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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Game day Breakdown: No. 10 KU basketball vs. No. 18 Texas Tech

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) celebrates a late, second-half three-pointer next to Texas Tech forward Zach Smith (11) on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) celebrates a late, second-half three-pointer next to Texas Tech forward Zach Smith (11) on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks (11-2) vs. No. 18 Texas Tech Red Raiders (12-1)

Time: 8 p.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence

TV: ESPN | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @TomKeeganLJW @bentonasmith @nightengalejr @chasenscott & @nickkrug

Keys for Kansas

1. All eyes on offense

The team statistics for the 18th-ranked Red Raiders entering this one are staggering.

Not only is Tech averaging 81.3 points per game — good for fifth in the Big 12 — but the Raiders also are giving up a Big 12 best 58.2 points per game to opponents.

Given the fact that the Jayhawks rank second in the conference in scoring at 87.8 points per game — behind top-ranked Oklahoma (94.7) — it seems clear that something has to give in this matchup.

“I think that they're the best defensive team that we've played so far,” KU coach Bill Self said this week.

In addition in leading the conference in scoring defense, the Red Raiders are first in 3-point percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just .299 from 3-point range so far this season.

The Jayhawks lead the league in 3-point shooting, at .422, but it's not likely that Kansas will be able to knock down 17 3-pointers the way it did in last week's win over Texas.

This brings Udoka Azubuike into play, and he could be a huge factor for KU's offense. The key there will be whether KU's guards can handle the intensity and experience of the TTU guards on the perimeter enough to get Azubuike the ball in favorable scoring positions. If they do, it should be easy sledding for him around the rim and he could be poised to extend his double-digit scoring streak from six games to seven.

2. Battle on the boards

These two teams are tied for third in the Big 12, with an identical 38.8 rebounds per game average.

In a game that figures to feature a lot of points and a high number of possessions, whichever squad can steal the advantage on the glass could position itself well to control the tone of the game and get the extra opportunities that could prove huge in the outcome.

The Jayhawks and Red Raiders both have six players who average four rebounds a game or better, and no one on either team averages as many as Azubuike at 8.4 per game.

Last year's two meetings between these teams illustrate perfectly the importance of rebounding.

In an 85-68 victory at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks outrebounded the Red Raiders, 38-29. In the rematch, in Lubbock, Texas, Tech outrebounded KU, 38-32, and played the Jayhawks to within a point.

3. Keep up the intensity

With as good as the Big 12 Conference is this season and what's at stake for the Jayhawks, who are looking to continue their reign at the top of the standings, Kansas cannot afford to take even the smallest step back.

That means no holiday break hangover, no easy nights and no taking any opponents lightly.

The players, of course, know that. But it's a lot easier to know it and talk about it than it is to bring it every night to make sure the Jayhawks are in the best position possible to succeed.

Senior guard Devonté Graham said after the Stanford win that it was time to turn it up a notch when the Jayhawks got back from break. And sophomore Mitch Lightfoot said that happened almost immediately.

“I felt like it was here as soon as we got from being home. There's nobody on campus and it was kind of like, 'Yeah, I remember this from last year. It's time. Time to get it rolling,'” Lightfoot said. “And that kind of starts with coach. He's a pretty intense person, but it's kind of an understanding that it's time to go, it's conference season, this is what we do and let's take it to the next level.”

Mega Matchup

KU guards Marcus Garrett vs. Malik Newman

This one might seem odd because the two play on the same team, but this “showdown” could be big for both this game and KU's future.

With Garrett penciled into the starting lineup in Newman's spot for the second game in a row — and third time this season — the freshman's ability to continue to provide steady play on the defensive end and intangible areas would give Self and company the luxury of bringing Newman, and his potentially explosive offensive output, off of the bench.

Self said Sunday that both players, along with the rest of the Jayhawks, need to buy in to the new rotation in order for it to work to its fullest capability.

