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Is Belmont the toughest team left on KU's home schedule?

Team: Belmont
Record: 7-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 23
(All KenPom stats/rankings current as of Friday, Dec. 14)

3 Strengths

Shooting: Belmont has been a great shooting team inside and out so far, posting the 15th-best effective shooting percentage in the country. Despite being undersized, the Bruins attempt a lot of layups/dunks, as 39 percent of their shots come from close range (NCAA average is 34 percent). Belmont has made 54.4 percent of its twos (27th nationally) and 38.5 percent of its threes (33rd nationally) this year.

Forcing turnovers: Led by senior guard Kerron Johnson (3.9 percent steal percentage, 158th nationally), Belmont's pressure defense has created turnovers at an impressive rate. Opponents have turned it over on 25.1 percent of their possessions against the Bruins, which ranks 25th nationally. Belmont coach Rick Byrd had success with a turnover-forcing team two years ago as well, as BU ranked second nationally with a 27.5 defensive turnover percentage.

Shot defense: Belmont is pretty balanced defensively, ranking in the top 70 nationally in both two-point and three-point percentage against. The Bruins also don't give up many layups/dunks (29 percent of shots against; NCAA average is 34 percent) while forcing teams into taking a high number of two-point jumpshots (37 percent; NCAA average is 33 percent).

3 Weaknesses

Defensive rebounding: Belmont plays an undersized lineup at the two post positions, where its top two rotations players are 6 foot 7. Though the Bruins still are an above-average offensive rebounding team, they've been completely crushed on the defensive boards with their lack of size. Opponents have grabbed 41.9 percent of their misses this year, which is the seventh-highest percentage allowed by any team this year.

Fouling too often: Opposing teams have gotten 25.6 percent of their points against Belmont from the foul line, which is the 27th-highest split in the country. The Bruins are allowing 23.9 free throws per game; for comparison, KU's opponents average 15.8 free throws per contest. In BU's only other game against a BCS foe this year, it surrendered 35 free throws in a 70-62 victory at Stanford.

Getting blocked: Belmont has had an unusually high number of shots blocked this year, as 12.1 percent of their twos have been rejected (288th-best nationally). Once again, Stanford gave BU the most issues, as the Cardinal blocked 10 shots, with eight of those coming from 6-foot-7 forward Josh Huestis.

3 Players to Watch

Senior Ian Clark (No. 21) has a legitimate claim for being the nation's best shooter this season. The 6-3 guard has made 56 percent of his threes this year while attempting more than seven per game (38 of 68). That trey shooting isn't a fluke, either, as he's shot over 40 percent from long range in each of his previous three seasons. Clark ranks second in the nation in effective shooting percentage and first in true shooting percentage (a stat that takes into account both field goals and free throws). The preseason All-Ohio Valley selection has made 22 of 37 twos (60 percent) and 12 of 16 free throws (75 percent) while hitching up more than a-fourth of Belmont's shots while he's on the floor.

• As mentioned above, senior Kerron Johnson (No. 3) thrives on the defensive end of the floor by leading Belmont in steal percentage. The consensus preseason All-OVC player is also involved in nearly every Belmont offensive possession, though that's not always a good thing. His strengths are passing (dishing out 32.7 percent of his team's assists when he's in, which is 83rd nationally) and getting to the free throw line (drawing 7 fouls per game, which is 38th nationally). He's only an average free throw shooter, though (68 percent), and has an extremely high turnover rate, giving it away on 24.8 percent of the possessions he ends. His 29 turnovers are 12 more than any other Bruin.

Junior forward Blake Jenkins (No. 2) isn't a ballhog, but when he does shoot it, look out. The 6-foot-7 native of Knoxville, Tenn., has put in 32 of 43 two-pointers (74 percent), with most of those coming from point-blank range. Jenkins has made 83 percent of his layup/dunk tries this year, and like Johnson, he's a threat to get to the free throw line, drawing 4.8 fouls per game. He's also a top-350 offensive rebounder and standout shot-blocker, rejecting 8.8 percent of opponents' two-pointers (74th nationally).

Prediction

Let's get this out of the way first: As of right now, KenPom gives Belmont the best chance of any team this season of knocking off the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse (23 percent).

At No. 23 in the KenPom rankings, Belmont ranks ahead of every Big 12 team not ranked Kansas. That includes Oklahoma State (No. 24), Kansas State (No. 25) and Baylor (No. 37).

Belmont might not have a scary name, but make no mistake: This is a good basketball team.

There are also reasons to think Belmont could give KU real troubles:

1. Belmont plays undersized. KU hasn't always matched up well with these sorts of teams in the last two seasons, as this forces center Jeff Withey (and KU's other bigs) to the perimeter to help often on ball screens and shooters. This has often led to open perimeter shots for KU's opponents.

2. Belmont shoots a lot of threes. If you look, 39.5 percent of Belmont's field-goal attempts have been threes, which is the 53rd-highest split nationally. As an underdog, Belmont taking a lot of threes is advantageous, as a good shooting day can make up for a lot of other flaws over the course of a single game.

3. Belmont is experienced. The Bruins' top seven rotation players are all juniors or seniors, as BU ranks 24th in KenPom's "Experience" ranking. The Bruins also have made the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons.

It also might not help that KU's main focus this week wasn't basketball because of finals.

