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Jackson's Journal

Getting to know: Texas basketball

Texas head coach Shaka Smart reacts to a play during the second half on the team's NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. Texas won 73-63. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Texas head coach Shaka Smart reacts to a play during the second half on the team's NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. Texas won 73-63. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) by Associated Press

Fresh off a gritty road win, No. 6 Kansas might need a similar blueprint this weekend in Austin, Texas.

With Devon Dotson’s status still uncertain, the Jayhawks could have to replicate what they did in their 66-52 win at Oklahoma without their starting point guard. KU’s next opponent, Texas, figures to be a similar type of test as well.

The Longhorns, who have won two games in a row, are ranked No. 58 overall on KenPom. Oklahoma, for comparison, was listed at No. 52 on the latest team rankings. KenPom gives Kansas a 76% chance of victory, with a projected score of 67-59 in KU’s favor.

Like the rest of the Big 12, Texas (12-4, 2-2 Big 12) has to play well on the defensive end to have success. UT has held its first 16 opponents to an average of 60.9 points per game on a combined 40.4% clip from the field, including a 33.1% from beyond the arc.

The Longhorns are coming off wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State after falling to Baylor and Oklahoma to begin Big 12 play. Kansas (13-3, 3-1 Big 12), meanwhile, has only lost to BU through its first four conference outings.

Saturday’s contest marks the 43rd meeting between Texas and Kansas. The Jayhawks hold a 33-9 lead in the all-time series. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN, with Rich Hollenberg and Fran Fraschilla calling the action.

Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m.

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BREAKING DOWN TEXAS

TOP PLAYER

No. 2 — G Matt Coleman III | 6-2, 185, jr.

Leading the team in scoring with an average of 12.1 points per game is the junior guard.

Coleman is in his third year as the starting point guard. Coleman has played and started all 87 games in his three seasons at UT. He has reached double figures in scoring 44 times and topped the 20-point mark seven times.

Through the first 16 contests, Coleman leads the team in scoring (12.1 ppg), assists (4.4 apg), steals (27) and minutes (33.4 mpg) while adding 3.6 rebounds per game. He has converted 26-of-58 (.448) from three-point range.

For the year, Coleman has also registered a 70-to-33 (2.12 ratio) assist-to-turnover ratio. He ranks fifth in program history with a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.98.

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SUPPORTING CAST

No. 3 — G Courtney Ramey | 6-3, 185, so.

Ramey has emerged as a valuable weapon for the Longhorns.

Through the first 16 contests, Ramey ranks second on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), assists (3.6 apg), rebounding (4.6 rpg) and steals (13) and is third on the team in minutes (30.6 mpg). He has played in 53 career games (33 starts) in his two seasons. He has reached double figures in scoring 30 times in his career.

Ramey has played even better as of late. In four Big 12 games, he has posted a team-best 12.5 points per contest thanks to a 47.6% (10-21) effort from three-point range.

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No. 20 — F Jericho Sims | 6-9, 240, jr.

It should be an intriguing battle between KU’s frontcourt and Sims this weekend.

So far this season, Sims leads the team in rebounding (8.3 rpg) and blocked shots (21) and ranks tied for third in steals (9) and fifth in scoring (9.1 ppg) while converting 67.4% (62-92) from the floor. All four of his double-doubles in his career have come this season.

This is the third year for Sims in the UT frontcourt, and he has played in 85 games (43 starts) in his career. He has reached double figures in scoring 17 times and in rebounds on eight different occasions. Sims is coming off a three-block performance in a win over Oklahoma State.

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MEET THE COACH

The Longhorns are coached by Shaka Smart, who is 83-70 in his fifth season at UT and 246-126 in his 11th season overall.

ONE THING TEXAS IS GOOD AT

Texas has done a good job at limiting easy baskets this season. Opposing teams are shooting just 43.3% on 2-point shots against UT, which is the 27th-best defensive clip in the country on KenPom.

