Off to the program’s first 8-0 start since 1974, Arizona State has been one of the top surprises throughout college basketball. Ranked No. 16, it’s the first time ASU has entered the Associated Press poll since the 2008-09 season.
Highlighted by a high-powered offense, the Sun Devils have picked up wins against San Diego State, Kansas State and Xavier leading into Sunday’s matchup against Kansas (1 p.m., ESPN) at Allen Fieldhouse.
"Just with them coming off the loss to Washington, I know they've had some really stiff, tough practices and I know coach (Bill) Self has motivated them,'' ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "And then you have Allen (Fieldhouse) and the advantage that that building is, it's going to be something for our players to experience.”
In the preseason Pac-12 poll, Arizona State was picked to finish sixth, returning three starters.
Fun fact: According to Stats Inc., Arizona State was the first Pac-12 team to score 90 points in six straight games since at least 1996. The Sun Devils average 91.4 points per game.
Series history: Kansas leads 5-4. The Jayhawks won the last meeting in 2003 during the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Kirk Heinrich scored 24 points in a 108-76 win.
BREAKING DOWN ARIZONA STATE
No. 0 — G Tra Holder | 6-1, 180, sr.
One of the most dangerous scorers in the Pac-12, Holder leads Arizona State with 20.3 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting. He’s made 45 percent of his attempts from behind the 3-point line and knocked down 85 percent of his free throws.
Holder, who scored 40 points earlier this season against Xavier, ranks 13th on the school’s all-time leading scorer list.
From Brentwood, Calif., Holder says he wears the No. 0 because “no excuses.”
- "He just feels like no one can really stay in front of him," ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "He's got multiple moves he can go to, his 3-point game is making defenses honor that. He's great and crafty at finishing. How much he's improved and how much he's grown and the player he's become, I'm just so proud of him."
No. 11 — G Shannon Evans II | 6-1, 172, sr.
A transfer from Buffalo, Evans followed Hurley to Arizona State. In his senior season, he’s averaging 18.6 points and 5.3 assists. He’s shooting 42.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Evans leads the Sun Devils with 14 steals and is their top free-throw shooter with an 87.2 percent mark. He’s averaging 36 minutes per game.
No. 23 — F Romello White | 6-8, 235, r-fr.
An academic redshirt last season, White is averaging 16.6 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 71.2 percent from the floor, taking nearly all of his shots right at the rim.
White, who has a 7-foot wingspan, has recorded three double-doubles this year. He’s taken the most free-throw attempts on the team (70) — shooting 60 percent. He was coached in AAU by Jerry Stackhouse.
ONE THING ARIZONA STATE DOES WELL
There’s a couple of reasons the Sun Devils are so dangerous offensively. They know how to earn trips to the free-throw line and they are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country. Arizona State has made 41.6 percent of its attempts from behind the arc, which ranks 22nd in the nation.
ONE AREA ARIZONA STATE STRUGGLES
The Sun Devils allow a lot of 3-pointers and they haven’t been great at defending the arc throughout the season. Opposing teams are shooting 35.8 percent from 3-point range in 215 attempts (27 per game). Arizona State hasn’t played great defense in transition either.
MEET THE COACH
Bobby Hurley is in his third season with the Sun Devils, looking for his first winning season with the school. Previously, he coached two seasons at Buffalo, which included an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Hurley starred at Duke where he won two NCAA titles and remains the NCAA all-time assists leader (1,076). His brother, Dan, coaches at Rhode Island, and his dad, Bob Sr., was a legendary high school coach in New Jersey.
Kansas by 12. I think the Jayhawks’ offensive struggles were a little overblown last game against Washington. Not many teams will be able to replicate Washington’s zone and it took an off night for several of KU’s shooters. Defensively, I think there were more holes that showed than a week ago, which ASU should look to exploit.
My prediction: Kansas 87, Arizona State 78. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 4-3.
The price of 13 consecutive Big 12 titles and a lofty national ranking is that Kansas will almost always be circled on the calendar by opponents.
Look no further than Wednesday’s 74-65 loss against Washington in Kansas City, Mo., where the Huskies tried to make a statement with their play on both sides of the court. After the final horn sounded, the Huskies met in the middle of the court to celebrate. That celebration continued after the handshake line with David Crisp and Noah Dickerson screaming in joy into an ESPN camera. They could even be heard through the walls of their locker room.
After scoring 10 points, Crisp mentioned how locked in they were during practices leading into the game.
Similar to other blue bloods, there’s something much different, and memorable, about beating the Jayhawks.
When TCU topped Kansas last year in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament — Josh Jackson sat because of a suspension — it served as a turning point for the Horned Frogs. Their bid for the NCAA Tournament fell short, but they went on to win the NIT.
“It definitely put us on the map,” TCU guard Kenrich Williams said at Big 12 media day in October. “I remember just going back to school and everybody congratulating us about beating Kansas.”
The Horned Frogs, who are ranked No. 20 in the nation with a 10-0 record, have continued to use that game as motivation that they can beat anybody. As far as ranking his favorite wins, Williams said the win over KU was “kind of close, actually” to the NIT championship.
“It’s one of the top teams in nation, so you always try to bring your best because you know they are going to play great,” TCU forward Vlad Brodziansky said. “You have to bring your best game to compete against them.
“It was a great feeling to beat Kansas, especially here (at Sprint Center), where it’s basically like their home crowd. It’s a great feeling.”