That should not be a problem for Garrett, who will not have to worry as much about his own offense, and can just focus on steals, defense, rebounding and all of those little things that Self has loved seeing from him so far this season.

And it should be doable for Newman, as well. Newman has shown a willingness to try to fit into Self's team-first way of doing things — even if it has not always been an easy endeavor — and he has come a long way. But sliding into more of an instant-offense-off-the-bench kind of role could free him up to be more offensive-minded and allow him to get his complete game going.

Newman currently ranks fifth on the team in scoring at 10.6 points per game and also is averaging 4.8 rebounds a night. Garrett is averaging 3.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per outing.

Jayhawk Pulse

While things were more than a little hectic around the KU program during the bulk of nonconference play, things are starting to calm down and become clearer — slowly but surely.

With Sam Cunliffe now in the mix and Silvio De Sousa now on the roster, the one piece the Jayhawks still are missing is Billy Preston. And while the exact time frame for any kind of answer in Preston's status remains uncertain, Self and company are getting closer to being able to develop a game plan with their full complement of players.

Good thing, too.

With the Big 12 seemingly as deep and dangerous as ever, the Jayhawks figure to face a strong challenge every night, including tonight against a team that has been one of the Big 12's bigger surprises thus far on a national level.

The Jayhawks got their quest for a 14th consecutive Big 12 regular season title off on a good note with a road win last weekend at Texas, and should carry a lot of confidence from that win into their first home game in Allen Fieldhouse in two weeks.

KU, which has won 16 consecutive games against Texas Tech and is 17-0 all-time in Lawrence against TTU, enters this one as a 7-point favorite.

Probable Starters

No. 10 Kansas

G – Devonté Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.

G – Marcus Garrett, 6-5, 180, Fr.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.

G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.

C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.

No. 18 Texas Tech

G – Keenan Evans, 6-3, 190, Sr.

G – Niem Stevenson, 6-5, 205, Sr.

G – Zhaire Smith, 6-5, 195, Fr.

F – Justin Gray, 6-6, 210, Sr.

F – Zach Smith, 6-8, 220, Sr.

Comments

Bryce Landon 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Seems to me Chris Beard has done a solid job with the Red Raiders. We're going to need to bring our A-game for sure to beat them. Anything less and we're looking at a possible upset loss.

Dirk Medema 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The Topeka paper has C Norense Odiase, 6-9, Jr. starting in place of G – Zhaire Smith, 6-5, 195, Fr.

I haven't followed TTU at all this year, so far from an expert, but it would seem to me that they're going to want as much size as they can get against Dok.

They also include a quote about an interesting stat: Self said. “You know, we keep these energy points for miscellaneous things … deflections, steals, dives on the floor, dunks, offensive rebound attempts, offensive rebounds — all of these things. I believe he graded out with the second-most on the team behind Udoka (Azubike), and Udoka, it’s easier for him to get ’em because a dunk counts and blocked shots count."

Matt Tait 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Was/Am going to do a blog about that "energy points" idea a little later today. It's nothing new, of course, but it's pretty cool they track it and Garrett does so well.

Dirk Medema 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Thought it was interesting that it expands on the "floor burn" stat. IMO, it is why Coach Self is great, and comprehends so much more than most of us can even begin to wrap our heads around. Floor burns is fairly simple and straightforward, but energy is so much more intangible and important.

Do they track each category separately? Do they ever release those "advanced" stats? It would be fun to see, even if it was past years/leaders, and would probably explain a lot about who coach played sometimes when "we" are complaining.

Sorry to steal your thunder (even if just a smidgen). I would take it as a compliment to think like you. Thanks for your work.

Dirk Medema 11 months, 2 weeks ago

It would seem to me that another key match-up of the unconventional kind could be Dok vs his back. If he's healthy, he should dominate as he had been previously. If not, we could be in trouble.