ONE THING TEXAS IS BAD AT

The Longhorns won’t get a lot of production from the charity stripe. Texas is shooting just 64.3% from the free throw line, a number that ranks 320th in all of college basketball.

VEGAS SAYS

It is hard to commit to a prediction with Dotson’s status uncertain, especially with this current spread. Kansas is a 7.5-point favorite on FanDuel’s Sportsbook. I know KU just pulled off a gritty double-digit win in a similar test a few days ago, but I think things will be a bit tougher this time around. I’m taking the points, though Kansas ultimately wins a close one.

Prediction: Kansas 65, Texas 60

This year’s record ATS: 8-7

Reply

Getting to know: Oklahoma basketball

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger reacts to a play against TCU during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Oklahoma won 95-72. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger reacts to a play against TCU during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Oklahoma won 95-72. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

While KU’s first Big 12 loss showed some of the team’s flaws, this year’s squad is still one of the better teams in college basketball.

After a tough opening three-game slate, the Jayhawks will have an opportunity to figure some things out during a favorable stretch to close out January. No. 6 Kansas (12-3, 2-1 Big 12) is slated to face just one top-50 opponent, per KenPom, over the remaining six games in January.

That opponent, of course, is KU’s next foe. Oklahoma, a team ranked No. 48 overall on KenPom, will welcome Kansas in league tilt tonight at Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners (11-4, 2-1 Big 12) are coming off an 81-68 road loss to Iowa State.

KenPom gives the Jayhawks a 73% chance of winning, which is actually their lowest chance of victory out the remaining games in January. Kansas, which suffered a 67-55 home loss to Baylor last time out, has posted a 44-5 clip coming off a defeat over the last six seasons.

Kansas leads the overall series with Oklahoma, 148-68, including a 52-44 in games played in Norman. The series is tied at 19-19 in meetings in Lloyd Noble Center.

Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.

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BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA

TOP PLAYER

No. 21 — F Kristian Doolittle | 6-7, 232, sr.

As the only senior on the Sooners roster, Doolittle is a key part of Oklahoma’s attack.

Doolittle is the third-leading scorer in the Big 12, averaging 17.1 points per game to go along with an average of 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per outing. He is the only major-conference player averaging at least 17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Dating back to last season, Doolittle has registered eight double-doubles in his last 22 games, which includes a stat line of 24 points and 11 rebounds against Kansas on March 5. Doolittle is one of only two Big 12 players to earn Big 12 Player of the Week on multiple occasions this season.

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SUPPORTING CAST

No. 35 — F Brady Manek | 6-9, 231, jr.

It is not hard to see that the Sooners need Manek to have success on a nightly basis.

During his career, Oklahoma is 36-16 when Manek scores in double figures and 22-6 when he scores at least 15 points. The Sooners are also 10-4 when he hits four or more 3-pointers. Dating back to last season, Manek has scored in double figures in 26 of his last 31 games, including 13 of 15 games this season.

With 741 career points coming into this season, Manek is just the 10th player in OU history to reach 700 career points by the end of a sophomore campaign. Only Blake Griffin, Trae Young, Willie Warren and Buddy Hield scored more points as underclassmen.

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No. 12 — G Austin Reaves | 6-5, 202, r-jr.

Reaves has been one of the Sooners’ leading offensive forces during his first season with the team.

Reaves, who is a transfer from Wichita State, sat out the 2018-19 season but has quickly made up for lost time. Through 15 games, he is averaging 15.9 points along with 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per contest. His 15.9 points per game ranks sixth in the Big 12 and leads the conference’s newcomers.

In addition, Reaves has reached 20 points on four occasions this season, which is the third-most outings in the Big 12.

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MEET THE COACH

The Sooners are coached by Lon Kruger, who is 171-109 in his ninth season at OU and 650-413 in his 34th season overall.

ONE THING OKLAHOMA IS GOOD AT

OU does a good job of taking care of the rock, which should be important tonight. Oklahoma’s turnover rate of 15% is the sixth-best clip in the nation, per KenPom.