Last February, Iowa State snapped KU’s 51-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse with an overtime victory.
ISU players remember that they were trailing for the majority of the game until they heated up from the 3-point line in the second half. Then there was the added satisfaction of winning on KU’s home court.
“It got silent and everybody was covering their face up and stuff like that,” Iowa State guard Donovan Jackson said. “It was just a cool moment. … The thing I remember is just everyone’s faces in the stands being shocked.”
Jackson said it was “definitely” his favorite regular season win. He saw it as a chance to prove himself, scoring 10 points off of the bench.
“It kind of boosted my confidence,” Jackson said. “I’m a pretty confident guy. It just gave me some reassurance that I do belong out there.”
Of course, teams celebrate wins against Kansas differently. Put West Virginia point guard Jevon Carter in the group that doesn’t celebrate wins against KU any differently than he would another team.
The Mountaineers split their season series vs. KU last year, earning a win in Morgantown and losing in overtime at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s just a regular game,” Carter said. “It’s not like we beat them in no championship. It’s just another win.”
Only a few days after facing Jim Boeheim and Syracuse’s zone defense, the Kansas basketball team will see plenty of similarities against Mike Hopkins, a longtime Syracuse assistant, and Washington’s new zone defense.
The Huskies (6-2) have won their last four games, all of them at home against mid-major competition. But they’ve struggled to an 0-2 record against Power Five opponents heading into Wednesday’s game against Kansas (8 p.m., ESPN2) at Sprint Center.
One of the differences with the Huskies’ defense is how well they steal the ball. Washington is on pace to set a new school record, averaging 9.1 steals per game, which leads the Pac-12. The Huskies have double-digit steal totals in four games this season.
“Very few times in life you have opportunities to play a team of the caliber of a Kansas,” Hopkins said. “They’re No. 2 in the country and that’s why you come to these big schools and have these opportunities. I think the guys will be excited.”
Fun fact: As previously noted by KUsports.com’s Tom Keegan, the Kansas-Washington game was scheduled as a favor to Michael Porter Jr., a one-time commit to UW, as a potential homecoming game.
Series history: Kansas leads 8-1. The Jayhawks have won the last four meetings with their most recent meeting in 2008. Cole Aldrich had 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in a 73-54 win. UW’s Isaiah Thomas had 17 points.
BREAKING DOWN WASHINGTON
No. 5 — G Jaylen Nowell | 6-4, 200, fr.
From Seattle, Nowell has emerged as one of Washington’s go-to scorers in his first collegiate season. He’s averaging 17.9 points on 52 percent shooting, adding 3.9 rebounds per game.
Nowell is very efficient with his mid-range jumper, knocking down 49.1 percent of those shots according to hoop-math.com. He’s an even better finisher at the rim, which makes him tough to stop once he starts driving downhill.
He scored 32 points in the team’s season opener, setting the UW freshman debut record. He won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2015 FIBA U16 championships.
- “Jaylen Nowell is a special player, and I’ve been around a lot of great players,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “He’s got the eyes of a scorer. You can’t really explain it, he just does it. He gets those killer eyes.”
No. 15 — F Noah Dickerson | 6-8, 245, jr.
Dickerson is averaging nearly a double-double in 24.6 minutes per game, posting 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds a night. He leads the Huskies with 29 offensive rebounds and is shooting 67 percent from the floor.
According to hoop-math.com, he takes nearly two-thirds of his shots at the rim, which helps him earn trips to the free-throw line. A 73 percent free-throw shooter, he ranks 13th in the nation with 67 attempts. He originally committed to Florida, but switched after Billy Donovan left for the NBA.
No. 4 — G Matisse Thybulle | 6-5, 195, jr.
Only two players in the country, including West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, average more than his 3.5 steals per game. In addition to being a pesky defender with a 7-foot wingspan, Thybulle leads the Huskies with 18 blocks.
Thybulle, who has started 73 straight games, is averaging 11.3 points and 2.9 assists on 39 percent shooting. He’s made 12 of 44 attempts from behind the 3-point line.
ONE THING WASHINGTON DOES WELL
Washington ranks 11th in the country in free throw attempts, averaging an impressive 29 free throws per game. As a team, the Huskies are shooting 72.2 percent from the charity stripe. Kansas doesn’t foul often, especially with its limited depth, so it will certainly be an area to watch for both teams.
ONE AREA WASHINGTON STRUGGLES
Through the first eight games of the season, the Huskies have done a poor job of defending the 3-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 38.3 percent from behind the arc. One of the pitfalls of a zone defense is that they will allow a lot of 3-point attempts. Washington ranks 295th in the country in 3-point defense.
MEET THE COACH
Mike Hopkins spent 22 seasons as an assistant at Syracuse and was the designated replacement for Jim Boeheim, if the longtime coach had opted to retire. A Southern California native, Hopkins started at guard for Syracuse in the early ‘90s.
Known for his intensity, Hopkins has implemented a 2-3 zone at Washington. "I know the benefits of it,” Hopkins said. “The biggest thing I want to do is control tempo. So if you're fast, I can slow you down; if you're slow, I can speed you up.”
Kansas by 21. The Jayhawks probably had no better preparation for Mike Hopkins’ schemes than facing Syracuse last weekend. Facing a similar zone defense, I think it only plays to KU’s advantage.
My prediction: Kansas 86, Washington 61. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 4-2.
