 64th-best effective field goal percentage. The guard also is dangerous when he gets to the line, making 31 of 36 this year (86.1 percent). Brothers isn't a great passer and doesn't turn it over much, making him mostly a one-dimensional player ... though that dimension is very strong.

• Five-foot-8, 140-pound freshman guard Kendall Anthony (No. 0) is a bench player even though he doesn't play like one. The Jackson, Tenn., native isn't shy, putting up a team-high 29.7 percent of his team's shots when he's on the court (119th nationally). That's not a bad thing, either, as Anthony is an efficient player, rarely turning it over while making 42 percent of his threes (19 of 45) and getting to the free throw line often, drawing five fouls per 40 minutes. Like most of the Spiders, he doesn't miss free throws, connecting on 38 of 45 this year (84.4 percent). Though Anthony isn't much of a defender, he's definitely a player to be wary of on the offensive end.

Prediction

My score predictions have stunk lately (other than picking the correct winner), and this game once again looks like a tough score pick, as it could have a wide range of outcomes.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but five of the six strengths and weaknesses above are the exact same strengths and weaknesses that Belmont had last week. And that game turned into a 29-point drubbing.

Basically, Richmond is Belmont with slightly worse defense. Still, this is a hard game to predict because of one factor: three-point shots.

Richmond shoots a ton of them. KU's defense surrenders a ton of them (36.1 percent of opponents' shots against KU this year have been threes).

Much like Belmont, Richmond going to be content to play the lottery Tuesday night by shooting a lot of three-pointers. Almost every team should do this against KU, because any three-point attempt is better than a Jeff Withey-blocked two.

If Richmond makes eight of 38 threes like Belmont did, this one will be a rout.

If the Spiders are hot, though, this could be a close game. And yes, the Spiders could even repeat 2004 and come away with a victory at Allen Fieldhouse.

This will continue to be a scary-type team for KU to play as long as it continues to allow a high percentage of three-point attempts.

So my guess? Let's say Richmond makes just below its season average for threes at 35 percent, which would make this a close-but-not-too-close victory for the Jayhawks.

Kansas 71, Richmond 61

Hawk to Rock

This could potentially be a tough defensive matchup for KU center Jeff Withey, who will have to be alert on ball-screen defense while also getting out quickly to perimeter shooters, but there's a lot to like about this matchup for him otherwise. Much like the Belmont game, he should be able to get the ball deep against an undersized Richmond front line. He also should have a nice night on the glass and will have an opportunity for at least a handful of blocks. If he's focused in defensively and allows KU coach Bill Self to stay with a big lineup, the potential is there for a big game statistically.

Predictions tally
9-0 record, 127 points off (14.1 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)
Average: 4.6th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

Is Belmont the toughest team left on KU’s home schedule?

Team: Belmont
Record: 7-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 23
(All KenPom stats/rankings current as of Friday, Dec. 14)

3 Strengths

Shooting: Belmont has been a great shooting team inside and out so far, posting the 15th-best effective shooting percentage in the country. Despite being undersized, the Bruins attempt a lot of layups/dunks, as 39 percent of their shots come from close range (NCAA average is 34 percent). Belmont has made 54.4 percent of its twos (27th nationally) and 38.5 percent of its threes (33rd nationally) this year.

Forcing turnovers: Led by senior guard Kerron Johnson (3.9 percent steal percentage, 158th nationally), Belmont's pressure defense has created turnovers at an impressive rate. Opponents have turned it over on 25.1 percent of their possessions against the Bruins, which ranks 25th nationally. Belmont coach Rick Byrd had success with a turnover-forcing team two years ago as well, as BU ranked second nationally with a 27.5 defensive turnover percentage.

Shot defense: Belmont is pretty balanced defensively, ranking in the top 70 nationally in both two-point and three-point percentage against. The Bruins also don't give up many layups/dunks (29 percent of shots against; NCAA average is 34 percent) while forcing teams into taking a high number of two-point jumpshots (37 percent; NCAA average is 33 percent).

3 Weaknesses

Defensive rebounding: Belmont plays an undersized lineup at the two post positions, where its top two rotations players are 6 foot 7. Though the Bruins still are an above-average offensive rebounding team, they've been completely crushed on the defensive boards with their lack of size. Opponents have grabbed 41.9 percent of their misses this year, which is the seventh-highest percentage allowed by any team this year.

Fouling too often: Opposing teams have gotten 25.6 percent of their points against Belmont from the foul line, which is the 27th-highest split in the country. The Bruins are allowing 23.9 free throws per game; for comparison, KU's opponents average 15.8 free throws per contest. In BU's only other game against a BCS foe this year, it surrendered 35 free throws in a 70-62 victory at Stanford.

Getting blocked: Belmont has had an unusually high number of shots blocked this year, as 12.1 percent of their twos have been rejected (288th-best nationally). Once again, Stanford gave BU the most issues, as the Cardinal blocked 10 shots, with eight of those coming from 6-foot-7 forward Josh Huestis.

