Quick scout: Wofford features offensive doppelgängers in starting backcourt

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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.

Tuesday’s game: Wofford vs. No. 2 Kansas, 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence

TV: Jayhawk Network/ESPN+

Opponent’s record: 6-2

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 79

Point spread: KU by 16 1/2.

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

3 Strengths

Three-point shooting: Wofford ranks 36th in frequency of three-point attempts and 57th when it comes to accuracy. The big men don’t shoot threes often, but nearly every guard on the floor needs to be respected on the perimeter.

Defensive rebounding: The Terriers rank 22nd nationally in D-board percentage, which is a strength not common among mid-major teams.

Post defense: Synergy’s logs have Wofford at No. 1 nationally in defense on “post-ups,” with the team allowing 0.39 points per possession in those situations.

3 Weaknesses

Getting to the line: Wofford is primarily a jump-shooting team, ranking 337th in free throw rate. KU should definitely have the strength and physicality advantage.

Creating havoc: The Terriers play a passive defensive style, ranking 268th in defensive turnover percentage.

Fouling: Coach Mike Young appears to have adopted a “no easy looks” mantra defensively, and because of that, Wofford has put opponents on the line at a higher rate than the NCAA average.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-4 guard Fletcher McGee (No. 3)

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Plus: One of nation’s top three-point shooters

Plus: Averaging 11 three-point attempts per game

Plus: Rarely turns it over

Plus: Is 18-for-18 from free throw line this season

Minus: Not a threat to score inside arc

Minus: Doesn’t create for others offensively

6-foot-4 guard Nathan Hoover (No. 10)

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Plus: Like a Fletcher McGee clone on offense who doesn’t shoot quite as often from three

Plus: Great outside shooter who doesn’t turn it over often

Plus: Synergy lists him as “excellent” overall defender

Minus: Not a threat to score inside arc; he’s 2-for-20(!) from two against D-I competition this year

Minus: Doesn’t create for others offensively

6-foot-8 forward Cameron Jackson (No. 33)

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Plus: Takes on biggest offensive load for Wofford

Plus: Outstanding finisher at the rim

Plus: Great passer

Plus: Strong rebounder on both ends

Minus: Doesn’t shoot threes

Minus: Foul prone

Minus: Synergy lists him as an “average” defender who struggles in space

Prediction

What are the paths to a KU blowout on Tuesday? I could see three possibilities:

1. KU defends the three better. The good news for KU is that Wofford doesn’t stretch it from the 4 and 5 spots — that’s been a big issue for the Jayhawks — but I’m not convinced KU will show improvement. When even poor shooting teams like Stanford jack up their highest three-point attempt total in the last decade ... it seems likely that three-happy Wofford will find a way to get up outside attempts.

2. KU forces turnovers and takes Wofford out of its offense. KU coach Bill Self talked about upping his defensive pressure this week, but that might not be effective here, either. Wofford is an above average in this area, as the Terriers gave it away just nine times each in their games against North Carolina and Oklahoma this year.

3. Wofford misses a lot of its threes. This could happen to anyone on any night, so it’s possible here. Still, it’s not the most comforting option for KU fans who have seen their team allow too many open shots to this point.

Some game, KU is going to break out and play up to the level that most expected when the Jayhawks were picked preseason No. 1. Wofford’s combination of three-point shooting, post defense and ball security make me think that effort isn’t going to come on Tuesday, though.

Kansas 79, Wofford 70

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Wofford

Hawk to Rock

Dedric Lawson should be in for a huge night. Wofford’s Cameron Jackson and Keve Altuma are not as comfortable guarding on the perimeter, and Jackson in particular struggles to get out to three-point shooters. Self might have to go small to exploit this matchup best — getting Udoka Azubuike out of the game so Jackson is forced to guard Lawson — but whoever he’s going against, Lawson should have the opportunity to draw fouls while also freeing himself for open jumpers and three-point attempts.

Last game prediction: Kansas 88, Stanford 63 (Actual: KU 90-84, OT)

2018-19 record vs. spread: 3-3

Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 80-65-3


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