Returning to Allen Fieldhouse for the 15th time in program history at 5:05 p.m. tonight (TV: ESPN), Baylor is still searching for its first win against Kansas in Lawrence. The current version of the Bears haven’t won a true road game this season.
The Bears (12-6, 2-4 in Big 12) have lost five games to ranked teams: Wichita State, TCU, Xavier, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Four of those losses were on the road.
“I don’t think our guys are in awe of any facility,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told the Waco Tribune. “The big thing is we had two games against them last year where we could have won both but we didn’t. So we just need to execute better down the stretch.”
In the middle of a stretch that includes five of seven games away from home, the Bears are fresh off a 16-point home win against Oklahoma State.
Baylor is ranked 39th by KenPom, which ranks seventh in the Big 12. Known for its zone defense, Kansas coach Bill Self said the Bears have played more man-to-man this season and that the Jayhawks will have to prepare for both styles.
“The biggest thing is you’ve got to be able to control their point guard and give them one or less shots each possession,” Self said, “and they're really good at not letting you do that.”
Fun fact: Baylor is 9-0 when leading at halftime this season. The Bears haven’t led at half in any Big 12 games.
Series history: Kansas leads 29-4. The Jayhawks, winners of the last 10 meetings, have a 14-0 record against Baylor inside of Allen Fieldhouse. Each of the last four games have been decided by six points or less.
BREAKING DOWN BAYLOR
No. 20 — G Manu Lecomte | 5-11, 175, sr.
Ranking fifth in the Big 12 in scoring, Lecomte is averaging 16.9 points on 41 percent shooting from the 3-point arc and a 90 percent mark at the free-throw line. He was last year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
The fifth-year senior has only attempted 15 of his 205 shot attempts at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. Lecomte, playing 33 minutes per game, owns a 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s scored in double figures in 13 of 17 games this year.
Lecomte (pronounced: MAHN-ew la-CONN-t), from Brussels, Belgium, started his collegiate career at Miami, transferring after his sophomore season.
- “I haven’t been shooting well the last few games,” Lecomte told the Waco Tribune after scoring 30 points vs. Oklahoma State. “But one thing is I never give up because I know things are going to change. I still believe in myself. I’m still a good shooter.”
No. 00 — F Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. | 7-0, 225, sr.
A sixth-year senior, Lual-Acuil (pronounced: LOO-ahl ah-CHU-ill) is second in the Big 12 in rebounding (9.5 per game), fifth in blocks (2.1) and 12th in scoring (15.4). He’s blocked 14 shots in five conference games this season.
Born in South Sudan, he moved to Uganda and Melbourne, Australia as a child. Lual-Acuil has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 9-4 standing reach. He’s shooting 52 percent from the floor. In two games against KU last year, he totaled 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
No. 25 — F Tristan Clark | 6-9, 240, fr.
Shooting an efficient 61 percent from the floor, the fourth-best mark in the Big 12, Clark is averaging 8.4 points. He’s second on the team in blocked shots (21). His best game was against Iowa State last week, posting 16 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.
Clark, from San Antonio, was Baylor’s first true freshman to start in his debut since Ish Wainright in 2013. He played his junior high school season at Findlay Prep in Nevada.
No. 22 — G King McClure | 6-3, 215, jr.
Averaging 9.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, McClure is shooting 38.4 percent from the 3-point arc. According to hoop-math.com, he takes about 21 percent of his shots at the rim. He ranks second on the team with 17 steals.
McClure was told his basketball career was over because of a heart condition in 2015, the same condition that affected Loyola Marymount’s Hank Gathers. About a month later, he was cleared after additional tests at the Mayo Clinic.
ONE THING BAYLOR DOES WELL
Baylor is the top rebounding team in the Big 12, grabbing nearly 40 boards per game this season. The Bears own a plus-7.6 rebounding margin, which is helped by their ability to crash the offensive glass. In Big 12 play, they’ve won the battle on the boards in each game except in a 25-point loss to Texas Tech.
ONE AREA BAYLOR STRUGGLES
Whether it’s a product of their zone defense or lack of extreme length on the perimeter, the Bears don’t force many turnovers. Opposing teams only average 11 turnovers per game. Baylor is the only team in the Big 12 with a negative turnover margin this season.
MEET THE COACH
In his 15th season with Baylor, Scott Drew has struggled against Kansas (3-21 record) but turned Baylor into a top program within the Big 12. He’s guided the Bears to four Sweet 16 appearances since 2010.
Drew has posted a .608 winning percentage at Baylor, the best in the program among coaches with more than 40 games. He never played high school basketball at the varsity level, but learned as an assistant under his father, Homer Drew, at Valparaiso. His brother, Bryce, is the head coach at Vanderbilt.
Kansas by 9. It’s probably a combination of several reasons, but the Jayhawks haven’t played extremely well at Allen Fieldhouse. Baylor gives up a decent amount of 3-point attempts, which should give the Jayhawks a big advantage if they shoot as well as they usually do at home. But the Jayhawks haven’t won a conference game by more than six points and likely will have trouble on the glass against Baylor’s size.
My prediction: Kansas 73, Baylor 66. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 8-9.
After five games of Big 12 play, four teams lead the pack and are tied for first place. There will be some more separation when two of those leaders, West Virginia and Kansas, meet at 8 p.m. Monday (TV: ESPN) at WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers (15-2, 4-1 in Big 12) won 15 straight games before their one-point road loss to Texas Tech — another team tied for the Big 12 lead — last weekend. Previously ranked No. 2 in the country, it was the program’s highest ranking since Jerry West’s senior season in 1959.
