Quick scout: Which K-State team will show up Saturday?

Kansas State forward Xavier Sneed (20) is fouled by Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Oklahoma State guard Thomas Dziagwa (4) guards from behind. | Orlin Wagner | AP
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By Jesse Newell jnewell@kcstar.com

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

Saturday’s game: Kansas State vs. No. 12 Kansas, 11 a.m., Allen Fieldhouse

TV: ESPN

Opponent’s record: 12-4

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 48

Point spread: KU by 11 12

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

3 Strengths

▪ Forcing turnovers: Kansas State ranks 28th nationally in defensive turnover percentage and ninth in steal rate.

▪ Close shots: The Wildcats are below average when it comes to getting shots at the rim, but they rank eighth nationally in shooting percentage on those attempts.

▪ Drawing fouls: K-State has two of the top foul creators in the Big 12 with Dean Wade and Barry Brown. As a result, the Wildcats’ offensive free-throw rate is first among conference teams during league play.

3 Weaknesses

▪ Three-point defense? K-State ranks 275th nationally when it comes to limiting opponent three-pointers, though that characteristic has reversed course in Big 12 play. Through four league games, the Wildcats have been the Big 12’s best at preventing outside shots, so it’s difficult to know for sure which type of defense KU will see Saturday.

▪ Rim protection: K-State ranks last in conference play in both two-point percentage defense (60 percent) and block rate.

▪ Fouling: K-State is 284th in defensive free-throw rate, so if ever there was a game in which KU might be able to get its foul-shot numbers closer to years past, this might be it.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-3 guard Barry Brown (No. 5)

Brown_Barry_mug

Plus: Team’s go-to guy offensively, especially with guard Kamau Stokes out with injury

Plus: Gets to free-throw line often and is 78 percent shooter there

Plus: Great finisher at the rim for his size

Plus: Ranks top 50 nationally in steal rate

Minus: Only a 33 percent career three-point shooter

Minus: Synergy’s logs list him as “average” defender who struggles to get out to perimeter shooters

6-foot-10 forward Dean Wade (No. 32)

Wade_Dean_mug

Plus: Team’s most efficient offensive player

Plus: Well-above-average shooter at rim and in mid-range

Plus: Synergy lists him as “excellent” defender

Plus: Selective shooter from the outside, but he can make threes (43 percent)

Minus: Isn’t as aggressive as he should be considering his strong offensive statistics

Minus: Not a natural shot-blocker

6-foot-5 forward Xavier Sneed (No. 20)

Sneed_Xavier_mug

Plus: Overall efficient offensive player

Plus: Rarely turns it over

Plus: Doesn’t get to line as often as teammates but is excellent shooter there

Plus: Ranks 118th in steal rate with Synergy’s logs rating him as a “very good” defender

Minus: Only an average three-point shooter, though he attempts a lot of outside shots

Minus: Doesn’t create often for teammates

Prediction

K-State is a tough team to figure out through the first four games of Big 12 play.

Many of the Wildcats’ most distinct traits have changed over the past few weeks. A team that allowed threes at an alarming rate is now running opponents off the line effectively. Meanwhile, a roster that ranks 38th nationally in turnover rate has dropped to the bottom half of the Big 12 in league play when it comes to ball security.

Both of those areas, obviously, will have a big impact on Saturday’s game.

This KU team, in general, thrives at home when it can get transition points and open threes. The Wildcats have done a good job at limiting fast breaks for opponents, but that’ll be much tougher if they continue their recent offensive carelessness.

Meanwhile, limiting KU threes is a smart play given the team’s efficiency in that area this season, so where K-State falls on that spectrum Saturday could determine its defensive success.

Offensively … K-State should be able to score. Basically every Big 12 team has against KU, especially in the second half.

The question for the Jayhawks will be their success offensively. It’ll take a great effort there for a double-digit victory, and with the team’s depth at this point, that’s probably asking too much.

Kansas 81, Kansas State 74

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: K-State

Hawk to Rock

It’s tough at this point to bet against Svi Mykhailiuk’s shooting at Allen Fieldhouse. K-State’s wing defenders have allowed a high number of outside attempts thus far, and if that continues, Mykhailiuk should have a big offensive role for KU on Saturday.

Last game prediction: Kansas 93, Iowa State 73 (Actual: KU 83-78)

2017-18 record vs. spread: 7-8

Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 65-51-3

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell


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