In the preseason ACC media poll, Syracuse was picked to finish 10th because it had to replace six of its top seven scorers from last season. So far, no problem.
The Orange (6-0) have frustrated opponents with their 2-3 zone, which features 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu in the middle of the paint. But it will be a different challenge for Syracuse when it tries to contain the Kansas offense at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN) at American Airlines Arena in Miami.
“We'll try to attack this a little differently than what we would most conventional zones,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Syracuse will be shorthanded, similar to Kansas, after senior guard Geno Thorpe announced Friday that he was leaving the program. Thorpe was averaging six points and 14.3 minutes per game, leaving the Orange with only eight scholarship players.
Fun fact: Kansas and Syracuse are among five schools in the nation with undefeated men’s and women’s basketball programs. The other three: Florida State, Villanova and Mississippi State.
Series history: Syracuse leads, 3-2. The Orange, which beat KU in the 2003 national championship game, last played Kansas in 2008 at Sprint Center. Syracuse won 89-81 in overtime behind 25 points from Jonny Flynn.
BREAKING DOWN SYRACUSE
No. 25 — G Tyus Battle | 6-6, 205, so.
Despite playing through a lower back bruise in the last week, Battle has been dominant all season. He’s averaging 19.7 points while shooting 36.7 percent from the 3-point line. He is second on the team with nine steals.
According to hoop-math.com, Battle is only taking 18 percent of his shots at the rim, preferring mid-range jumpers and threes.
Originally committed to Michigan, Battle won a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA U-17 World Championship.
- "When I start playing basketball, I get pretty intense," Battle said. "Especially me showing that leadership role this year, you have to come into the game with that intensity and that passion for the game. I feel like if I do that, it's contagious.”
No. 23 — G Frank Howard | 6-5, 205, jr.
After averaging less than five points in his first two seasons, Howard has played a much bigger role for the Orange this year. He’s averaging 15.7 points in six starts, shooting 31 percent from the 3-point line with a team-best six assists per game.
Howard, who has a 2.25 assist-to-turnover ratio, hounds opposing guards with his defense at the top of Syracuse’s zone. He’s already recorded 15 steals, which ranks among the top 50 in the country.
No. 11 — F Oshae Brissett | 6-8, 210, fr.
Brissett has already recorded three double-doubles in his freshman season, averaging 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
From Findlay Prep in Nevada, Brissett is only shooting 32.4 percent from the field, including a 6-for-24 mark from deep. He leads the Orange with 19 offensive rebounds.
ONE THING SYRACUSE DOES WELL
In a combination of their zone defense and length among forwards, the Orange make it very difficult for opponents to score in the paint. They average 7.3 blocks per game, highlighted by 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu (18 blocks), and opposing teams are only shooting 35.7 percent from the field.
According to hoop-math.com, Syracuse blocks 22.9 percent of the shot at the rim, which ranks fourth in the country.
ONE AREA SYRACUSE STRUGGLES
There are very few solid 3-point shooters in Syracuse’s lineup. Through the first six games, the Orange are shooting 29 percent from behind the arc in 103 attempts — ranking 314th in the nation. In the last three games, they are a combined 10 for 44 from long distance.
MEET THE COACH
Jim Boeheim is the second-winningest coach in the country with a 909-357 record. He had 101 wins vacated by the NCAA because of compliance violations.
In his 42nd season with his alma mater, Boeheim led the Orange to a national title in 2003 and five Final Four appearances, most recently in 2016.
Kansas by 10. It’ll be a step up in talent for the Jayhawks, playing a defense that’s comparable to Kentucky with its length. The Orange are fresh off a two-point home win against Maryland in the Big 10/ACC Challenge, but haven’t faced an offense near as dangerous as KU. How well can the Jayhawks shoot from the 3-point line against a talented 2-3 zone?
My prediction: Kansas 75, Syracuse 62. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 3-2.
Feast week certainly lived up to the hype with some excellent non-conference games across the country through midseason tournaments. The PK80 tournament in Portland was a nice touch for Nike schools, giving college basketball a chance to shine during college football season.
Welcome to this season’s first edition of the college basketball blue bloods update, where I’ll take a quick bi-weekly glance at the Top 10 teams in the country.
Without further ado, we’ll take a look at this week's top teams (based on the Associated Press poll):
It’s a shame Marvin Bagley III didn’t have an opportunity to play much in the Champions Classic because of an eye injury, but he’s more than made up for it. Facing Texas and Florida in back-to-back games, Bagley combined for 64 points and 30 rebounds.
On a team with a lot of freshmen, Bagley, who reclassified in August, looks a level above everyone else. How do you stop him? “I have no idea,” Florida coach Mike White said at halftime Sunday. The Blue Devils have lots of room for improvement, especially defensively, but they’ve shown a lot of poise for such a young team in crunch time.
Record: 8-0. Next: Wednesday at Indiana.
The Jayhawks scored 100-plus points in consecutive games for the first time since January 2003 in wins over Texas Southern and Oakland. Despite playing with limited depth, they are shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line and limiting turnovers.
All five starters are averaging at least 12 points per game, while Devonte Graham ranks second in the nation with 9.2 assists a night.
Record: 5-0. Next: Tuesday vs. Toledo.
3. Michigan State
Miles Bridges was a little banged up, but that didn’t stop the Spartans from taking first place in their bracket of the PK80 tournament. In a 63-45 victory over North Carolina, the Spartans held UNC to 24.6 percent shooting, its worst percentage in school history.