Known for its “Press Virginia” defense, WVU ranks third in the country with 19.9 turnovers forced per game. Texas Tech was the first team to commit less than 14 turnovers in a game all season.
“You would think a formula would be multiple ball handlers,” KU coach Bill Self said. “But we’ve had Frank (Mason) and Devonte’ (Graham) go up there and had problems with that. With (WVU guards Jevon) Carter and (Daxter) Miles out there, they create so much havoc.”
Heading into the Big Monday matchup, the Jayhawks (14-3, 4-1) have won nine consecutive true road games. In the KenPom rankings, West Virginia is 10th and Kansas is 11th. ESPN’s BPI places KU eighth and WVU 12th.
Fun fact: Starting this season by playing a game in Germany, the Mountaineers will log 28,254 miles of travel by the time they begin play in the Big 12 Tournament. Outside of their international game, their longest trip of the season was last weekend to Lubbock, Texas (2,930 miles round trip).
Series history: Kansas leads 7-4. The Jayhawks have a 1-4 record in Morgantown, losing their last four road games at WVU Coliseum.
BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA
No. 2 — G Jevon Carter | 6-2, 205, sr.
One of the biggest reasons West Virginia’s press defense is so successful is the ability of Carter. He ranks second in the country with 3.59 steals per game, grabbing at least three in his last seven contests.
Beyond his defense (he’s second on the team with nine blocks), the Maywood, Ill., native is averaging 16.8 points, 6.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds to establish himself as one of the most well-rounded guards in the nation. He’s an 83.5 percent free-throw shooter.
Carter broke the school’s all-time steals record earlier this season, which was formerly held by Greg Jones (1979-83). He ranks 21st all-time in school scoring (1,404 points). He’s only the third player in Big 12 history to be named to the All-Defensive team in three seasons.
- “I always believed in myself,” Carter told NCAA.com’s Andy Katz. “I always had a certain group of people that believed in me. I’ve always worked as hard as I can just to be the best I could.”
No. 15 — F Lamont West | 6-8, 230, so.
A terrific offensive rebounder, West is averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s made 33 percent of his 85 3-point attempts. He ranks second on the Mountaineers with 30 offensive boards.
West has scored in double figures in eight of the last nine games. His mom, Tonya, was a four-year starter at Purdue from 1993-96 and led the Boilermakers to a ’94 Final Four appearance.
No. 4 — G Daxter Miles Jr. | 6-3, 200, sr.
Similar to Carter, Miles is another reason West Virginia’s press is so effective. Miles has 28 steals this year, which ranks sixth in the Big 12. He’s averaging 13.2 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds, only shooting 27 percent from the 3-point arc.
From Baltimore, Miles is WVU’s top slasher, taking 33.5 percent of his shots at the rim where he is a strong finisher according to hoop-math.com. He crossed the 1,000-point plateau in December, becoming the 51st player in program history to accomplish the feat.
No. 50 — F Sagaba Konate | 6-8, 260, so.
Ranking second in the Big 12 in blocked shots (47), Konate (pronounced Kuh-NUH-teh) is still developing his offensive presence as he alters game with his length. He’s averaging 8.9 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds. In five Big 12 games, he’s recorded 15 blocks (seven vs. Baylor).
According to hoop-math.com, Konate only shoots 33.3 percent of his shots at the rim, preferring to attempt jump shots. He’s made 49.1 percent of his shots. From Mali, he moved to the United State prior to his junior year in high school.
No. 23 — F Esa Ahmad | 6-8, 230, jr.
Ahmad missed the first 16 games of the season because he didn’t meet NCAA eligibility requirements. In his return at Texas Tech, he had 18 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes off the bench.
Against Kansas last season, Ahmad totaled 47 points and 12 rebounds in 64 minutes. The Cleveland native averaged 11.3 points in the 2016-17 season.
ONE THING WEST VIRGINIA DOES WELL
Let’s go with the obvious: West Virginia knows how to force turnovers. Behind Press Virginia, the Mountaineers have forced 338 turnovers and only allowed 355 made field goals this season. Opponents are turning the ball over on 27 percent of their possessions, the second-best mark in the country.
Beyond the usual advantages of its press defense, the Mountaineers are the best free-throw shooting team in the Big 12. They’ve made 79.4 percent of their attempts in league play.
ONE AREA WEST VIRGINIA STRUGGLES
It’s hard to find many faults for a team that won 15 straight games prior to Saturday’s one-point road loss to Texas Tech. But if there was something to nitpick, the Mountaineers allow a lot of 3-point attempts. Opposing teams are shooting 34.7 percent from behind the arc, but they are averaging more than 20 attempts per game.
MEET THE COACH
In his 36th season as a head coach, Bob Huggins is seventh on the all-time Div. I winningest coaches list with an 834-332 record. He was announced as a candidate for the Naismith Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
Back at his alma mater, Huggins has coached at West Virginia since the 2007-08 season. He’s guided the Mountaineers to three Sweet 16 appearances. During his college career at WVU, he averaged 13.2 points as a senior.
West Virginia by 4.5. It’s the first time this season that the Jayhawks will enter a game as an underdog. KU hasn’t won in Morgantown since 2013 and it certainly won’t be any easier Monday. Unlike road games at Texas and TCU, I think Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles can matchup better against KU’s guards.
