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Jayhawks should be able to bomb away against Chattanooga

Team: Chattanooga
Record: 1-0
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 283

3 Strengths

Foul avoidance: I'll say this about Chattanooga — though it doesn't appear to be very good defensively, it isn't going to give up free points at the line. Coach John Shulman's teams have traditionally not fouled often, which includes averaging just 17.3 fouls per game a year ago despite playing at a very fast pace.

Defensive rebounding: This has been another staple of Shulman's teams, and though the Mocs lost four starters from last year's team, they should still be solid in this area. Chattanooga grabbed 70.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds a year ago (60th nationally) and returns one of its best rebounders in 6-foot-9 forward Drazen Zlovaric. The Mocs have finished in the top 100 in defensive rebounding percentage in six of Shulman's eight seasons.

Depth: I know this was just against Tennessee Temple — an NAIA team — but Shulman played 11 players for 10 minutes or more in his team's season-opening 88-53 victory ... something I'm not sure I've seen before in a box score. Shulman's teams typically run at a very fast pace, and it appears that the coach has enough bench players this year to substitute freely while playing his run-and-gun style.

3 Weaknesses

Three-point defense: This is the reason I'm interested to watch Thursday night's game: to see exactly what the Mocs do to guard the three, because statistically, it doesn't look like they do anything.

Last year, a whooping 48.9 percent of opponents' shots against Chattanooga were three-point attempts (NCAA average was 32.9 percent). That was the highest percentage in the country, and Shulman's teams have been in the top five in that statistic in each of his eight seasons.

Another way of looking at it: Opponents scored 41 percent of their points from three-point range last year, which again was the highest split in the country. NCAA average is just 27.5 percent.

KU should have plenty of opportunities to score from long range Thursday night.

Blocked shots: Chattanooga was next-to-last nationally in blocked shot percentage a year ago, rejecting just 3.3 percent of opponents' two-point attempts. Zlovaric was the only player on the team to have a block percentage above 1 percent (2.7 percent). To put this in perspective, all four of KU's big men a year ago (Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson, Justin Wesley, Kevin Young) had higher block percentages than Zlovaric, and he was by far the best Moc at blocking shots.

Three-point shooting: Though the Mocs have traditionally jacked up a lot of threes under Shulman, they weren't successful at making them a year ago. Chattanooga made just 32 percent of its threes last season (265th nationally) and backed that up with a 2-for-22 shooting effort from three (9 percent) in the opener against Tennessee Temple.

3 Players to Watch

• Six-foot-9 senior Drazen Zlovaric (No. 20) was UTC's best shooter a year ago after transferring from Georgia. He made 55 percent of his twos last season (147 of 266) and was especially dangerous at the rim, making 71 percent of his layups (team average was 58 percent). He's also a strong defensive rebounder who limited his turnovers in 2011-12.

• Six-foot-5 forward Z. Mason (No. 30) will be relied upon more in his second season after transferring in from Ole Miss, where he played tight end for for the Runnin' Rebels for two seasons. Mason led the Mocs with 16 points (7-for-12 shooting) to go with five rebounds in 19 minutes against Tennessee Temple.

• Six-foot point guard Farad Cobb (No. 22) stood out defensively in the Mocs' opener, setting a freshman record with six steals in his first game. Cobb, who was ranked the No. 38 point guard in the class of 2012 by ESPN.com, also wasn't afraid to shoot, putting up 11 field-goal attempts in his 20 minutes. He made three of them to finish with eight points.

Prediction

Combine an up-tempo pace with a team that doesn't defend well, and this could be a game filled with highlight-reel plays for the Jayhawks.

Looking at KenPom's rankings, Chattanooga will probably end up being the worst team that KU plays all season.

KU coach Bill Self should have plenty of opportunity to empty his bench to get guys more game experience.

Kansas 81, Chattanooga 49

Hawk to Rock

Sharpshooter Andrew White III should get his longest look of the season, and he'll also be playing against a team that most likely won't bother covering him on the three-point line. I'll say that White puts in three three-pointers while limiting himself to two turnovers or fewer.

Predictions tally
2-0 record, 4 points off (2 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Average: 3rd in KUsports.com ratings

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Comments

KGphoto 1 year, 5 months ago

Wow, Jesse! That's a lot of info for a game against KPs 238th ranked team. Lot's of stuff to look for tonight. Thanks.

HTR: I'm betting Mac puts Self's remarks to good use and he lights it up. Coach Self has said he needs to be more assertive. Ben seems like a very smart, coachable kid so we'll see it unfold before our eyes tonight. The 14 points against MSU seemed so quiet and effortless, I could easily see 20+ against Chattanooga.

Good call on White though. If Self's empties the bench early he'll get a good shot. What's the word on why he didn't play against MSU?

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wrwlumpy 1 year, 5 months ago

Last year, Withey was a fantastic outlet passer to start the break. His MSU length of the court pass was too late and too long. I hope he keeps throwing it, he was at times a skinnier version of Bill Walton with his outlet.

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Kyle Sybesma 1 year, 5 months ago

Not trying to be critical but isn't odd that we refer to our team as an up tempo team when we were the 48th ranked scoring offense last year. I love HCBS but his style is closer to a grind it out Big 10 style. Ole Roy coaches an up tempo style. It appears that stigma has stuck with us 9 years after he leaves. Again... not critical just an observation.

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clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 5 months ago

Hope Rio and AW3 get to play some good mins. I worry that White is going to only be a three point shooter, I want to see him drive to the lane a few times or pull up for a mid range

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Joe Satterwhite 1 year, 5 months ago

I heard somebody saying that Coach Self should sometimes substitute Releford's Defense for AW3's Offense and I totally agree. We all saw Releford do almost nothing on the offensive end last game, and I think he can sometimes be a liability this year...

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