ONE THING OKLAHOMA IS BAD AT

Oklahoma’s offensive rebound rate is incredibly low this year. According to KenPom, the Sooners have an offensive rebound rate of 21.9%. That number is actually ranked 330rd in all of college basketball.

VEGAS SAYS

I wanted to update this, because it is important to adjust when you get more info. Since Matt Tait reported that sophomore point guard Devon Dotson won't play tonight against Oklahoma, the line has moved in a hurry. Kansas is now just a 4-point favorite after opening as a 6.5-point favorite on FanDuel's Sportsbook.

Honestly, I'm impressed at how tough this line is now. As Saturday showed, Kansas is limited on what it can do offensively when Dotson is out of the game. But this defense can still play well enough to win this game. I'm taking the points on the new line, but I think the Jayhawks squeak this one out.

Prediction: Kansas 67, Oklahoma 64

This year’s record ATS: 8-6

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Kansas still projected to win Big 12 following home loss to Baylor

Kansas Jayhawks guard Marcus Garrett (0) gets in for a bucket past Baylor Bears guard Mark Vital (11) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas Jayhawks guard Marcus Garrett (0) gets in for a bucket past Baylor Bears guard Mark Vital (11) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Contrary to popular belief, the sky is not falling for the Kansas men’s basketball team.

Sure, Saturday’s 67-55 loss to Baylor highlighted some of KU’s limitations, particularly when sophomore point guard Devon Dotson is out and center Udoka Azubuike is bottled up. It was also a monumental win for the Bears, who had lost the previous 17 meetings in Allen Fieldhouse.

With back-to-back wins in Lubbock, Texas and Lawrence, Baylor might be viewed as the team to beat in the Big 12. And there is certainly an argument for that, considering the Bears had a shot at being the No. 1 team in college basketball in today’s AP poll — they're ranked No. 2 this week.

But the computers say otherwise, at least as of Monday morning. After the opening three-game slate of Big 12 play, Kansas remains the favorite to win the league by multiple projection models. The race is tighter than it was expected to be before the start of conference play, but the Jayhawks are still expected to reclaim the Big 12 throne.

Entering Big 12 play, KenPom’s projected standings had Kansas winning the league with a 14-4 record against conference foes. Baylor and West Virginia were both pegged as KU’s biggest threats, but projected to finish with an 11-7 record on KenPom.com.

After three games, the Jayhawks and Bears are both projected to go 14-4 and end the year as co-champions.

KenPom’s updated projected Big 12 standings for 2020

Kansas — 14-4 (14-4 before the season)

Baylor — 14-4 (11-7)

West Virginia — 12-6 (11-7)

Texas Tech — 9-9 (9-9)

TCU — 9-9 (8-10)

Oklahoma — 8-10 (8-10)

Iowa State — 7-11 (7-11)

Texas — 6-12 (7-11)

Oklahoma State — 6-12 (9-9)

Kansas State — 4-14 (6-12)

While KenPom currently projects a share, KU is still expected to win the conference outright on other websites. TeamRankings.com gives the Jayhawks a 53.0% chance of winning the Big 12, while the Bears have a 38.1% chance. West Virginia is now at 6.7% after three league contests.

Bart Torvik, of barttorvik.com, also projects KU to finish higher than Baylor in the league standings by one game. Kansas has a projected 15-3 record on his site, while Baylor is listed at 14-4. West Virginia comes in third at 13-5, though no other Big 12 team is projected to win more than nine games.

Kansas should be content with going 2-1 during that opening three-game stretch, especially since it included matchups with its two biggest challengers. The Jayhawks did get both at home, but now they won’t have to worry about facing the Mountaineers or the Bears until next month.

Instead, KU will face just one team currently ranked inside the top-50 on KenPom over its six remaining games this month. That team is actually No. 49 Oklahoma, which is KU's next opponent. The game is slated to begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Norman, Oklahoma.

Theoretically, this upcoming stretch figures to be a good opportunity for the Jayhawks to pile up wins. And it will be interesting to see how the Big 12 race stands come February.