My prediction: West Virginia 78, Kansas 70. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 8-8.
Returning to Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since Svi Mykhailiuk’s controversial buzzer-beater, Kansas State is still looking for its first signature win of the season when the Wildcats face Kansas at 11 a.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN).
The Wildcats (12-4, 2-2 in Big 12) will be without Kamau Stokes, who is sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury. Stokes is their third-leading scorer and has 25 more assists than any other player on the team.
Despite playing without Stokes, K-State earned an overtime home victory against Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Earlier in Big 12 play, K-State beat Iowa State on the road and lost at home to West Virginia and at Texas Tech.
As KUsports.com’s Benton Smith wrote earlier this week in his Big 12 Power Rankings, the Wildcats don’t have a win against a top-50 team in the KenPom rankings. Their best win, according to the rankings, was on the road against Vanderbilt. K-State is 48th in the latest KenPom rankings.
Fun fact: K-State has held all but two opponents below its scoring average this season. The exceptions are Vanderbilt and Oklahoma State.
Series history: Kansas leads 193-93 after winning the last five meetings. The Jayhawks own a 47-18 record against their in-state rivals inside of Allen Fieldhouse.
BREAKING DOWN KANSAS STATE
No. 32 — F Dean Wade | 6-10, 228, jr.
More comfortable playing inside of the paint, Wade is averaging 14.6 points and a team-best 6.5 rebounds. He’s taking 40 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. That’s helped him shoot a career-best 59.9 percent from the floor.
Wade has scored in double figures in 12 of the team’s 16 games this year, connecting on 14 of his 33 3-point attempts. He’s added 27 steals and 10 blocks, recording at least one steal in eight straight contests.
From St. John, Kan., Wade is the son of two athletes. His dad was a defensive back at Western Illinois (plus one season at K-State) and his mom played volleyball at Florida Southern.
- “I’m not letting little things bother me like I did my freshman and sophomore years,” Wade told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “It’s helped me be more consistent. Last year I had crazy ups and downs and my confidence was in the trash.”
No. 5 — G Barry Brown Jr. | 6-3, 195, jr.
Scoring 20-plus points in four of his last five games, Brown erupted for a career-high 38 points in Wednesday’s victory against Oklahoma State. Brown is averaging a team-high 16.9 points on 46.5 percent shooting. He’s made 31.4 percent of his attempts from behind the 3-point arc.
Known as a tough defender, Brown ranks third in the Big 12 with 34 steals (2.1 per game). His dad, Barry Sr., played college basketball at Jacksonville.
No. 20 — F Xavier Sneed | 6-5, 212, so.
In a shooting slump over his last two games, Sneed is averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds this season. Against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, the St. Louis native was 3 of 17 from the field, 0 of 7 from the 3-point line.
Taking more than half of his shots this season from behind the 3-point arc, Sneed has made 34.6 percent of his 3s. He is the Wildcats’ best free throw shooter (85.4 percent) and has snagged 25 steals this year.
ONE THING KANSAS STATE DOES WELL
The Wildcats are one of the nation’s best teams at avoiding turnovers. Kansas State is averaging 11 turnovers per game, although that number has climbed to nearly 13 per game in conference play after facing West Virginia and Texas Tech.
ONE AREA KANSAS STATE STRUGGLES
Similar to Kansas, the Wildcats have struggled to rebound on both ends of the floor. In Big 12 play, they rank ninth with a negative-7.2 rebounding margin. That includes a Big 12-worst 18.8 defensive rebounds per game, nearly five boards behind any other team in the conference.
MEET THE COACH
In his sixth season as head coach of the Wildcats, Bruce Weber has reached the NCAA Tournament three times. He’s the fifth K-State coach in school history to surpass 100 wins in the program. His contract at the school was extended through the 2020-21 season in Aug. 2017.
Prior to his time in Manhattan, Weber succeeded Bill Self at Illinois and coached there for nine years, which includes an NCAA title game loss to North Carolina in 2005.
Kansas by 12. This matchup probably lost some of its luster when KSU point guard Kamau Stokes suffered an injury. It’s tough for any team to play without its primary ball handler and even tougher to do it against your rival at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks had trouble separating themselves from Iowa State but KU should live up to its role as a heavy favorite.
My prediction: Kansas 81, Kansas State 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 8-7.
After all of the great games between Kansas and Iowa State over the past few seasons, the Cyclones are rebuilding after losing their talented senior class last year.
Leading into Tuesday night’s matchup at Allen Fieldhouse (8 p.m., ESPN2), the Cyclones lost back-to-back overtime games against Texas and Oklahoma State. Iowa State (9-5, 0-3 in Big 12) is the only winless team remaining in conference play.
“Personnel-wise, they are (different),” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “They still run some of the same stuff and they run some really good stuff.”
The Cyclones won at Allen Fieldhouse last year — “The thing I remember is just everyone’s faces in the stands being shocked,” ISU guard Donovan Jackson said — but Self said he didn’t think KU (12-3, 2-1) players would need to use it as much motivation.
“That’s not something you circle and you froth at the mouth since last April because of one game,” Self said.
Iowa State is ranked 106th by KenPom, the lowest among Big 12 teams by more than 50 spots.
Fun fact: Iowa State senior Hans Brase, a 6-foot-9 forward off the bench, played against Kansas in the 2015 World University Games. Suiting up for Germany in the gold medal game, Brase had six points, six rebounds and three assists in an 84-77 overtime loss.
