Quick scout: KU, Texas have both underwhelmed in one key area

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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.

Monday’s game: No. 7 Kansas vs. Texas, 8 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence

TV: ESPN

Opponent’s record: 10-6

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 32

Point spread: Kansas by 7.

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

3 Strengths

Interior defense: Texas makes it tough for opponents to score inside, ranking 18th in two-point percentage defense and 36th in block rate.

Transition defense: The Longhorns do a great job of limiting fast-break attempts while also ranking 33th in shooting percentage against in transition.

Ball security: Texas doesn’t shoot well, but it does get a shot on most possessions, ranking 62nd in offensive turnover rate.

3 Weaknesses

Creating contact: Texas doesn’t appear to be a physical team offensively, as it’s 244th in free-throw rate and also ninth out of 10 Big 12 teams in the stat since conference play began.

Rebounding ... both ends: This might go hand in hand with the weakness above, as the Longhorns don’t rebound as well as you’d expect on either end, especially given their size.

Shooting: Texas isn’t a particularly good shooting team from any location, whether it’s from two, three or the free-throw line.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-4 guard Kerwin Roach (No. 12)

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Plus: Team’s go-to guy offensively

Plus: Solid passer

Plus: Does good job of creating for himself and finishes well at rim

Minus: Doesn’t get to free-throw line often

Minus: Attempts threes often, but a below-average shooter there

6-foot-11 forward Jaxson Hayes (No. 10)

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Plus: Efficient offensive player who has recently increased his playing time

Plus: Outstanding shot-blocker

Plus: Nearly automatic finisher at rim

Minus: Only a role player offensively

Minus: Foul prone

6-foot-9 forward Dylan Osetkowski (No. 21)

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Plus: Team’s best rebounder on both ends

Plus: Doesn’t turn it over often

Minus: Like Roach, he’s not shy about taking threes but is below average accuracy-wise

Minus: Not a shot-blocking threat

Prediction

This prediction section is starting to sound the same for KU based off the Big 12 being filled with defensive-minded teams.

KU, which is weaker offensively than past years, could struggle to score against Texas. The Longhorns don’t turn it over much, get back well in transition and present some resistance inside with Hayes’ shot-blocking presence. There should be some open threes available, but this KU team isn’t as well-equipped as last year to take advantage.

Defensively ... KU appears to have a favorable matchup, even without Udoka Azubuike. The Longhorns, like many of coach Shaka Smart’s past teams, don’t shoot it well, even if that’s something that can be overcome in a one-game sample. The key to the offense — Roach and taking frequent threes — also could be limited a bit by KU’s four-guard lineup, as Marcus Garrett’s on-ball ability combined with a switchable defensive setup has helped the Jayhawks make it tougher on teams who are perimeter-focused.

One significant area to watch will be rebounding. KU was whipped against Baylor on the defensive glass, but perhaps more alarming, the Jayhawks also had their third-worst offensive rebounding performance in Self’s 559 games with the school. This will be weakness versus weakness, as Texas also has been more ineffective on the boards compared to what one would expect.

If the Jayhawks can bounce back to normal levels there, I like their chances for the win and cover with help from strong defense at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas 70, Texas 60

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

I have to go with KU’s best three-point shooter in this spot, and while Lagerald Vick has been the Jayhawks’ most inconsistent player, he has the highest upside with this particular matchup.

Last game prediction: Kansas 66, Baylor 59 (Actual: KU 73-68)

2018-19 record vs. spread: 9-7

Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 86-69-3

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