Big 12 Men’s Basketball standings (as of Jan. 13)

Team Overall (Big 12)

Baylor — 13-1 (3-0)

TCU — 12-3 (3-0)

West Virginia — 13-2 (2-1)

Kansas — 12-3 (2-1)

Oklahoma — 11-4 (2-1)

Texas — 11-4 (1-2)

Texas Tech — 10-5 (1-2)

Iowa State — 8-7 (1-2)

Oklahoma State — 9-6 (0-3)

Kansas State — 7-8 (0-3)

Reply 5 comments from Dane Pratt Barry Weiss Surrealku Robert  Brock Kall3742

Getting to know: Baylor basketball

Baylor head coach Scott Drew tries to get the attention of his players during the second half, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew tries to get the attention of his players during the second half, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

This is what college basketball is all about.

Despite it being early in Big 12 play, there is already a top-five matchup taking place that could ultimately impact the conference race. No. 3 Kansas (12-2, 2-0 Big 12) is slated to host No. 4 Baylor (12-1, 2-0) in a Saturday afternoon matchup that will be broadcasted on CBS.

No. 4 Baylor is the highest-ranked team to come to Allen Fieldhouse since the 2016-17 season when No. 2 Baylor lost to KU, 73-68, on Feb. 1, 2017. The Bears are riding an 11-game winning streak, which is tied for the fifth-longest streak in program history.

In some ways, it is strength vs. strength. Kansas is the top-scoring team in the Big 12 at 79.4 points per game. Baylor is first in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 58.4 points per outing. KU is first in scoring margin at +18.4, while BU is second at +15.9.

The Jayhawks have fared well in these situations, however. KU has won nine-straight contests against AP top-five foes in Allen Fieldhouse, with eight of those under Bill Self. Baylor, meanwhile, has never won at Allen Fieldhouse (0-17) or defeated an AP top-five team in a road game in 22 such attempts.

Tipoff is slated for 12 p.m.

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BREAKING DOWN BAYLOR

TOP PLAYER

No. 12 — G Jared Butler | 6-3, 190, so.

Butler has paved the way for Baylor’s offensive attack through the early part of the season.

So far this year, Butler has led the Bears in scoring in eight of the 13 games. He currently ranks top-15 in the Big 12 in 3FG% (2nd, .402), 3FGs (2nd, 2.7/game), FT% (2nd, .902), scoring (5th, 16.3), FG% (7th, .438), steals (11th, 1.5) and assists (14th, 2.9).

Entering this weekend, Butler is averaging 16.3 points in 28.9 minutes per game. Butler was named Myrtle Beach Invitational MVP and picked up Big 12 Player of the Week honors on Nov. 25.

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SUPPORTING CAST

No. 31 — G MaCio Teague | 6-3, 195, jr.

As the only other Bear averaging double figures, Teague is posting 14.5 points per contest for a one-loss Baylor squad.

Teague can make shots from deep. In fact, he had his streak of 37 consecutive games with a made 3-pointer snapped when he went 0-for-2 from downtown in Baylor’s win at Texas Tech last time out. He’s made multiple 3-pointers in 30 of his last 38 games.

This season, Teague ranks ninth in the Big 12 in scoring and sixth in 3-pointers per game with an average of 2.2 triples per outing.

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No. 33 — F Freddie Gillespie | 6-9, 245, sr.

Gillespie has grown into his starting role for the Bears, providing consistency in the lineup.

Gillespie has started 22 of the last 25 games since entering the starting lineup on Feb. 9, 2019 against Kansas State. Since then, Gillespie has been a force on the glass and provided consistent scoring as well for the Bears.

Through 13 games, Gillespie has five double-doubles and he is also tied for the Big 12 lead with eight double-digit rebounding games. He also ranks third nationally in offensive rebounding with an average of 4.3 rebounds per game.

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MEET THE COACH

The Bears are coached by Scott Drew, who is 328-210 in his 17th season at BU and 348-221 in his 18th season overall.