Series history: Kansas leads 179-64, which includes a 51-10 mark inside of Allen Fieldhouse. Seven of the last 13 games have been decided by nine points or less with three of those in overtime.
BREAKING DOWN IOWA STATE
No. 4 — G Donovan Jackson | 6-2, 173, sr.
A guard who prefers to mostly shoot 3-pointers, Jackson is averaging a team-best 16.7 points on 41.8 percent shooting. He’s knocked down 43.5 percent of his 3-pointers and is a Big 12-best 93 percent shooter at the free throw line.
He’s averaged 23.2 points in game played away from home. Jackson has scored at least 24 points in seven games this year, only behind Oklahoma’s Trae Young among Big 12 players.
Jackson, from Iowa Western CC, scored a career-high 30 points in an overtime loss to Oklahoma State last weekend. He’s made six threes in each of the last two games.
- “I’m good with being a leader,” Jackson said. “I’ve always looked at myself as a leader. I can set the tone for everybody by how hard I work.”
No. 5 — G Lindell Wigginton | 6-2, 188, fr.
Wigginton has scored 20 points in five of his last nine games. He’s averaging 14.8 points, which is the third-best freshman scoring average in school history while shooting 40.3 percent from the 3-point arc and 66.7 percent mark at the free-throw line.
From Oak Hill Academy, Wigginton was a prep school teammate of KU freshman Billy Preston and incoming 2018 recruit David McCormack. He’s originally from Nova Scotia and his brother, Rodell, played at Buffalo.
No. 01 — PG Nick Weiler-Babb | 6-5, 205, r-jr.
A stat-sheet stuffer, Weiler-Babb is averaging 12.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. He ranks sixth nationally in assists. Only three players since the 1992-93 season have averaged at least 12 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 1 steal per game: Denzel Valentine, Kyle Collinsworth and Jesse Sanders.
Weiler-Babb (pronounced: WHY-LER) started his college career at Arkansas, transferring after his freshman season. His older brother, Chris Babb, played at Iowa State.
No. 2 — F Cameron Lard | 6-9, 225, r-fr.
A recent addition to the starting lineup, Lard is averaging 11.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. He has blocked a team-best 23 shots and is shooting 63.8 percent from the field.
According to hoop-math.com, he converts on 84 percent of his shots at the rim. He started his high school career at Landry Walker High in New Orleans, the home of a few Kansas football players. He redshirted after arriving at Iowa State last January.
ONE THING IOWA STATE DOES WELL
The Cyclones are a solid rebounding team, which is helped by their front court depth off the bench. In Big 12 games, they lead the conference with 125 rebounds (41.7 per game). A big part of that is offensive rebounding, totaling 36 second-chance points through three conference games.
ONE AREA IOWA STATE STRUGGLES
The Cyclones have trouble creating good shots when they aren’t playing at a quick pace. According to hoop-math.com, Iowa State is only shooting 46 percent in its half-court offense, the worst mark in the Big 12. Part of that is problems at the 3-point line. In three conference games, the Cyclones are shooting 17 of 60 (28.3 percent) from behind the arc.
MEET THE COACH
Steve Prohm (rhymes with Rome) is in his third season with the Cyclones with an overall 56-28 record, guiding them to two NCAA Tournament appearances. Prior to his time in Ames, Prohm was the head coach for four seasons at Murray State, finishing with a 104-29 record.
Kansas by 16. After back-to-back games against ranked opponents, the Jayhawks should have a chance to catch their breath against the Cyclones. This seems like it would be a perfect time for bounce back performances from Malik Newman or Lagerald Vick, who both struggled last week.
My prediction: Kansas 89, Iowa State 71. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 8-6.
Searching for its first win against a Top 10-ranked team since 2013, No. 16 TCU will welcome No. 10 Kansas for its third Big 12 game of the season Saturday night (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
The Horned Frogs (13-1, 1-1 in Big 12) used a Big 12 tournament win against KU last season to propel them to an NIT title. From that team, they returned their top six scorers and all five starters.
“They really have a lot of veteran experience that's rock solid,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
As far as offenses line up, TCU is first in the Big 12 in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Kansas is second in both categories. TCU is averaging 87.1 points per game and KU is at 86.8.
Tabbed third in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, the Horned Frogs won 12 straight games to open the season. That streak ended in a one-point home loss to Oklahoma before they beat Baylor in overtime earlier this week.
TCU is 22nd in the latest KenPom rankings, which is fifth in the Big 12. Kansas (11-3, 1-1) is ranked seventh, only one slot behind Texas Tech.
Fun fact: TCU has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for six straight weeks. The school record for consecutive weeks in the poll is seven, which occurred in the 1958-59 season.
Series history: Kansas leads 14-2. The Jayhawks have a 5-1 record inside of Schollmaier Arena, but lost against the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 tournament last season when Josh Jackson was suspended.
BREAKING DOWN TCU
No. 34 — G Kenrich Williams | 6-7, 210, sr.
Averaging a team-best 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds, Williams ranks third in the Big 12 in rebounding. He’s shooting 47.7 percent from the 3-point line and has dished 50 assists in 13 games.
A pesky defender, the fifth-year senior from Waco, Texas, ranks second in the conference with 35 steals. He missed the entire 2015-16 season because of a knee injury.
Out of high school, Williams had zero Div. I basketball offers. He opted to play his freshman season at New Mexico Junior College before transferring to TCU.
