Gameday Breakdown: No. 9 Kansas vs. Seton Hall

Kansas guard Joseph Yesufu (1) lays out on the floor for a loose ball against North Dakota State during the second half, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks (7-1) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (4-3)

Time: 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022

Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas

TV: ESPN | Radio: Jayhawk Radio Network via Learfield

Keys for Kansas

1. Just play

With four scholarship players expected to be sidelined because of injury for Thursday’s game, Kansas coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks’ game plan would be pretty simple.

“We won’t run plays,” he said. “I hate to give away our scout, but if you don’t have guys that know the plays from the positions they’ve never practiced, we’ll probably just play.”

That means, basic fundamentals, high-level effort and a team-first mentality that emphasizes sharing and moving the basketball and making plays as much for others as yourself.

“Just play has been a better offense for us a lot this year than it has been actually running sets,” Self said.

Big man Cam Martin and redshirt freshman guard Kyle Cuffe Jr., remain out. Self said Martin was closing in on being available in the next week or two, and Cuffe is still not expected back in any capacity until late January.

Point guard Bobby Pettiford and guard Kevin McCullar Jr., who both missed Monday’s victory, are likely out at least one more game with hamstring and groin injuries.

KU junior Jalen Wilson, who has scored the most points (182) through eight games of any player in the Self era, said Wednesday that those guys being out means it’s time for the rest of the roster to worry less about messing up or what exactly they’re doing and just hit the court ready to play ball.

“If there (is) an advantage (to those other guys being out), it may be just other guys being able to learn and (gain) experience,” Wilson said.

The best way for those “other guys” to gain confidence and take advantage of the minutes they’re getting is for them to just do what they know how to do — play hard, have fun and play within themselves.

We’ll see if that shines through in this one.

2. Bench boost

It’s no secret that KU’s starters and top seven have been carrying the Jayhawks so far this season, but with two of them likely out for this one — Pettiford and McCullar — Self is hoping it might spark some sort of production from the bench.

That was the case against Texas Southern on Monday, when MJ Rice and Joe Yesufu contributed to the Jayhawks’ win in a big way. Self said he wants to see a solid encore from Rice and he hopes both players can establish themselves as consistently reliable options off the bench.

“We’ve got to get him to the point where he’s just playing and doing the simple things that we want him to do while he’s playing,” Self said of Rice, who scored 19 points in 22 minutes on Monday night. “If he does that, I’ll get confidence in him, he’ll get confidence in himself and he could be an impact guy.”

At this point, roles are there for the taking, and Self said Rice and Yesufu both have the skills required to fill a couple of those.

“Right now, the only production we’ve gotten off our bench at all so far would be Joe in two games,” Self said. “There’s been nothing else. No bigs. Bobby early in the season in a game or two. We need to have somebody who’s capable of making some shots. Those two give us the best chance off the bench.”

3. Match Seton Hall’s intensity

If there’s one thing Self saw from last year’s magical NCAA Tournament run by Saint Peter’s, which was led by current Seton Hall head coach Shaheen Holloway, it was how hard the Peacocks played every time they hit the floor.

Self’s expecting the same from the Pirates in this one and plenty of his coaching buddies have made sure he understands what that means.

“I think Shaheen has brought (his) personality to Seton Hall,” Self said Wednesday. “They play with a chip, I think they play extremely hard. Other coaches we’ve talked to have told us don’t underestimate how hard they play. I’m sure that’s a reflection of him.”

Seton Hall leads the Big East in field goal defense and 3-point defense, perhaps the top two indicators of how hard these guys scrap.

“They’re capable of really giving us a lot of problems because they post their guards and they do some things that we haven’t really been great at guarding yet,” Self said of the Pirates. “And their length can give you a lot of problems defensively.”

Jayhawk Pulse

With nine days between this matchup and their next game at Missouri on Dec. 10, the Jayhawks are really looking forward to getting some more practice time to clean up some of their issues and start making more progress than the schedule has allowed them to thus far.

They’ll have to get through one more game to get to that point, though. After playing three games in three days with limited prep time in the Bahamas, the Jayhawks had just one day to prepare for Texas Southern and basically one day to prep for Seton Hall, too.

“That’s really not enough because they play a lot of guys and they do a lot of different things offensively,” Self said. “(Holloway’s) got a good team and he’s going to play 10 or 11 guys.”

The Jayhawks lead the all-time series with Seton Hall, 2-1, with the most recent win coming in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament in Wichita at the start of one of KU’s Final Four runs.

Seton Hall features six players who average seven points per game or better — three starters and three reserves — and the Pirates are led by senior guard Al-Amir Dawes’ 11.9 points per game and 50% shooting clip from 3-point range (17 of 34) and big man Tyrese Samuel’s 10.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

Grad-transfer KC Ndefo, a 6-foot-7 forward who came with Holloway from Saint Peter’s also has been a key contributor early on, both in terms of stats on game nights and in helping Holloway establish the Pirates’ new culture.

Ndefo is averaging 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game so far this season.

This matchup is part of the Big 12/Big East Battle, in which Kansas is 2-1 in the first three matchups, with wins over St. John’s and Creighton and a loss to Villanova.

Probable Starters

No. 9 Kansas

G – Dajuan Harris Jr., 6-1, 175, Jr.

G – Joe Yesufu, 6-0, 180, Jr.

G – Gradey Dick, 6-8, 205, Fr.

F – Jalen Wilson, 6-8, 225, Soph.

F – KJ Adams, 6-7, 225, Soph.

Seton Hall Pirates

G – Kadary Richmond, 6-6, 210, Jr.

G – Al-Amir Dawes, 6-2, 180, Sr.

G – Femi Odukale, 6-6, 205, Jr.

F – KC Ndefo, 6-7, 206, Gr-Sr.

F – Tyrese Samuel, 6-10, 235, Sr.


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