ONE THING BAYLOR IS GOOD AT

Baylor has been effective on the offensive glass so far this season. The Bears are posting an offensive rebound rate of 38.4%. According to KenPom, only four teams in all of college basketball have a better offensive rebound rate.

ONE THING BAYLOR IS BAD AT

Look for Udoka Azubuike to have a big day as a rim protector, because Baylor has struggled in that area thus far. Opposing teams have posted a block rate of 12.9% against the Bears, which is 344th in the nation via KenPom.

VEGAS SAYS

Kansas is an eight-point favorite on most sportsbooks as of Friday night. That number seems too high for me, considering this should be a low-scoring affair. Baylor just won at Texas Tech, so it has to have confidence playing on the road. It also remains to be seen how the weather will impact the crowd in Allen Fieldhouse. Give me the points, but I think the Jayhawks win this one.

Prediction: Kansas 68, Baylor 63

This year’s record ATS: 7-6

Reply

Getting to know: Iowa State basketball

Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm gets the attention of his defense during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm gets the attention of his defense during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Things don’t get any easier for the Kansas men’s basketball team.

After defeating West Virginia in the Big 12 opener, No. 3 Kansas (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) will head to Hilton Coliseum to square off with Iowa State for its first conference game away from home. The road tilt is also just days before KU welcomes No. 4 Baylor this weekend.

While Iowa State (7-6, 0-1) might be down this year, winning in Ames, Iowa is no guarantee for the Jayhawks. Kansas is only considered a 4.5-point favorite via FanDuel’s Sportsbook as of Wednesday afternoon.

The KU-ISU contest will feature the top-two scoring offenses in the Big 12 with Iowa State at 80.2 points per game and Kansas at 79.5 points per outing. The two teams also rank first and second in field goal percentage with KU at 50.9% and ISU at 46.4%.

Kansas leads the overall series with Iowa State, 182-66, but the teams have split the last 10 meetings (5-5). ISU has won two of the last three matchups.

Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.

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BREAKING DOWN IOWA STATE

TOP PLAYER

No. 22 — G Tyrese Haliburton | 6-5, 175, so.

Haliburton is playing on another level in his sophomore season.

This season, Haliburton is second in the Big 12 in scoring average (17.7), first in assists (7.9) and steals (2.6). He also ranks first in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.28) and second in 3-point percentage (42.4) and third in field goal percentage (52.6) through 13 games.

This comes after Haliburton was just the fourth Division I freshman since 1992-93 to have 125 assists, 50 steals and 30 blocks. He and Zion Williamson were the only true freshmen with 50 steals and 30 blocks last season.

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SUPPORTING CAST

No. 45 — G Rasir Bolton | 6-3, 183, so.

Bolton had registered double figures in nine of 13 games for Iowa State to start his sophomore season.

Entering tonight’s matchup, Bolton is averaging 14.8 points and 2.8 assists per game. He leads ISU with an 85.9% clip at the free throw line. Bolton scored a career-high 29 points against Florida A&M earlier this season.

Bolton, a transfer from Penn State, has scored 19-or-more points in four of the last seven games.

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No. 33 — F Solomon Young | 6-8, 242, jr.

Injuries have plagued Solomon Young’s career.

Young has missed 40 games due to a number of injuries. In fact, the redshirt junior is back after taking a medical redshirt a season ago after playing in just four games. Young had groin and shoulder surgery.

This year, Young has reached double figures in six games after doing so just 10 times his first two-plus seasons. Young is posting an average of 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the Cyclones.

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No. 12 — F Michael Jacobson | 6-9, 240, sr.

Jacobson is back for his senior season, posting an average of 8.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

A season ago, Jacobson was one of two Iowa State players to start all 35 games. Jacobson needs just 164 points to reach 1,000 in his career. According to KenPom, Jacobson is nationally ranked in rebound percentage on both the offensive and defensive end.