- “His offensive numbers have gotten better as we’ve gotten the understanding of where he needs to be and what positions to put him in,” coach Jamie Dixon said.
No. 10 — F Vlad Brodziansky | 6-11, 230, fr.
Brodziansky ranks fourth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (62.5 percent), averaging 13.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. He’s shooting 44 percent on 27 attempts from behind the 3-point arc and he’s recorded a team-high 24 blocks. He’s 30 blocks from setting a career school record.
Against Kansas last season, Brodziansky (pronunciation: BROAD-Zee-ON-ski), from Slovakia, scored a career-high 28 points in an 86-80 loss. He’s shooting 79 percent at the rim this season, according to hoop-math.com. He crossed the 1,000-point plateau earlier this year.
No. 00 — G Jaylen Fisher | 6-2, 200, so.
One of the most renown recruits to ever play for the Horned Frogs, Fisher is averaging 11.3 points and 5.6 assists per game. He’s shooting 41.7 percent from the 3-point line and a team-best 85.7 percent at the free-throw line.
He deals with albinism, an African-American with naturally blonde hair and cream-colored skin. Speaking to the Star-Telegram about it this week, Fisher said he had to build up thick skin in his childhood, but now says, “I’m pretty blessed to be even talking about this.”
No. 1 — G Desmond Bane | 6-5, 215, so.
Mostly a shooter at the rim or the 3-point line, Bane is averaging 12.6 points on 57 percent shooting. He’s connected on a ridiculous 50.8 percent of his attempts at the 3-point arc, which leads the Big 12.
In three games against Kansas last year, Bane averaged 8.7 points on 10-of-16 shooting off the bench.
ONE THING TCU DOES WELL
Returning so many players from last season, the Horned Frogs have only improved on offense. They are the best shooting team in the Big 12 and rank sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (51.4 percent). TCU is shooting 41.2 percent from the 3-point line and have only committed an average of nine turnovers in its last four games.
ONE AREA TCU STRUGGLES
It was probably shown the most in TCU’s loss to Oklahoma, but the Horned Frogs have struggled with their transition defense. According to hoop-math.com, opponents are shooting 56.7 percent in transition.
MEET THE COACH
Jamie Dixon is in his second season at TCU, where he led the school to Southwest Conference titles in his junior and senior seasons in the late 1980s. This season is the first time he’s ever returned all five starters from the previous year.
Before TCU, Dixon was the head coach at Pittsburgh for 13 seasons. He guided the Panthers to three Sweet Sixteen appearances and one trip to the Elite Eight.
Kansas by 1. Similar to Texas Tech, the Jayhawks will have to face another balanced offense against TCU. Both teams are capable of lighting up the scoreboard, so I think this game will come down to rebounding, especially on the offensive end. The fact that the losing team will already have two conference losses shows how tough the Big 12 will be this season.
My prediction: TCU 84, Kansas 81. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 8-5.
For the first time this season, Texas Tech will play in a true road game when it travels to Kansas for a battle between ranked teams at 8 p.m. Tuesday (TV: ESPN).
The 18th-ranked Red Raiders opened Big 12 play with a 24-point victory over then-ranked Baylor. Returning a large group of seniors, Tech (12-1) is ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Tech’s formula for success this season is its dominant defense. In 13 games, only two teams have scored more than 65 points: No. 23 Seton Hall and previously-ranked Nevada. In its last five games, no team has surpassed 54 points. Of course, none of those teams had an offense like the Jayhawks.
“I don’t know if you can ever prepare for Kansas until you actually play them,” TTU coach Chris Beard told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “But I do think we’ve played teams with multiple shooters on the floor at one time. So maybe we can draw a little bit from those experiences. But when you play Kansas, especially in Allen Fieldhouse, it’s a whole ‘nother monster.”
Tech senior forward Zach Smith only played four minutes against Baylor last week because of a left ankle injury. He warmed up at halftime and rode a bicycle behind the bench afterward, so he likely will have a chance to suit up vs. KU.
Fun fact: Texas Tech has started its five seniors in seven games this season. The Red Raiders and Mercer are the only two schools to start five seniors in a game this season.
Series history: Kansas leads 33-4. The Jayhawks have a 17-0 record inside of Allen Fieldhouse against the Red Raiders and have won the last 16 contests, dating back to 2009.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS TECH
No. 12 — G Keenan Evans | 6-3, 190, sr.
Selected third-team All-Big 12 last season, Evans has only improved. He’s averaging a team-best 16.6 points on 37.9 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Evans has dished a team-high 3.6 assists per game.
Evans has scored 10-plus points in 37 of his last 39 games and ranks 26th in Tech history in all-time scoring. He had 41 points and seven assists in two games against KU last year.
His dad, Kenny, was a high jumper at Arkansas and advanced to the finals of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
- “I think what we’re seeing now is a veteran player starting to get to a level where he’s playing with a great consistency,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “No one has ever questioned Keenan’s talent. He’s had huge games all the way back to his freshman year playing for coach (Tubby) Smith. Now, he’s getting himself into a different neighborhood of greatness, and it’s call consistency.”
No. 2— G Zhaire Smith | 6-5, 195, fr.
Playing off of the bench, Smith averages 10.7 points in 22.6 minutes per game. He’s shooting 65 percent from the field, only attempting 11 3-pointers. He grabs 4.1 rebounds each night and is tied for the team lead with 15 blocks.