In three games against DePaul, UConn and UNC, the Spartans held their opponents to 28 percent shooting, including a 21 percent mark from the 3-point line. That will make up for some of their own troubles on offense, averaging 17 turnovers per game.
Record: 5-1. Next: Thursday vs. Notre Dame.
How good was Villanova’s defense in the championship game of the Battle for Atlantis? Playing against Northern Iowa, the Wildcats didn’t allow any free throws in a 64-50 victory. On offense, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are averaging more than 18 points per game.
A little unrelated to Villanova’s undefeated start to the season, the Wildcats will face Kansas in a home-and-home series beginning in 2018.
Record: 6-0. Next: Wednesday vs. Penn.
5. Notre Dame
Coach Mike Brey let loose in the Maui Invitational, standing on the sidelines in a t-shirt and shorts with tennis shoes for each game. After the Irish won the championship game, he returned to the locker room shirtless. Nothing wrong with having fun after a win.
As far as play on the court, 6-foot-6 senior Bonzie Colson has certainly lived up to the hype. In wins over Chaminade, LSU and Wichita State, Colson produced 60 points and 30 rebounds with only two turnovers. Martinas Geben made the game-winning free throws to complete a comeback against the Shockers, 67-66.
Record: 6-0. Next: Thursday at Michigan State.
The Gators were a few minutes away from being the talk of college basketball for a week. But they couldn’t hold off Duke in a 87-84 loss in the championship game of their PK80 bracket, showing their fatigue in the second half. Fatigue might be the only thing that can stop that spectacular offense, which is averaging 99.5 points per game.
Junior guard Jalen Hudson is averaging 21.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds vs. Duke with a bruised rib, swollen right elbow and a right shoulder contusion. Tough team to beat.
Record: 5-1. Next: Dec. 4 vs. Florida State
Following the Champions Classic loss against the Jayhawks, the Wildcats have started to improve offensively with wins against mid-major teams. They still haven’t had a 3-point shooter emerge, which makes it hard to space the floor, but freshman Kevin Knox is averaging a team-best 16.1 points per game.
Record: 6-1. Next: Saturday vs. Harvard.
8. Wichita State
The Shockers showed their poise in a win over Cal in the Maui Invitational, storming back from an 18-point deficit in the first half. It’s even more impressive because they are still playing without Markis McDuffie, last season’s top scorer and rebounder who is recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot.
Wichita State lost in the Maui title game to Notre Dame, surrendering a 14-point lead, but coach Gregg Marshall has to be a little encouraged by a strong start to the season. Conner Frankamp is averaging 9.8 points and 2.4 assists on 30 percent shooting from the 3-point arc.
Record: 4-1. Next: Tuesday vs. Savannah State.
9. Texas A&M
The Aggies went on the road and picked up a dominant win over then-No. 10 ranked USC, 75-59. A future opponent on KU’s schedule in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Texas A&M has crushed teams with its defense. Opponents are only shooting 23.3 percent from the 3-point line.
Five players are averaging at least 10 points per game, while 6-9 junior forward DJ Hogg runs the show with a team-best 16.8 points a night. "We had a bad year last year so they're still a little asleep on us," Hogg said.
Record: 6-0. Next: Thursday vs. UT Rio Grande Valley.
Through the first five games of the season, Miami has won four of them by at least 20 points. The Hurricanes will have one of the biggest games of the week when they play host to Minnesota in the ACC/Big 10 challenge on Wednesday.
Record: 5-0. Next: Wednesday at Minnesota.
Three teams trending up
1. Minnesota (7-0): If you missed it, the Golden Gophers beat Alabama in one of the most bizarre games in college basketball history, playing the last 10 minutes 5-on-3 because Alabama’s bench was ejected during a near brawl, plus a foul out and ankle injury. But credit the Gophers for leading in the game before the craziness happened behind star forward Jordan Murphy.
2. Arizona State (6-0): The Sun Devils beat a ranked Xavier by 16 points in the Las Vegas Invitational. Tra Holder scored 40 points on 22 shots, proving himself as one of the best players in the Pac-12.
3. Baylor (5-0): Playing in Kansas City last week in the Hall of Fame Classic, the Bears left with wins against Wisconsin and Creighton. Manu Lecomte is averaging 19 points.
Three teams trending down
1. Arizona (3-3): One of the most talented teams in the country looked lost in the Battle for Atlantis. Deandre Ayton is averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds, but the Wildcats’ defense is atrocious.
2. Northwestern (4-2): Playing in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, Northwestern was demolished by Texas Tech, 85-49. Tech was picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll.
3. Stanford (3-5): Not a good start to the season for the Cardinal, which lost all three games in the PK80 to Florida, Ohio State and Portland State. Reid Travis is the bright spot, averaging 21.4 points and 7.3 boards.
Toledo will enter Tuesday night’s game against second-ranked Kansas with back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Cornell.
In both games, the Rockets (3-2) gave up big runs with poor shooting stretches. But usually shooting is their strength with three players averaging more than 15 points per game leading into their matchup at Allen Fieldhouse (7 p.m., Jayhawk TV/ESPN 3).
In the preseason poll, Toledo was picked to finish fifth in the MAC with two returning starters. Transfer Tre’Shaun Fletcher has emerged as the team’s top scorer and rebounder through the first five games.
More than 42 percent of Toledo’s shots come from behind the 3-point line, where the team is shooting 37.5 percent.