The biggest key for KU will be offensive rebounding. It absolutely has to dominate that facet against a team that hasn't been able to keep teams off the glass.

I'm thinking this KU-Belmont game could have a similar feel to this game from 2010, which had lots of threes by an experienced opponent that took an early lead before a late KU rally.

I'll take the Jayhawks. Just barely, though.

Kansas 71, Belmont 69

Hawk to Rock

This will be a game where KU needs: 1. Offensive rebounding; 2. Energy; 3. A quicker post player to keep up with smaller guys defensively; and 4. More offensive rebounding.

KU has exactly that player. It's 6-8 senior Kevin Young, who should be in line for a big game against the Bruins.

Give me a double-double for Young (it would be his first at KU) along with a clutch play in the final minutes to help KU secure a win.

Predictions tally
8-0 record, 100 points off (12.5 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Average: 4.4th in KUsports.com ratings

Comments

Dirk Medema 2 years ago

Triple double for Withey and TRel shuts down Clark.

JayHawkFanToo 2 years ago

What is wrong with this picture?

Poll KU Belmont.

AP 9 --.

USA 9 --.

Pomeroy 10 23.

Sagarin 8 31.

Massey 9 36.

Avg All 7 51.

http://masseyratings.com/cb/compare.htm

KU is playing a team that is ranked considerably lower in all the polls, at ALLEN FIELDHOUSE; which ESPN just called the biggest home advantage in College BBall:

http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/8712505/king-court-examines-kentucky-point-guard-void-scours-nation-college-basketball

and Jesse is calling it a two point game? Even Vegas has it at 13-1/2. If KU is only favored by two points at home, what is going to be the line when they play a ranked team on the road?

I understand that following tradition, a Belmont player is going to go nuts from the three and score 30+, but this game should not be closer than 10 points. Our front line should have a field day against the shorter Belmont front line. I understand that Belmont plays undersized and it has experience and KU has had problems with shorter teams, but lets face it, Belmont is not the 2011 MU team. Also, KU starts 4 Seniors; how is that for experience?

jaybate 2 years ago

Jesse,

For all the reasons you mention, this "could" be a close game.

But the decisive drivers are two and KenPom does not address the underlying dynamics of one, nor the other driver at all. To wit...

Driver 1: Belmont trey shooting--Belmont has to be hot and KU's perimeter starters have to get fouled up, otherwise KU's perimeter length will strangle the heart of Belmont's game and it will be a blow out.

Driver 2: Self letting'em labor after amping them for CU--Self clearly amped them for CU. It was a practice amp. Self practices everything in pre conference. Plus he thought they might need some edge against a Boyle coached major with only one loss. But against Belmont, Self is apt to send them out flat and let them labor against a good mid major they should be able to beat with a flat, labored performance. Self dials in a letdown performance after an up. Its a frequent M.O. He uses the game to teach the team to find a way to win on an off night. It results in closer games than necessary, and sometimes an upset in early rounds of madness.

Miscellaneous Issues:

• Self has already telegraphed he will raise Perry's minutes. Translation: Self now considers Perry sufficiently toughened to take him out of the toughening box and start building up his game again. Belmont is an easy match up for Perry, so it's a good game for Perry to begin his rebuild.

• Jamari's clearly been in the toughening box two games. He gets out for this one, because he can chase if Jeff's energy is low.

• Kevin knows Self will be trying to develop Perry this game so Kevin could be flat.

• This could be a good game for Elijah to touch paint. No bigs inside. EJ should be as healthy as he will get this year. Time to get him some confidence for the Ohio State game.

Conclusion: It would be a blow out, if Self amped KU, but he won't. Self will lett'em labor, but KU will be too long. KU by 15.

Robert Brock 2 years ago

Could this be a game for Perry Ellis? I think so!

Steve Quatrocky 2 years ago

They should just visualize the jerseys reading Mizzou instead of Belmont, as they pretty much mirror last years undersized but very dangerous Tigers squad. Sorry for using those dirty words on this blog but its true and if Bill wants to make a point, he can load in last years' film from the comeback in AFH and the loss in Columbia.

Boouk 2 years ago

Baylor lost at home to Charleston who lost to a D2 team at home. Belmont would probably be the second or third best team in the Big 12 this season.

jhox 2 years ago

KU by 15 to 20. Especially since we clearly won't be taking them lightly.

Daniel Kennamore 2 years ago

Depends which team shows up. If we play like we did against Oregon State we could be ripe for an upset. If we play like we did against Colorado we'll win by 20 or more.

Personally I'm just hoping for a solid 40 mins of basketball. Even in our blow outs we seem to have a down period of about 5-10 mins each half where we play like mediocre team. We need to build on the great offense we showed last week and focus on consistently doing that the whole game. Anything short of that will lead to a drumming at Ohio State next week.

Jack Wilson 2 years ago

The reason I don't think the size thing is an issue .. meaning, defending an undersized front court .. is because our 4s can keep up this year. TRob had a tough time with a guy like Kim English (as did Withey when we tried him on English). I don't see that from our 4s. We had to choose between Withey and TRob. Don't see that this year.

However, going with a lineup of say EJ, McLemore, Releford, White, and Ellis, might be worth it for a bit. See how we handle it.

ParisHawk 2 years ago

Most prescient post of the season so far: hats off.

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