From Garland, Texas, Smith attempts 68.8 percent of his shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com. He had 15 points in the team’s Big 12 opener vs. Baylor.
No. 10 — G Niem Stevenson | 6-5, 205, sr.
Averaging 8.7 points and 2.8 rebounds on 46.4 percent shooting. He’s 12 of 30 from the 3-point arc. From Dallas, he transferred to Tech from Seward County CC in Liberal, Kansas.
Against KU last season, Stevenson totaled 24 points and 12 rebounds in 44 minutes.
No. 23 — G Jarrett Culver | 6-5, 190, fr.
Entering off the bench in most games, Culver has made an immediate impact with 10.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line and has grabbed 20 steals.
From Lubbock, he’s one of the top local players to play at Tech since Craig Ehlo. One area that he’s struggled is the free-throw line, where he’s only made 54.8 percent of his 31 attempts.
ONE THING TEXAS TECH DOES WELL
Forcing more than 18 turnovers each night, the Red Raiders lead the Big 12 — and rank second in the country — in scoring defense by allowing only 58.2 points per game. They don’t give up many transition buckets. Opposing teams are only shooting 29.9 percent from the 3-point line against Tech.
ONE AREA TEXAS TECH STRUGGLES
The Red Raiders do have some trouble at the free-throw line, making only 67.2 percent of their attempts as a team. They’ve made 302 trips to the charity stripe, which ranks second in the Big 12 behind West Virginia.
MEET THE COACH
The Red Raiders are ranked for the first time since the 2009-10 season when current coach Chris Beard was an associate head coach under Pat Knight. Beard is in his second season as head coach at Tech after spending one season at Arkansas-Little Rock.
His first head coaching position was at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. Before returning to Tech to become the head coach, he briefly accepted the head coaching position at UNLV.
Kansas by 7. After passing one tough defensive test last week, the Jayhawks will play the top defense in the Big 12. The difference between Texas, which had Mo Bamba in the paint, and Tech is how the Red Raiders play against guards. They suffocate the 3-point line and grab a lot of steals. With Tech’s talented bench, I think this is a much tougher matchup for KU.
My prediction: Kansas 71, Texas Tech 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 7-5.
It was no surprise when the Kansas men’s basketball team was a unanimous selection to win the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll. Bill Self, unable to vote for his own team, cast the only vote against the Jayhawks in early October.
Entering Big 12 play this week, as the Jayhawks aim for their 14th consecutive conference title, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he would change his vote if he was given the chance.
“I mean if I had to revote, I’d pick Oklahoma right now,” Huggins said on the March Madness 365 podcast with Andy Katz earlier this week.
Oklahoma (10-1, ranked No. 12) will open Big 12 play on the road against unbeaten TCU at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Sooners have caught everyone’s attention with sensational freshman point guard Trae Young and their high-flying offense.
In non-conference play, the Sooners earned wins over Wichita State, USC, Northwestern and Oregon.
“I would say right now, Oklahoma is the best team in the league,” Huggins said. “They’ve got a great coach in Lon Kruger. They’ve got the best player, probably, in the country surrounded by a whole bunch of veteran guys. … They are loaded inside. They do a great job with their post guys.”
Young leads the nation with 28.7 points and 10.4 assists per game. He tied an NCAA record with 22 assists in a win against Northwestern State earlier this month.
The 6-foot-2 point guard has scored at least 26 points in his last nine games. That includes a 29-point, 10-assist performance vs. Wichita State in a 91-83 victory. The Shockers had already picked up wins over a pair of Big 12 teams, Oklahoma State and Baylor, giving coach Gregg Marshall a unique look at how Young may look in Big 12 play.
“What I was most impressed with is his touch on passing,” Marshall said of Young on the podcast. “He’s got a real feel for the game and he sees things a little bit before most young players see them. Then he has a great touch. He’s kind of a combination between Chris Paul and Steve Nash, along with a Steph Curry jump shot.”
Earlier this week, ahead of the start of Big 12 play, Self said he thought a 13-5 record would win the conference “free and clear.”
“Everybody in the league is going to lose two in a row,” Self said before the Jayhawks’ win at Texas. “That's going to happen. The league's too good. How you respond to those negative performances will probably be very important.”
In this week’s AP poll, six Big 12 teams are ranked in the Top 25, including four in the top 12. Two more schools are receiving votes, but outside of the Top 25.
At the beginning of the season, there was belief that it would be a rebuilding year for most Big 12 schools. Look no further than Oklahoma State, which lost its coach and best player from last year, and posted a 10-2 record entering league action.
Before West Virginia’s 85-79 road win over Oklahoma State on Friday, Huggins praised the Cowboys as proof of how strong the Big 12 will look this year.
“They got picked 10th in our league and I guess it was, ‘We don’t know whether the guy can coach or not,’” Huggins said, referring to first-year OSU coach Mike Boynton. “I can help them with that now after watching the tape. He can really coach. If they are the 10th best team in our league, which they are not … I don’t know who is 10, though. Maybe us. What a great league.”
About two months following the start of the college basketball season, conference play has finally arrived in the Big 12. The Kansas Jayhawks’ road to a 14th-straight conference title begins on the road Friday night against Texas (8 p.m., ESPN2) at the Frank Erwin Center.
The Longhorns (9-3) have won five of their last six games, suffering losses this season to Duke, Gonzaga and Michigan. Their formula this season is dominant defense and scoring inside of the paint.