Fun fact: Toledo sophomore point guard Justin Roberts is the son of Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts. His brother Niko was a walk-on at KU. Justin, who averages 7.5 minutes per game, was the all-time leading scorer at Lawrence High School.
Series history: Kansas leads 2-0. In 2013, the last time the two schools met, the Jayhawks won 93-83. Perry Ellis, Andrew Wiggins and Naadir Tharpe all scored at least 20 points.
BREAKING DOWN TOLEDO
No. 4 — G/F Tre’Shaun Fletcher | 6-7, 205, sr.
A transfer from Colorado, Fletcher is averaging a team-best 19.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game after sitting out the 2016-17 season. He’s shooting 37.5 percent from the 3-point line and has grabbed 16 offensive boards, nearly double any other Toledo player.
Fletcher, according to hoop-math.com, is taking nearly 40 percent of his shots at the rim and he leads the Rockets in free throw attempts, highlighting his abilities on driving through the paint. In his final season at Colorado, he averaged 7.1 points and 2.4 rebounds.
The only scholarship senior on Toledo’s roster, Fletcher has recorded three double-doubles and is third in the MAC in scoring.
- “I try to have the guys hear my voice as much as possible when I’m on the court,” Fletcher said. “Naturally I’m kind of a quiet guy, so I don’t really do too much talking off the court. But on the court, I’m trying to always talk and get guys playing harder.”
No. 13 — G Jaelan Sanford | 6-4, 195, jr.
Sanford opened the season with a career-high 31-point outburst in a victory over St. Joseph’s. He’s averaging 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists through five games on 31 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
Sanford, from Evansville, Ind., has shot a combined 6 for 18 in the last two games, both losses, primarily firing from the 3-point line.
No. 35 — F Nate Navigato | 6-8, 215, jr.
The Rockets’ top 3-point shooter, Navigato, is making 40.5 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. In fact, he’s only taken 20 two-point shots compared to 42 threes.
Along with his shooting, Navigato is averaging 5.2 rebounds and ranks second on the team with four steals.
ONE THING TOLEDO DOES WELL
The Rockets have several strong free throw shooters and they are good at finding their way to the charity stripe. As a team, Toledo is shooting 77 percent from the free-throw line — ranking 35th in the country — in 106 attempts. That’s averaging more than 21 attempts per game.
ONE AREA TOLEDO STRUGGLES
Through the first five games of the season, Toledo has allowed 60 offensive rebounds to opponents. Cornell is the only team that hasn’t secured at least 10 offensive boards against the Rockets, but it shot 56 percent from the floor.
MEET THE COACH
Tod Kowalczyk is in his eighth year at Toledo, leading the Rockets to the CBI Tournament last season. They’ve earned trips to postseason tournaments in three of the last six seasons.
Before his time at Toledo, Kowalczyk coached for eight seasons at Green Bay. He was previously an assistant at Marquette and Rutgers.
Kansas by 25.5. The Rockets don’t have the best transition defense and probably don’t have the offense to keep up with the Jayhawks. Toledo has thrived at the free-throw line, but KU doesn’t foul much, especially because of its depth.
My prediction: Kansas 95, Toledo 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 2-2.
After back-to-back losses to Toledo and Syracuse, the Oakland men’s basketball team will try to keep up with third-ranked Kansas in the Jayhawks’ second game as a part of the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday (7 p.m. Jayhawk TV/ESPN3).
The Grizzlies were picked to win the Horizon League, returning four starters and adding Illinois transfer Kendrick Nunn, who ranks 15th in the nation in scoring (24 points per game) despite playing through an ankle injury. But they should receive a boost from Jalen Hayes, last year’s second-leading scorer, who will make his season debut vs. KU after a four-game academic suspension.
Oakland (2-2) was one of 16 teams in the country to return more than 70 percent of its points and rebounds from last year. The school received two votes in the preseason AP Top 25 poll.
“Historically, they’re always good,” KU coach Bill Self said. “They’re going to play fast.”
Fun fact: Sophomore Isaiah Brock didn’t play organized basketball for about five years prior to his time at Oakland. He served four years in the Army with tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, growing six inches following high school. He met Kampe at a goodwill overseas visit leading to his college basketball career. He ranks second in the Horizon League with 2.2 blocks per game.
Series history: Kansas won the one matchup between the two schools in 2009, 89-59. Marcus Morris and Xavier Henry scored 19 points apiece.
BREAKING DOWN OAKLAND
No. 1 — G Kendrick Nunn | 6-3, 193, r-sr.
Shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line, Nunn leads the Horizon League in scoring with 24 points per game. Nunn, who averages 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists, dropped a career-high 36 points in Oakland debut.
Nunn was dismissed from Illinois, where he was a 1,000-point scorer, following his junior season. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.
The left-handed Nunn averaged 15.5 points in his final season with the Illini. In high school, he starred at Simeon in Chicago alongside Jabari Parker.
- “I’m a natural scorer but I’ve been really working on my ball handling skills in the gym so I can take over the point position,” Nunn said. “We have a lot of playmakers on this team and we move the ball around well.”
No. 35 — G Martez Walker | 6-6, 185, r-sr.
Skilled at earning trips to the free-throw line (29 attempts in four games), Walker is averaging 21.8 points on 54 percent shooting. He’s shooting at a 40.7 percent clip from the 3-point line and an 82.8 percent mark at the charity stripe, along with grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game.
