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NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor

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MBB Scouting Report: Kansas Jayhawks

The gauntlet toughens

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Matchup: Baylor (17-5 / 6-3) @ Kansas (18-5 / 6-4)

Time: Saturday, February 10, 2024, @ 5:00 PM CT

Place: Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas

Where to Watch: ESPN (ESPN’s College Gameday will be in Lawrence for the game which means the TV broadcast will feature Jay Bilas spending 80% of the game gushing over how awesome Kansas, Phog Allen, and Bill Self are)

Big Picture

The Kansas Jayhawks come in off a gut-wrenching overtime loss to their bitter rival Kansas State. The Jayhawks blew a 2nd-half double-digit lead. KU is 6-4 in conference play despite having already played UCF, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State twice (plus 4 of the other 6 games have been in Lawrence). Despite the relatively easy schedule to start league play, Kansas hasn’t managed a three-game winning streak since December.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears come in riding a three-game winning streak (the longest active streak in the Big 12) which has featured back-to-back ranked home wins. The Bears are 2-2 in road games this season with their only wins coming against Oklahoma State (in OT) and UCF.

Kansas has dominated the all-time series. Baylor has, however, won 2 of the last 3 meetings.

Season Recap

The Jayhawks’ best wins are against Houston, UConn, Kentucky, and TCU. Their losses have come at the hands of Marquette, UCF, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Kansas State.

Kansas jumped back into the Top 4 of the AP Poll after their dominant win against Houston last weekend. KenPom ranks Kansas as the 13th-best team in the nation while Evan Miya has them 9th nationally (Baylor is 16th and 19th respectively in those metrics).

Jayhawks’ Style

Defensively, Kansas is almost exclusively a man-to-man team. They don’t press often and almost never turn to any form of zone. In the halfcourt, they try to avoid switching wherever possible.

cbbanalytics.com

Offensively, the Jayhawks love to attack quickly. Per KenPom, they have the shortest average possession length in the Big 12. They rank 3rd in the conference in fastbreak scoring. This team dominates the paint thanks to their gifted frontcourt (Kansas is in the 97th percentile nationally in paint points per game and in the 96th percentile nationally in at-the-rim FG%). They don’t take a lot of above-the-break three-pointers, but are efficient scoring from pretty much anywhere on the floor (especially the left side).

Jayhawks’ Strengths

  • Kansas owns the paint (they lead the Big 12 in paint points per game and get 50% of their scoring from the paint).
  • The Jayhawks utilize elite ball movement (they lead the Big 12 in assists per game and nearly 70% of their made field goals are assisted).
  • Kansas is at its best when it gets out in transition and scores before the defense can get set (they are in the 88th percentile nationally in fastbreak scoring).

Jayhawks’ Weaknesses

  • The biggest weakness for Kansas is a lack of depth (they rank 345th nationally in bench minutes and last in the Big 12 in bench scoring per 40 minutes).
  • The Jayhawks don’t rely on the three-ball almost at all (they rank 13th in the Big 12 in 3P Attempt Rate).
  • Kansas doesn’t generate a lot of second-chance opportunities (they rank 13th in Offensive Rebound Rate).

Players to Watch

Dajuan Harris, Jr. (Guard, No. 3, Redshirt Senior, 6’2” 170 lbs.): 7.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 6.7 APG, and 1.6 SPG on 44/45/77 splits. Harris started his 100th career game for the Jayhawks earlier this week. He is a pass-first point guard who rarely calls his own number (of the 75 D-1 players to have played 800+ minutes this season, nobody takes fewer shots per game). Instead, he sets his teammates up for success on offense. He is in the 95th percentile nationally in Assist Rate. He is a solid perimeter defender.