3 Players to Watch

Senior Ian Clark (No. 21) has a legitimate claim for being the nation's best shooter this season. The 6-3 guard has made 56 percent of his threes this year while attempting more than seven per game (38 of 68). That trey shooting isn't a fluke, either, as he's shot over 40 percent from long range in each of his previous three seasons. Clark ranks second in the nation in effective shooting percentage and first in true shooting percentage (a stat that takes into account both field goals and free throws). The preseason All-Ohio Valley selection has made 22 of 37 twos (60 percent) and 12 of 16 free throws (75 percent) while hitching up more than a-fourth of Belmont's shots while he's on the floor.

• As mentioned above, senior Kerron Johnson (No. 3) thrives on the defensive end of the floor by leading Belmont in steal percentage. The consensus preseason All-OVC player is also involved in nearly every Belmont offensive possession, though that's not always a good thing. His strengths are passing (dishing out 32.7 percent of his team's assists when he's in, which is 83rd nationally) and getting to the free throw line (drawing 7 fouls per game, which is 38th nationally). He's only an average free throw shooter, though (68 percent), and has an extremely high turnover rate, giving it away on 24.8 percent of the possessions he ends. His 29 turnovers are 12 more than any other Bruin.

Junior forward Blake Jenkins (No. 2) isn't a ballhog, but when he does shoot it, look out. The 6-foot-7 native of Knoxville, Tenn., has put in 32 of 43 two-pointers (74 percent), with most of those coming from point-blank range. Jenkins has made 83 percent of his layup/dunk tries this year, and like Johnson, he's a threat to get to the free throw line, drawing 4.8 fouls per game. He's also a top-350 offensive rebounder and standout shot-blocker, rejecting 8.8 percent of opponents' two-pointers (74th nationally).

Prediction

Let's get this out of the way first: As of right now, KenPom gives Belmont the best chance of any team this season of knocking off the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse (23 percent).

At No. 23 in the KenPom rankings, Belmont ranks ahead of every Big 12 team not ranked Kansas. That includes Oklahoma State (No. 24), Kansas State (No. 25) and Baylor (No. 37).

Belmont might not have a scary name, but make no mistake: This is a good basketball team.

There are also reasons to think Belmont could give KU real troubles:

1. Belmont plays undersized. KU hasn't always matched up well with these sorts of teams in the last two seasons, as this forces center Jeff Withey (and KU's other bigs) to the perimeter to help often on ball screens and shooters. This has often led to open perimeter shots for KU's opponents.

2. Belmont shoots a lot of threes. If you look, 39.5 percent of Belmont's field-goal attempts have been threes, which is the 53rd-highest split nationally. As an underdog, Belmont taking a lot of threes is advantageous, as a good shooting day can make up for a lot of other flaws over the course of a single game.

3. Belmont is experienced. The Bruins' top seven rotation players are all juniors or seniors, as BU ranks 24th in KenPom's "Experience" ranking. The Bruins also have made the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons.

It also might not help that KU's main focus this week wasn't basketball because of finals.

The biggest key for KU will be offensive rebounding. It absolutely has to dominate that facet against a team that hasn't been able to keep teams off the glass.

I'm thinking this KU-Belmont game could have a similar feel to this game from 2010, which had lots of threes by an experienced opponent that took an early lead before a late KU rally.

I'll take the Jayhawks. Just barely, though.

Kansas 71, Belmont 69

Hawk to Rock

This will be a game where KU needs: 1. Offensive rebounding; 2. Energy; 3. A quicker post player to keep up with smaller guys defensively; and 4. More offensive rebounding.

KU has exactly that player. It's 6-8 senior Kevin Young, who should be in line for a big game against the Bruins.

Give me a double-double for Young (it would be his first at KU) along with a clutch play in the final minutes to help KU secure a win.

Predictions tally
8-0 record, 100 points off (12.5 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)
Average: 4.4th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

Tad Boyle’s offensive freedom a blessing and curse for Colorado

Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie, front, looks to pass the ball as Colorado State guard Wes Eikmeier covers in the second half of Colorado's 70-61 victor in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012.

Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie, front, looks to pass the ball as Colorado State guard Wes Eikmeier covers in the second half of Colorado's 70-61 victor in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012.

Team: Colorado
Record: 7-1
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 56

3 Strengths

Getting to the free throw line: The Buffaloes are averaging 29 free throws per game and also have the fourth-best free throw rate (a statistic used to measure how frequently a team gets to the line compared to its field goal attempts) in the country. CU has three players over 6 foot 5 that all have free throw rates in the nation's top 250, which means the Jayhawks' defense will be tested on dribble drives Saturday.

Three-point shooting: After making 34.6 percent of its threes a year ago, Colorado has made 41.2 percent of its treys this year (11th nationally). Sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie has been a big reason for this, as he's made an impressive 19 of 35 threes (54.3 percent) so far this season.

