Before every KU men’s basketball game, Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Tuesday’s game: No. 7 Kansas at Oklahoma, 6 p.m., Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, Oklahoma
Opponent’s record: 12-5
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 34
Point spread: Kansas by 3 1/2.
All statistics are from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
• Interior scoring: Oklahoma makes 60% of its twos — the second-best mark in the NCAA — and is especially deadly on cuts, where it scores 1.53 points per possession (second nationally, behind only Duke).
• Creating havoc: Maybe I’m destined to write this about every Big 12 opponent, but the Sooners’ greatest defensive strength is their pressure while ranking 41st in defensive turnover percentage and 53rd in steal rate.
• Transition defense: Oklahoma does a great job setting its defense, rating 50th in limiting opponents’ fast-break attempts and 13th in adjusted shooting percentage defense in those scenarios.
• Carelessness: Oklahoma is 316th in offensive turnover percentage and 322nd in offensive steal rate; attempting sometimes-risky passes seems to be the downside of the team’s cut-heavy setup.
• Rim protection: The Sooners rank 333rd in defensive block percentage, as Big 12 opponents have made a healthy 54% of their twos in five games.
• Aggression stats offensively: KU’s previous opponent West Virginia thrived with offensive rebounds and drawing fouls, while Oklahoma is the opposite, mostly deserting the offensive glass to get back with transition defense while also leaning on a more finesse style that doesn’t typically create contact or free throw attempts.
PLAYER TO WATCH
6-foot-10 forward/center Tanner Groves (No. 35)
Plus: Scored 35 points against KU as member of Eastern Washington in last season’s NCAA Tournament — the most against the Jayhawks since 2009
Plus: Efficient player who takes high percentage of Oklahoma’s shots
Plus: Has made 68% of his 2s while thriving on cuts and as a roller
Plus: Capable three-point shooter (19-for-50, 38%)
Plus: Strong defensive rebounder
Minus: Not a shot-blocker; has seven swats all season
Minus: Will turn it over some, and those giveaways have increased dramatically since conference play began
I’ll be honest: I don’t have a great feeling for this pick while mostly thinking the line is about right.
First-year coach Porter Moser has brought his cutting style from Loyola-Chicago to Oklahoma ... and it has worked. On the other end, KU has had some issues defending cuts while getting beaten somewhat often on backdoor attempts. That’s certainly a concern for the Jayhawks on Tuesday.
Where the Sooners should be worried is with turnovers. There’s some give-and-take when always seeking these efficient rim attempts, and part of that is sometimes having passes deflected and stolen. And though Oklahoma gets back well in transition, KU is always dangerous off a steal with one of the nation’s most potent fast-break offenses.
Lately, though, KU hasn’t created the same sort of disruptiveness defensively. The Jayhawks have the worst steal rate among Big 12 defenses in league play, so it’s at least worth wondering whether KU can amp that back up against an OU team that should turn it over some.
As I said, my thoughts don’t stray too far from Vegas on this one. It feels like one of those games that should be close late but that coach Bill Self wins more often than not.
Give me the in-between pick then: KU for the victory, but Oklahoma for the cover.
Kansas 71, Oklahoma 70
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Oklahoma
HAWK TO ROCK
Interestingly, Oklahoma has been great with cuts offensively but has struggled to defend them. That makes Christian Braun a good bet for a big offensive game, as he not only is KU’s best in that area, but he also is a player who will benefit significantly on drives while not having to go against a true shot-blocker inside. I’ll say Braun leads KU in scoring for the first time since 2021.
Last game prediction: Kansas 80, West Virginia 64 (Actual: KU 85-59) ✔️
2021-22 record vs. spread: 5-11
Last eight seasons’ record vs. spread: 135-116-3 (54%)