Kevin McCullar, Jr. (Forward, No. 15, Super Senior, 6’7” 210 lbs.): 19.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.6 APG, and 1.5 SPG on 47/36/80 splits. The former Texas Tech transfer leads the Big 12 in scoring and is also top 10 in the league in rebounding, assists, and FG%. He is among the frontrunners for conference player of the year and with good reason. He has been nothing short of sensational this season. He can and will score from anywhere on the floor, but is at his most effective operating from the left side. He is the 99th percentile nationally in fouls drawn per game, so watch for the Bears to rotate different players to defend him (probably more Nunn and Walter than anyone else though).

Johnny Furphy (Forward, No. 10, Freshman, 6’8” 200 lbs.): 8.3 PPG and 4.0 RPG on 53/41/68 splits. The Australian native has become a fan favorite in Lawrence. He is a scoring specialist who can score at all three levels. DO NOT LOSE THIS GUY IN THE CORNERS. He is in the 98th percentile nationally in Corner 3P Attempt Rate and makes over 42% of his corner threes. Over his last 7 games, he is averaging 14.0 PPG and 7.0 RPG on 60/49/70 splits.

KJ Adams, Jr. (Forward, No. 24, Junior, 6’7” 230 lbs.): 12.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.7 BPG on 63/NA/61 splits. Adams is one of the team’s most important and versatile players. For a guy his size, he is an excellent passer. The majority of his shots come right at the rim. He is more effective shooting from the left half of the floor.

Hunter Dickinson (Center, No. 1, Senior, 7’1” 260 lbs.): 18.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 1.3 BPG on 58/35/73 splits. The Michigan transfer is ridiculous. He is one of the premier players in the nation. Dickinson is a do-it-all big who is elite on both ends of the floor and can bully opponents down low. He is an excellent rebounder and down-low scorer. He is also an above-average passer, shot blocker, and 3P shooter. Baylor’s bigs will have their hands more than full with this guy.

Elmarko Jackson (Guard, No. 13, Freshman, 6’3” 190 lbs.): 4.5 PPG, 1.4 RPG, and 2.0 APG on 38/30/86 splits. The New Jersey native started the first 15 games of the year before being moved to the bench. In the 7 games where he has come off the bench, Jackson is averaging just 1.7 PPG. Jackson is probably the best player on KU’s bench, but he also is unlikely to take more than 2 or 3 shots in this game.

Parker Braun (Forward, No. 23, Super Senior, 6’10” 230 lbs.): 2.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 0.7 BPG on 69/43/75 splits. The Santa Clara (and former Missouri) transfer is the brother of former Jayhawk, Christian Braun. He is 2nd only to Dickinson on the team in Rebound Rate.

Predictions

Key(s) to the Game

  • Slow the game down and play in the halfcourt. If Baylor wants to limit the Jayhawks’ potent offense, they’ll need to avoid letting Kansas get easy scores in transition.
  • Let it rip from deep (and pray). In Kansas’s 5 losses, their opponents are averaging 9.6 made three-pointers per game on 39.3% from deep. In KU’s 18 wins, their opponents are averaging just 7.4 made three-pointers per game on 30.2% from beyond the arc. Plus, Baylor is a great 3P-shooting team.

Player of the Game: RayJ Dennis (Baylor): If the Bears are going to pull off the upset, they’ll need Dennis to stay hot. Over the last 4 games, Dennis is averaging 18.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, and 2.3 SPG on 51/42/69 splits. His ability to change speeds could enable him to slice up KU’s defense the way KSU’s guards, Tylor Perry and Cam Carter (combined 45 points) did earlier this week.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Final Score: Kansas wins 73-68 (I HATE picking against the Bears, but this will be their toughest test all year; Phog Allen is the toughest venue in basketball in my opinion and not only is Baylor playing there with a young team, they may be shorthanded if Love is unable to play; further, Kansas is not only one of the most talented teams in the nation, they will be hungry and desperate following their OT loss to their in-state rival this week; the Bears battle, but come up short; I hope Baylor surprises me and pulls the upset here; Sic Em!).

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