Blocked shots: With its length at the 2 and 3 positions, Colorado is the rare team that that blocks more of its opponents two-point jumpers (10 percent) than layups (9 percent). CU has three players in the nation's top 400 in block percentage, including Dinwiddie, Andre Robertson and Xavier Johnson. The Buffs have blocked 11.8 percent of opponents' twos so far this year (75th nationally).

3 Weaknesses

Forcing turnovers: Much like Oregon State, Colorado plays an extremely passive brand of defense. The Buffaloes force turnovers on just 17.7 percent of opponents' possessions (297th nationally) and come away with steals on just 8.8 percent of those possessions (250th nationally). This has traditionally been a weakness of coach Tad Boyle's teams at CU, as in his three years, the Buffaloes have never been above the NCAA average at forcing turnovers.

Three-point defense: Colorado allows opponents to shoot way too many threes, as 42.8 percent of the opposition's field goal attempts this year have been three-pointers (ninth-highest split nationally). Teams facing CU have scored 37.8 percent of their points from the three-point line (seventh-highest split nationally) even while shooting a slightly below-average mark from beyond the arc (32.5 percent).

Bench: Non-starters have played just 25.1 percent of Colorado's minutes, which ranks 293rd nationally (31.1 percent is average). The Buffaloes have done a good job of avoiding fouls this year, which has helped them keep their best players to remain on the floor. Still in a game at Allen Fieldhouse, Boyle might be a little scared to go deep on his bench with foul trouble when the top six guys all average more than 19 minutes per game and no one else averages more than 12.

3 Players to Watch

• Talent-wise, six-foot-7 forward Andre Roberson (No. 21) is Colorado's best player. Projected by some sites as a late first-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Roberson has shown himself to be a complete player defensively because of his athleticism. He was second in the nation last year in defensive rebounding percentage (I bet you know who was first) and ranks in the top 25 in the same stat this year. He also ranks 114th in steal percentage, 205th in block percentage and 270th in offensive rebounding percentage.

Offensively, he's best at getting to the free throw line, though he's made just 20 of 39 shots there this year (51.3 percent). KU should be just fine if it can force him into jumpshots, as he's made 78 percent of his layups so far but just 14 percent of his two-point jumpers.

• Six-foot-5 guard Spencer Dinwiddie (No. 25) has easily been CU's best player offensively this year (though surprisingly, he's only fourth on the team in shot percentage). As mentioned above, he's a great three-point shooter (54 percent), but even more than that, he puts pressure on a defense by driving and forcing whistles. He has posted the fifth-best free throw rate in the country, as he's actually shot more free throws this year (74) than field goals (66) ... something that doesn't happen often. He's a good free throw shooter (74 percent) and draws more than seven fouls per 40 minutes, making him a potentially tough matchup for KU's perimeter defenders.

• According to RSCIhoops.com's rankings, 6-foot-10 freshman Josh Scott (No. 40) is the top-ranked recruit to go to Colorado since David Harrison in 2001. The forward has produced like a highly ranked player offensively, getting to the free throw line often (106th in free throw rate) while making 77 percent of his shots there. Scott also is the least turnover-prone CU player, as he has just 10 giveaways in 226 minutes. Though not a great defensive rebounder yet, Scott has given the Buffaloes a nice boost on the offensive boards (223rd nationally).

Prediction

Boyle is known as a coach that gives his players a lot of freedom offensively. Statistically, this appears to give Colorado one distinct advantage and one distinct disadvantage.

The good news for Boyle is that the Buffaloes' players aggressiveness has resulted in opposing fouls and free throws, which is a good way to get reliable scoring.

The bad news is, his team has settled for way too many two-point jumpers (this does not include layups). According to Hoop-Math.com, 41 percent of CU's shots this year have been two-point jumpers, well above the NCAA average of 33 percent. And that's not a good thing, as the Buffs have made just 30 percent of those shots (NCAA average is 35 percent).

With that in mind, it looks like there will be three keys for KU: 1. Force CU into a becoming jump-shooting team from two-point range; 2. Keep turnovers down against a team that doesn't force many giveaways; 3. Avoid an ice-cold shooting night from three, as CU should allow open jumpers from the perimeter.

Though KU's perimeter defense makes this matchup a little scary, I don't see this is a game that will come down to the final minutes, especially if KU knocks down some threes.

Kansas 78, Colorado 62

Hawk to Rock

This just feels like a big game for Elijah Johnson. KU assistant coach Norm Roberts said Friday on 810 WHB that the KU senior was regaining some of his spring this week while recovering from a nagging knee injury. Roberts also said that Johnson had one of his best practices of the year this week and that KU coach Bill Self was pleased with what he saw. Look for Johnson to heed Self's words and try to create more for himself offensively. The threes should be there, and with a more aggressive mind-set, this seems like a game where he'll match or top his season high of 18 points.

Predictions tally
7-0 record, 80 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)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Average: 4.4th in KUsports.com ratings

Reply

1 2 3 4