Andrew Jones, who missed the last four games with a right wrist fracture, is a game-time decision according to Jon Rothstein of Fan Rag Sports. Jones, a sophomore who nearly left for the NBA Draft last spring, is averaging a team-high 15.3 points through eight games while shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line.
In the preseason Big 12 coaches poll, Texas was picked to finish fourth. The Longhorns are unranked in the latest AP poll, but fifth among teams receiving votes outside of the Top 25.
Kansas has won 26 straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season.
Fun fact: Texas freshman point guard Matt Coleman played at Oak Hill Academy alongside KU freshman Billy Preston and Class of 2018 signee David McCormack.
Series history: Kansas leads 29-8. The Jayhawks have won the last seven meetings with their last loss in 2014.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS
No. 4 — F Mohamed Bamba | 6-11, 225, fr.
A McDonald’s All-American, Bamba is averaging 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor. According to hoop-math.com, he’s made 74.4 percent of shots at the rim.
Entering Big 12 play, Bamba is third in the nation with 4.27 blocks per game. Featuring a ridiculous 7-foot-9 wingspan, he has 15 more blocks than any other player in the conference.
Bamba has four double-doubles this season. From Harlem, N.Y. he hasn’t been able to stretch his range to the 3-point line, making only 3 of his 19 attempts.
- “He’s a handful,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “He’s a handful in the post. Obviously he’s one of the nation’s top shot-blockers, he takes up a lot of space down there. He helps them with their backline defense to correct mistakes that happen on the perimeter.”
No. 21 — F Dylan Osetkowski | 6-9, 245, jr.
Osetkowski sat out all of last season after transferring from Tulane. He’s averaging 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds, shooting 25 percent from the 3-point line. He’s scored 16-plus points in five of his last six games.
His older brother, Cory, played basketball at Columbia University. Osetkowski (pronounced: oh-set-COW-skee) averaged 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in his sophomore season at Tulane. He only had two scholarship offers out of high school.
No. 12— G Kerwin Roach II | 6-4, 180, jr.
Averaging 10.9 points and 3.0 assists per game, Roach is making a team-best 82.1 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. Roach is one of the Longhorns’ top perimeter defenders, snagging a team-best 16 steals.
From North Shore High in Texas, Roach played on the same high school basketball team as KU football standout Dorance Armstrong. He won two Texas state championships in the triple jump, including a jump of 50 feet, 8 inches in a meet on the UT campus.
ONE THING TEXAS DOES WELL
The Longhorns rank seventh in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 60.4 points per game. Only Duke, Gonzaga and VCU have scored more than 60 points against them. With Bamba in the paint to protect the rim, Texas guards can spend their time guarding the 3-point line. Opposing teams are only shooting 28.2 percent from behind the arc and 37.4 percent from the field.
ONE AREA TEXAS STRUGGLES
Texas is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country through its first 12 games of the season. The Longhorns are making a lowly 27.8 percent from the 3-point line and they are missing their best outside shooter, sophomore Andrew Jones, because of a fractured wrist.
MEET THE COACH
In his third season with Texas, Shaka Smart earned his 200th career coaching victory in early December. He coached for six seasons at VCU, which included a run to the Final Four in 2011. Six of his eight previous teams have advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas by 4. The Longhorns will present a tough defensive challenge for the Jayhawks, especially with their ability to guard the 3-point line. In their past six games, the Longhorns have allowed more than 60 points once. Even if KU is held below its scoring average, can Texas fight off its own scoring troubles?
My prediction: Kansas 68, Texas 59. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 6-5.
Winning three of its last four games, Stanford has started to bounce back from a slow start to the season. The Cardinal, dealing with a couple of injuries, was ranked fifth in the preseason Pac-12 media poll.
Led by redshirt junior Reid Travis, the leading scorer in the Pac-12, the Cardinal are looking for its first victory against a Power Five opponent this season heading into Thursday’s game against Kansas in Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center (10 p.m. CT, ESPN2).
The Cardinal (6-6) have played the last 10 games without Dorian Pickens, who averaged 12.6 points last year, and Marcus Sheffield (6.7 points per game last season). That’s left Stanford thin in the backcourt and caused problems with its number of turnovers.
"We can’t become passive," Haase said. "We do need to be the aggressor. We need to be good enough to make those plays. We’ll find out if we are good enough at this point to be aggressive and make those plays without turning the basketball over.”
Fun fact: This is the second season of a four-year series between the Cardinal and Jayhawks. On Dec. 1, 2018, the two teams will meet in Lawrence. In 2019, Stanford will host a home game at Maples Pavilion.
Series history: Kansas leads 9-3, which includes an 89-74 victory at Allen Fieldhouse last year when Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk combined for 28 points. The Jayhawks are 0-2 against the Pac-12 in non-conference play this season.
BREAKING DOWN STANFORD
No. 22 — F Reid Travis | 6-8, 245, r-jr.
One of the most talented players in the Pac-12, Travis eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier during a victory over San Francisco on Sunday. Travis is averaging 22.2 points and 7.3 rebounds, shooting 53.4 percent from the floor and 71.3 percent at the free-throw line.
Travis was 19 of 22 at the free-throw line in a loss to Kansas last season, setting a record for most free throws attempted by an opponent at Allen Fieldhouse. The Minneapolis native has attempted 101 free throws this season, only 31 attempts behind the entire KU team.
