Quick scout: A bold Hawk to Rock pick for KU-TCU

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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.

Wednesday’s game: No. 7 Kansas vs. No. 25 TCU, 8 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence

TV: ESPN2

Opponent’s record: 12-1

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 27

Point spread: Kansas by 5 1/2.

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

3 Strengths

Inside scoring: TCU ranks seventh nationally in two-point percentage, with four rotation players shooting 64 percent or better from inside the arc.

Turnovers ... both ends: The Horned Frogs are in the top 85 in both offensive and defensive turnover percentages, winning the giveaway battle in each of their last seven games.

Three-point defense: TCU does a great job of limiting opponents’ three-point attempts.

3 Weaknesses

Three-point shooting: TCU doesn’t attempt many threes, and the team is only barely above NCAA average when it comes to outside accuracy.

Drawing fouls: The Horned Frogs don’t appear to be an overly physical team inside, ranking 190th in offensive free throw rate. The team not shooting many free throws is somewhat surprising considering its two-point success.

Defensive rebounding: TCU has struggled some on the defensive boards, ranking 138th in D-board rate while taking on a not-too challenging schedule so far.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-1 guard Alex Robinson (No. 25)

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Plus: Quick guard who has greatly improved his efficiency from last season

Plus: One of nation’s top passers

Plus: Gets to free throw line often

Plus: Synergy lists him as “very good” overall defender

Minus: Not a good free throw shooter for a guard

Minus: Has been better with threes this year but does not take many

6-foot-7 forward Kouat Noi (No. 12)

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Plus: Outstanding, high-volume three-point shooter

Plus: One of team’s best in transition

Plus: Good shooter in mid-range

Plus: Synergy rates him as “excellent” overall defender

Minus: Almost never draws fouls

Minus: More comfortable on perimeter than interior in half-court settings

6-foot-5 guard Desmond Bane (No. 22)

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Plus: Excellent finisher at the rim for his size

Plus: Does great job of scoring inside on fast breaks

Plus: Capable three-point shooter

Plus: Decent passer

Minus: Rarely gets fouled

Minus: Not as aggressive as he could be offensively given his efficiency

Prediction

On paper, this doesn’t appear to be a horrible matchup for KU’s defense.

TCU’s offense is centered on two things: Robinson creating from the point guard spot, and the team taking advantage of numerous cuts in the half-court. Devon Dotson, though, is one of KU’s best defenders, so the Jayhawks have a good option to go against Robinson. Also, unlike the Iowa State game, Dotson won’t be at a height disadvantage when he sizes up the 6-1 Robinson.

KU’s coaches, historically, also have seemed to do a good job of keeping the Jayhawks disciplined when they have time to prepare for an offense like TCU’s. That’s no guarantee of success Wednesday, but KU will have the added benefit of playing at Allen Fieldhouse, which often increases the team’s focus a bit more.

Offensively, it could be more of a challenge for KU. TCU does allow a decent number of shots at the rim, though KU’s best option for that was taken away this week with the announcement that Udoka Azubuike will miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. The Horned Frogs also struggle on the defensive glass, though KU might find it more difficult to expose that weakness if playing with a primary four-guard lineup.

In the end, it’s usually smart to not overreact to the most recent result. While Azubuike’s absence will hurt KU, the team still has plenty of bench options and is much better than it showed in Saturday’s 77-60 road loss to Iowa State.

Expect the Jayhawks to take care of the ball and shoot much better Wednesday. Combine that with a good defensive effort, and I see KU taking a comfortable win.

Kansas 77, TCU 67

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

Going off the board a bit, but TCU has always seemed to be a matchup that has favored Mitch Lightfoot. The Horned Frogs aren’t overly physical inside, which plays well to Lightfoot’s skillset, and the fact that they’re not great on the defensive glass makes this an opportunity for KU’s big man to show off one of his best attributes. Don’t be surprised if Lightfoot gets extended playing time Wednesday.

Last game prediction: Kansas 79, Iowa State 71 (Actual: ISU 77-60)

2018-19 record vs. spread: 7-7

Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 84-69-3

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