University of Kansas

Quick Scout: This KU player should be key vs. Oklahoma’s defense

Note: Bill Self confirmed to The Star that point guard Devon Dotson would not play vs. Oklahoma after Quick Scout initially published.

Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.

Tuesday’s game: No. 6 Kansas at Oklahoma, 8 p.m., Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, Okla.

TV: ESPN

Opponent’s record: 11-4

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 48

Point spread: Kansas by 6 1/2.

All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.

3 Strengths

Ball security: Oklahoma does a great job of getting a shot up almost every possession, ranking sixth nationally in offensive turnover percentage.

Foul avoidance: This has been a coach Lon Kruger staple for a while; the Sooners almost never put opponents at the free throw line, while this season posting the sixth-lowest defensive free throw rate.

Isolation scoring: Though many NCAA teams are moving away from (usually inefficient) isolation plays, Oklahoma thrives with them, ranking in the 98th percentile in those situations according to Synergy’s logs.

3 Weaknesses

Offensive rebounding: This probably isn’t as much a “weakness” as a stylistic choice, as Oklahoma ranks 330th in offensive rebounding percentage, with Kruger likely sending four players back to limit opponents’ transition tries.

Creating havoc: This is another facet probably impacted by coaching, as Kruger over time has wanted his teams to play position defense without taking too many gambles; this year’s team appears similar, ranking 301st in defensive turnover rate.

Three-point defense: Oklahoma’s defense allows almost as many threes as KU’s does, as both teams are in the bottom 15 nationally when it comes to restricting opponents’ three-point tries.

Player to Watch

6-foot-9 forward Brady Manek (No. 35)

WebMug_Manek_Brady.jpg
Oklahoma Athletics


Plus: Averaged 18.5 points in two games vs. KU last season

Plus: Outstanding three-point shooter

Plus: Rarely turns it over

Plus: Has greatly improved shot-blocking this year

Plus: Have to find him defensively in transition, as he’s an especially efficient player vs. unset defenses

Minus: Relies on teammates to set up his offense; doesn’t create much for himself

Minus: Not an overly physical player who is more comfortable away from basket offensively

Prediction

At first glance, this Oklahoma Sooners team might be the most Lon-y Lon team that the coach has had in Norman.

The team is extreme with his coaching preferences, which reflects some of his NBA past. The Sooners are elite with shot volume ... and also obsessive about deserting the offensive glass to get back in transition. They have players who have the ultimate freedom offensively to create and get their shot in iso settings, while also controlling a controllable while limiting contact defensively.

The final result is a solid Oklahoma team that is balanced on both ends but not excellent at either while hanging around 50th in KenPom over the past month.

This seems like an excellent spot for KU to bounce back following a disappointing effort against Baylor. The big concern here is the health of both Devon Dotson (hip) and Marcus Garrett (ankles), but if we assume both will play their normal share of minutes, there are reasons to like KU to pull away.

For one, Lloyd Noble Center has traditionally been a place where KU fans travel well. Maybe it won’t be 50-50, but this certainly shouldn’t be a true home-court advantage for the Sooners.

The Jayhawks also shouldn’t have to worry about a high number of turnovers Tuesday — that’s been a problem in the team’s losses this season — and could have an advantage inside if Manek plays the 5 and is forced to guard Udoka Azubuike. KU also is a good enough three-point shooting team that it should be able to produce efficient offense if it simply puts up the open attempts that should be available.

Manek has to be a focus defensively, and KU will need to get back quickly on fast breaks to counter an Oklahoma team that likes to run.

In the end, though, I like KU’s chances to not only have a nice offensive night, but to also have in the individual defense needed to slow down an Oklahoma offense that relies heavily on individuals making plays.

Kansas 78, Oklahoma 64

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

It’s likely that Ochai Agbaji will be most important when it comes to KU’s offensive success. He’s been the Jayhawks’ highest-volume, most accurate three-point shooter so far, and he needs to be ready to fire them up Tuesday against an Oklahoma team that has struggled to defend the arc.

Last game prediction: Baylor 72, Kansas 71 (Actual: Baylor 67-55)

2019-20 record vs. spread: 10-5

Last six seasons’ record vs. spread: 109-81-3

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.
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