He’s tried to extend his range to the 3-point line, shooting 25 percent on 24 attempts from behind the arc. He received an extra year of eligibility after the NCAA approved his medical hardship petition.
- "He’s a monster," Stanford coach Jarod Haase said. "He’s a heck of a player. We’re able to free him up some, but a lot of it he does on his own."
No. 10 — F Michael Humphrey | 6-9, 245, sr.
Ranking fourth in the Pac-12 in rebounding, Humphrey is averaging a team-best 8.7 boards per game He’s recorded three double-doubles, averaging 10.9 points.
Humphrey, who was a high school quarterback in Phoenix, is shooting 11 of 20 from the 3-point line this season. He had nine points and six rebounds in 23 minutes vs. Kansas last year.
No. 1— G Daejon Davis | 6-3, 175, fr.
A slashing point guard, Davis attempts 56 percent of his shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com. Davis is averaging 9.7 points, 4.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds in his first collegiate season.
From Seattle, he’s struggled with ball handling at times, committing 54 turnovers in 10 games. That includes 28 turnovers in his last four games.
ONE THING STANFORD DOES WELL
Beyond earning trips to the free throw line (thanks to Travis), the Cardinal are shooting 52 percent on two-point shots. Stanford can overpower opponents in the paint with its talented forwards.
ONE AREA STANFORD STRUGGLES
As a team that likes to feed the post, Stanford has trouble with turnovers. The Cardinal average 16.5 turnovers per game, allowing opposing teams to start fast breaks. Stanford peaked with 28 turnovers in a loss to Portland State, but has 15 or more turnovers in five straight games.
MEET THE COACH
In his second season with the Cardinal, the former Kansas guard earned his 100th career coaching victory in Sunday’s victory over San Francisco. Jerod Haase had an 80-53 record in four seasons at UAB, which included one NCAA Tournament appearance.
Haase ranks 11th in KU program history in steals (174) and 13th in 3-pointers (156).
Kansas by 15. Travis is a magnet for drawing fouls and will likely be the toughest test for Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot to stay out of foul trouble. Unlike fellow Pac-12 teams Washington and Arizona State, the Jayhawks should have a huge advantage with their backcourt. I expect to see a lot of double teams in the post, forcing Stanford to shoot from the 3-point line.
My prediction: Kansas 83, Stanford 64. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 5-5.
Long before Svi Mykhailiuk swished the game-winning shot against Nebraska, he had to beat the clock on another season-altering decision.
Back in May, Mykhailiuk announced to the world that he was returning to school for his senior season just a few hours ahead of the NBA Draft deadline.
The 6-foot-8, 205-pound Mykhailiuk only played one day at the NBA Draft combine because of an ankle injury, but he spent the following weeks weighing his options on whether to try to reach his dream of playing in the NBA or finishing his collegiate career at Kansas.
He did his best to gather as much information as he could from NBA teams during his interviews and workouts after the combine. On the day of his decision to return to KU, he went through a workout beforehand for the New York Knicks.
After choosing to return for his senior season, Mykhailiuk has looked like a different player. Through the first 11 games of the season, he ranks third on the team with 16.5 points per game, shooting 48.1 percent from the 3-point line. He’s nearly doubled his scoring average from last year.
The biggest lesson he learned from the combine and workouts, when he received feedback from teams, was that he needed to play more aggressive.
“You just try to get better every day in every aspect of your game whatever you’re working on,” Mykhailiuk said before the season. “It’s just self improvement.”
Beyond scoring, Mykhailiuk looks like a much better defender on the perimeter. No longer can opposing teams target him for drives. He has 13 steals and three blocks on defense, adding 3.6 rebounds per game.
Even including a poor second half in a loss to Arizona State, he has a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“The things that the NBA needs to see from him are the things that we want him to do,” KU coach Bill Self said at the Big 12 media day in October. “It’s not anything different — ‘Be more aggressive. Play to your athletic ability. Be able to drive the score. Don’t just be a stationary shooter.’ These are things that we work on every day with him.”
Mykhailiuk wasn’t walking into the pre-draft process blind. He had some familiarity with the combine, watching it on TV when Cheick Diallo was invited in 2016.
But he had to cut his own experience short. He injured his ankle when he shot a floater in the lane and had an awkward landing — “I wanted to play but I couldn’t."
When NBA teams provide feedback, it usually resonates with players. Self compared it to a parent telling their child something they need to do, but “as soon as somebody else says, ‘Hey, you should be doing this,’ they are like going, ‘Yeah, well great idea.’”
Along with the opportunity to showcase his talent for NBA teams, Mykhailiuk said he really enjoyed the interviewing process.
“You get to know a lot of people,” Mykhailiuk said. “Sometimes you see NBA legends like Magic Johnson. It was great.”
Waiting to make his decision until the 11th-hour, Mykhailiuk wanted to be assured that he would be drafted. He’s only 20 years old, which gives him an advantage over other seniors who are a few years older.
“If somebody tells you they are going to pick you in the first round, why wouldn’t you go?” Mykhailiuk said.
Once Mykhailiuk decided he was going to return to college — Devonte’ Graham was one of the first people he told — he said he hasn’t looked back. Growing up in Ukraine, Mykhailiuk watched the NBA and Euroleague on his computer. He said reaching the NBA has been a goal since he was 16.
Back in Lawrence, he’s off to the best season of his career.
“For me,” Mykhailiuk said, "I came back and I know what I can expect for next year.”