A talented slasher, Walker has converted 80 percent of his shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com. Walker, a Detroit native, was dismissed from Texas in 2014 after he was charged with misdemeanor assault and trespassing. Charges were dismissed in March 2015.
No. 4 — F Jalen Hayes | 6-7, 213, r-sr.
Hayes was suspended for the first four games of the season by the NCAA for academic reasons. Hayes called his suspension “frustrating” and “ridiculous” in an interview with CBS Sports because he’s still on track to graduate in December.
Last season, Hayes averaged 15.9 points and a team-high 8.0 rebounds. He had nine double-doubles in conference play and was named first-team All-Horizon League.
ONE THING OAKLAND DOES WELL
The Grizzlies have played solid defense on the 3-point line, limiting opponents to 27.8 percent shooting from deep. Oakland hasn’t played any top 3-point shooting teams, at least considered to Kansas, but its shown potential to defend the arc.
ONE AREA OAKLAND STRUGGLES
It was revealed in a 24-point loss against Syracuse, but the Grizzlies had trouble scoring in their half-court offense. They shot 12 for 37 (32 percent) on two-point shots, allowing the Orange to record an astounding 15 blocks. In Oakland’s last two games, both losses, its shot a combined 34.1 percent from the field.
MEET THE COACH
Greg Kampe is in his 34th season with Oakland, the third-most seasons with the same program in the country behind Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski. Kampe is 15th in the active wins list with 581 victories — four slots below Bill Self.
Prior to starting at Oakland in 1984, Kampe was an assistant at Toledo. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in September.
Kansas by 19.5. The Grizzlies have lots of experience and will have Jalen Hays back for the first time this season. Yet, I don’t think they have the defense capable of slowing down KU’s guards. Can the Jayhawks shoot as well as they did earlier this week?
My prediction: Kansas 95, Oakland 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 1-2.
Picked to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Texas Southern is off to an 0-4 start against three Power Five opponents and last year's national runner-up.
Playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country heading into Tuesday night’s game against Kansas (7 p.m., Jayhawk TV/ESPN3), the Tigers have lost to Gonzaga, Washington State (overtime), Ohio State and Syracuse. They only returned three players from last year’s rotation, which has inevitably led to growing pains.
One of those returners, sophomore Demontrae Jefferson, has missed the last two games because of a suspension. Jefferson, the team’s leading scorer, did not travel with the team in its road loss to Syracuse last weekend. He averaged 21 points in the first two games.
The game is the first of three campus games for the Jayhawks as a part of the HoopHall Miami Invitational.
“They're better than their record,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Fun fact: As noted by football columnist Peter King of The MMQB, the Tigers will not play a home game until 2018. As its done for the last two years, Texas Southern uses its non-conference schedule to raise money for the program through buy games. Road games by time zone: Eastern (Ohio State, Syracuse, Clemson, Oakland, Toledo), Central (Kansas, Baylor, TCU), Mountain (Wyoming, BYU) and Pacific (Gonzaga, Washington State, Oregon).
Series history: Kansas leads 3-0. The Jayhawks won their last meeting in 1985 in overtime, 78-74. KU is 15-0 against members of the SWAC.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS SOUTHERN
No. 1 — G Donte Clark | 6-4, 195, sr.
A graduate transfer from UMass, Clark is averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 assists through the first four games. He’s shooting 40 percent from the field, including a 30.4 rate at the 3-point line.
Clark, from Charlotte, originally committed to Coastal Carolina before ending up at Texas Southern for his final collegiate season. He declared for the NBA Draft following the end of last season, but never hired an agent to allow himself a chance to return.
According to hoop-math.com, Clark attempts more shots at the rim (33 percent) than nearly every player on the team. He averaged a team-high 12.6 points for UMass last season.
- "I feel like most players want to play the big schools," Clark said. "I've played ACC and SEC schools, so it's nothing I haven't seen before."
No. 5 — C Trayvon Reed | 7-2, 240, r-jr.
A Top 100, four-star prospect out of high school, Reed transferred from Auburn where he played sparingly in the 2014-15 season. In 30.5 minutes per game, Reed is averaging 11 points and 9.3 rebounds. He’s converted on 67 percent of his shots and has a team-high four blocks.
Out of high school, he originally committed to Maryland but was denied enrollment for failing to meet athletic department standards stemming from an arrest.
No. 4 — F Kevin Scott | 6-4, 205, sr.
From Omaha, Scott bounced around at a few junior colleges before arriving at Texas Southern. In four starts this season, Scott is averaging 11.3 points and 3.3 assists. He’s only shooting 21.1 percent from the 3-point arc in 19 attempts.
Scott, who prides himself on doing the team’s dirty work, earned second-team all-SWAC honors at the end of last season. He was a 44 percent 3-point shooter last year.
ONE THING TEXAS SOUTHERN DOES WELL
Playing one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the country, Texas Southern doesn’t stand out statistically in most categories. But the Tigers have done a decent job of making it to the free-throw line. They are shooting 69 percent at the charity stripe in 78 attempts.
ONE AREA TEXAS SOUTHERN STRUGGLES
Outside of Clark and Reed, the Tigers really have trouble rebounding the ball. They’ve been out-rebounded in every game, including a negative-22 margin against Gonzaga. Through four games, Texas Southern has grabbed 33 offensive boards, well below the 64 offensive rebounds its allowed to opponents.