I'm also hoping that the starting line-up switch helps both players improve their weaknesses: Garrett's scoring in general and outside shot in particular, and Newman's energy points in general and willingness to make an extra pass/share the ball - with the understanding that the other reserves are that much more likely to pass it back to him for the open shot once the D is unsettled.

Matt Tait 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Yeah. I like the move a lot and think, as long as Malik is able to accept it, it could be a terrific thing for this team.

It's still a safe bet that Newman will play more minutes than Garrett on average, but that could change if/when they've got De Sousa and Preston back in the mix, too.

Dirk Medema 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe Sherron can chat with Malik :-) It was so important to have him come off the bench in '08.

They both come off the bench when De Sousa and Preston become eligible? Or at least fairly soon after they become eligible? It sounds like that is Coach's intention at the least. I could see starting Billy alongside Dok and having Silvio be the primary sub for both which makes Mitch the 4th/foul trouble big.

That also allows him to start Graham, Svi, and Vick, with Garrett and Newman subbing, and Sam being the 6th/foul trouble perimeter player. Fairly confident in Mitch and Garrett accepting those roles, and hope that Sam and Malik can buy in with 100% energy, focus and prep as well. Them being dailed in could be a key, or at least it has during successful seasons in the past.

Robert Brock 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Garrett may accidentally shatter the glass when shooting from midrange.

Marius Rowlanski 11 months, 2 weeks ago

And we are now into Jan. and still waiting for Preston and/or Silvio to become eligible.

DiscGolfer Jason 11 months, 2 weeks ago

It still boggles my mind that the NCAA could have been verifying his amateurism status the same time while verifying his school courses. But then common sense does not prevail in the NCAA.

Matt Tait 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Self actually talked about this the other day and said he had no issue whatsoever with the De Sousa timeline. He said it would be crazy for the NCAA to waste their time with something that might not even happen so it made sense for them to wait until De Sousa was fully cleared to graduate academically before even thinking about looking at his case.

I agree. The timing of the holiday added to the delay, but I don't think they've been dragging their feet on Silvio at all.

Suzi Marshall 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Why can't the NCAA clear De Sousa in one day...like today. Every year the NCAA has thousands of kids that graduate from HS who move on to college to play sports. Are you telling me the NCAA takes multiple days to clear each student? This is something that the NCAA should be able to accomplish in under a minute immediately.

DiscGolfer Jason 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Ever question some of Self's recruits? KU has had more negative press than the other blue blood programs. I'm tired of it. From Brown, Williams and Self KU has had some crap in its time.

Aaron Paisley 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The NCAA offices have been closed for 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year's and just reopened today.

Kim Mandle 11 months, 2 weeks ago

It seems like it is either the NCAA taking far too much time to decide or KU missing the "providing enough information boat".

Sheesh...

Still, have to give the coaches and players kudos for adjusting!

Marius Rowlanski 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Agree Kim but the biggest adjustments are still coming when Silvio and Billy Preston are inserted into the lineup. Every game they are forced to sit out make this adjustment a little harder.

Barry Weiss 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Here we are into our second game of conference play and no Preston. Silvio coming on (soon I hope) is a bonus. But we were all led to believe, I thought, that Preston would be penalized for the impermissible benefit by having to sit out the non-conference games. As Marius points out, each game into conference play, makes this even more difficult. He can't be expected to just blend right in and the team and rotation work smoothly without some time. This is just one big mess!

Free Billy!

Tony Bandle 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Do you all actually believe you're going to see Billy Preston in a Kansas uniform?

I do not, but I wonder....could Billy takes this year as a red shirt and come back next year? This is just a rhetorical question since I am sure his camp feels he is an OAD and won't need next yer, but I am still curious to hear if this option was viable.

DiscGolfer Jason 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Nope. Ever question some of Self's recruits? KU has had more negative press than the other blue blood programs. I'm tired of it. From Brown, Williams and Self KU has had some crap in its time.

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