MEET THE COACH
Mike Davis is in his sixth season as head coach at Texas Southern, which includes three NCAA Tournament appearances. His stint with the Tigers follows six seasons at UAB.
Davis is most known for replacing Bobby Knight at Indiana in 2000 and leading the Hoosiers to the national title game in his second season — a 12-point loss to Maryland.
No line was set by Tuesday morning. Unlike South Dakota State last week, I don’t think the Tigers present many tough matchups for the Jayhawks. They have undersized forwards and a 7-footer who isn’t capable of shooting from the perimeter. The Jayhawks should feel comfortable in their four-guard lineup and I think they will be more rested than they were last week.
My prediction: Kansas 93, Texas Southern 57. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 1-2.
South Dakota State earned its way into the NCAA Tournament during the past two seasons, losing in the first round to Gonzaga last year by 20 points. Four starters are back from that squad when the Jackrabbits travel to Lawrence for their first road game of the season.
Kansas coach Bill Self cautioned it would be a “hard game” for the Jayhawks against SDSU (7 p.m., Friday, Jayhawk TV) which is heavy on experience and has some familiarity playing against Power Five schools.
For the Jackrabbits (3-0), it all starts with standout junior forward Mike Daum, who has transformed himself into one of the best scorers across the country. He doesn’t miss often from the free-throw line or the 3-point line, averaging 25.1 points last season. He had 17 points in SDSU’s tournament loss to Gonzaga.
“This is one of the most anticipated college games that I’ve been involved in,” Mike Daum told the Argus Leader. “It might be the best caliber team I’ve played against and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity for our program to play one of the top teams in the nation and just kind of show everyone what we’ve been working on.”
Fun fact: Daum is the nation’s second-highest scoring junior among all NCAA divisions. He only trails Campbell’s Chris Clemons in career points (Daum has 1,460, Clemons leads with 1,526).
Series history: Kansas leads 2-0. The Jayhawks won, 85-72, in the last matchup in 1984. KU has a 14-5 all-time record against Summit League opponents.
BREAKING DOWN SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
No. 24 — F Mike Daum | 6-9, 250, jr.
Last season’s Summit League’s Player of the Year, Daum has crushed opposing defenses with his ability to score in the paint or step outside and drain 3-pointers. Daum, sometimes called “The Dauminator,” is averaging 21.3 points and 10.7 rebounds through his first three games this year.
According to hoop-math.com, he’s made 67 percent of his shot attempts at the rim. Plus, he’s made 20 of his 22 free-throw attempts. From Kimball, Neb. (population 2,496), Daum redshirted in his first year on campus.
Daum’s mother, Michele Hoppes, was a star women’s basketball player at Wyoming, leading the team in scoring and rebounding for four years.
- “He can really, really shoot,” KU coach Bill Self said. “He's got all the footwork, all the shot fakes, all that in his game. He can post, obviously, and he's an out-and-in type of player. He definitely creates some issues from a matchup standpoint.”
No. 23 — G/F Reed Tellinghuisen | 6-7, 215, sr.
Another big man who isn’t afraid to launch shots from behind the 3-point arc, Tellinghuisen is averaging 9.7 points and 7.3 rebounds on 36 percent shooting. He’s already crossed the 1,000-point mark in his career.
Tellinghuisen, according to hoop-math.com, has only attempted one of his 25 shots at the rim this season, preferring to shoot jumpers and 3-pointers.
No. 5 — G David Jenkins Jr. | 6-2, 190, fr.
A freshman out of Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, Jenkins is averaging 16.3 points off of the bench on 55 percent shooting from the 3-point line. He’s playing 23.3 minutes per game — fourth-most on the team. From Tacoma, Wash., reclassified to the Class of 2017 after starring at Wilson High.
ONE THING SOUTH DAKOTA STATE DOES WELL
Led by star forwards Mike Daum and Reed Tellinghuisen, the Jackrabbits are an excellent 3-point shooting team. For example, in their season opener they made 17 of 29 threes. Through three games, South Dakota State is shooting 44.8 percent from behind the 3-point line.
On shots inside of the 3-point arc, the Jackrabbits are actually worse. They are shooting 39 percent on two-point shots.
ONE AREA SOUTH DAKOTA STATE STRUGGLES
If the Jackrabbits don’t rebound well, they usually get beat. Last season, they posted a 16-1 record when they won the battle of the boards and were 2-16 when they were outrebounded.
South Dakota State was outrebounded by nine against UC-Irvine in an 11-point win this season, surrendering 16 offensive boards.
MEET THE COACH
In his second season with the Jackrabbits, T.J. Otzelberger replaced longtime coach Scott Nagy. Otzelberger was an assistant coach at Iowa State for eight seasons, including a stint as associate head coach to Fred Hoiberg.
Prior to his time at SDSU, he was one of the lead recruiters for Iowa State’s Georges Niang, Naz MItrou-Long, Melvin Ejim and others. Otzelberger has a 21-17 record with the Jackrabbits.
Kansas by 21.5. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jackrabbits leading for stretches in the first half. For KU, it will be a return back to their regular non-conference schedule after all the hype of playing Kentucky. SDSU will shoot a lot of threes, which could keep them in any game, but I think the Jayhawks will use transition buckets to their advantage — especially on long rebounds. And it will always be difficult for a mid-major team to prepare to face KU’s backcourt.
My prediction: Kansas 84, South Dakota State 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 1-1.
At the beginning of every college basketball season, Kentucky reloads with a talented crop of star freshmen. Check. Then there’s usually at least a couple of holdovers from the previous season, hoping to improve their NBA draft stock. Not this year.
Calling this team young would be an understatement. Eight freshmen. Three sophomores. Zero seniors. Of course there’s plenty of talent, but they’ve shown their youth in narrow wins over Utah Valley and Vermont heading into Tuesday’s Champions Classic matchup against Kansas (8:30 p.m., ESPN) in Chicago.
The Wildcats (2-0) are ranked seventh in the nation, so it’s expected they will figure out their early-season woes in a hurry. Wenyen Gabriel returns with the most experience and he only played 26 minutes in four NCAA Tournament games last spring.
“They want to be coached,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said in the preseason. “They want to listen. They just are young; and it's hard to be patient. I told them, look, guys. If I've got to start getting meaner, I will. But we've got to start making this gradual climb.”
The Wildcats have a 4-2 record in the Champions Classic, suffering their lone loss in 2013. But Calipari expects his team to learn plenty about themselves against the Jayhawks, just like they did in their first two games.
“We’ve got to stay together,” freshman point guard Quade Green said. “That’s what young teams do; they stay together. Once we stay together, I don’t think nobody can beat us.”
Fun fact: Under John Calipari, Kentucky has a 50-22 record against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 poll. When both teams are ranked in the Top 10, Calipari has coached the Wildcats to a 13-7 mark.
Series history: Kentucky leads 22-8. The Jayhawks won in Lexington last year, 79-73, during the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Frank Mason and Josh Jackson combined for 41 points.
BREAKING DOWN KENTUCKY
No. 5 — F Kevin Knox | 6-9, 215, fr.
Highlighting Kentucky’s latest star-studded freshman class, Knox has the height and measurable of a forward but the skills of a shooting guard. He’s more likely to shoot threes and slash to the rim than do many post-up moves with his back to the basket. Through two games, Knox hasn’t been at his best. He’s averaging 11.5 points and 7.0 rebounds on 26 percent shooting from the floor. He’s only made 2 of 8 3-pointers. But coach John Calipari was encouraged that Knox made a late 3-pointer in the team’s win over Vermont because he’s still looking for a player who will take over in crunch time.
Knox’s dad, Kevin Knox Sr., was a receiver at Florida State, winning a national title in 1993. Knox Sr. was a sixth-round NFL draft pick in 1994 and played one season with the Arizona Cardinals.
- “I’m not a big talker or yeller or anything like that,” Knox said. “I talk on defense a little bit, but I’m not the type that’s gonna yell every time I score or nothing like that. I’m really quiet on the court.”
No. 3 — G Hamidou Diallo | 6-5, 198, r-fr.
Diallo joined the Wildcats in January last season, but didn’t participate in any games. He went through the NBA draft process before opting to return to school. He impressed scouts with his 6-foot-10 wingspan and 44.5-inch vertical leap.
An improving shooter, Diallo leads Kentucky with 17 points per game while making 48.3 percent of his attempts. According to hoop-math.com, nearly two-thirds of his shots are jumpers inside of the 3-point arc.
No. 25 — F PJ Washington | 6-7, 236, fr.
Fresh off Kentucky’s first double-double performance of the season — 17 points and 10 boards vs. Vermont — Washington is averaging 11 points and 6.5 rebounds in the first two games. He’s struggled at the free-throw line, making only six of his 13 freebies.
Calipari challenged Washington to play with more motor throughout the preseason. After his double-double Sunday, which included stretches where the offense ran through him, Calipari said, “PJ was a beast, finally.”
No. 0 — G Quade Green | 6-0, 180, fr.
A point guard from Philadelphia, Green will likely have the ball in his hands to start the offense in the final minutes of close games. In two games, he’s averaging 9.5 points and 2.5 assists while shooting 40 percent from the field.
- "It's hard to fill everybody's shoes that have come through here, but I've got my own shoes to fill," Green said.
ONE THING KENTUCKY DOES WELL
Protect the rim. The Wildcats haven’t played good man-to-man defense in their first two games, struggling to stop penetration with freshmen defenders. “If our guards can’t stay in front of people, we’ll get beat by 30,” Calipari said.
Fortunately for Kentucky, there are some shot blockers behind its guards. Wenyen Gabriel has four blocks in two games, while Nick Richards has three.
ONE AREA KENTUCKY STRUGGLES
The Wildcats are one of the tallest teams in the country, but they haven’t shot the ball well. As a team, they are making just 42.6 percent of their shots with one out of every five shots coming from behind the 3-point line.
With a lack of ball handling (1.33 assist-to-turnover ratio), they haven’t been able to set up their wings and forwards for easy baskets.
MEET THE COACH
John Calipari is in his ninth season at Kentucky. He was an assistant KU from 1982-85, leaving one season before Bill Self became a grad assistant under Larry Brown.
Once Calipari arrived in Lexington in 2009, he’s coached the Wildcats to a 3-2 record vs. KU. In the Champions Classic, Calipari is 5-1.
Kansas by 4.5. Obviously, the Wildcats have been underwhelming in their start to the season, dropping a few slots in the polls despite winning both games. One of the keys for the Jayhawks will be their defense from Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk, and perhaps Marcus Garrett, against Kentucky’s oversized freshmen wings.
My prediction: Kansas 79, Kentucky 67. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 1-0.