So far this season, Jacobson is posting an offensive rebound rate of 9.9 percent and a defensive rebound rate of 17.5 percent.

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MEET THE COACH

The Cyclones are coached by Steve Prohm, who is 90-59 in his fifth season at ISU and 194-88 in his ninth season overall.

ONE THING IOWA STATE IS GOOD AT

The Cyclones have an efficient offense, particularly on shots inside the 3-point line. Through 13 games, Iowa State is shooting 55.1% on 2-pointers and that number ranks 21st overall on KenPom.com.

ONE THING IOWA STATE IS BAD AT

ISU has struggled to run opposing teams off the 3-point line this season. Opponents are shooting 36.1% from long range against Iowa State, a defensive mark that ranks 283rd in all of college basketball.

VEGAS SAYS

Kansas is just a 4.5-point favorite on FanDuel’s Sportsbook as of Wednesday afternoon. For context, KenPom projects KU to earn a 76-69 road win over Iowa State tonight. I know the Jayhawks struggled away from home last year, but I tend to side with KenPom here. I’m laying the points in this one.

Prediction: Kansas 74, Iowa State 67

This year’s record ATS: 6-6

Reply

Big 12 opener showed how Jayhawks have returned to their dunking dominance

Kansas' Udoka Azubuike dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 72-58. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas' Udoka Azubuike dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 72-58. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) by Associated Press

The Kansas bench started to stand up before David McCormack even caught the ball.

With just over three minutes left in the game, junior Marcus Garrett set up the sophomore big man with an alley-oop off a designed set during KU’s eventual 60-53 win over West Virginia on Saturday. Garrett drove hard to his right before lobbing a pass from the free-throw line.

McCormack cut to the left side of the lane and caught the pass right near the rim. He flushed it with his right hand in one smooth motion while KU’s bench roared in approval. It was the lone dunk of the day that wasn't recorded by Udoka Azubuike, who tallied the previous four against the Mountaineers.

And that above-the-rim mentality helped No. 3 Kansas (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) rally from a 10-point deficit, as it recorded four alley-oops in the second half to win its 29th consecutive conference opener.

“That’s what we were trying to do,” KU coach Bill Self said. “It’s amazing to me, as much as we like to throw it, we probably miss it 25-50% of the time. When we needed it, we got it today.”

Kansas finished with five dunks compared to one by West Virginia, which made a noticeable difference throughout the afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse and was a key part of the team’s game plan.

“We felt like their bigs kept coming up a lot, but they were coming up and dropping,” Garrett said. “I knew that I was just trying to get the ball as soon as they stepped up.”

But that has really been the theme of KU’s offense during the early part of its season, even if it has yet to reach its full potential on that end.

After a year that desperately lacked those momentum-shifting slams, the Jayhawks are once again playing above the rim this year. In fact, Kansas has recorded 62 dunks as a team through 13 games after notching a total of 83 a year ago.

To put in another way, 14.5% of KU’s 2-pointers have come via dunks per BartTorvik.com. Only Dayton (16.4) and SMU (15.4) have a higher dunks share than the Jayhawks. For comparison, Kansas ranked 115th in that category last year by recording a dunk on 6.4% of its 2-point baskets.

This dunking dominance should come as no surprise, considering how well the Jayhawks have been in that area in the last decade. Torvik’s numbers go back to the 2009-10 season, and Kansas has ranked inside the top 10 in dunks share in six of the previous 10 seasons.

Here is a look at KU’s dunking numbers since 2009-10:

A look at KU's dunking numbers via BartTorvik.com.

A look at KU's dunking numbers via BartTorvik.com.

In terms of dunks share, KU is having its second-best season since Torvik started tracking such numbers. The Jayhawks led the nation just two seasons ago by dunking on 16.8% of their 2-point baskets on their way to a Final Four appearance. KU also tallied 47 more dunks that year than the next-best season, which was 167 in 2011-12.

It is not hard to recognize the reasoning for a recent pattern, however. Azubuike’s presence, and more importantly his 7-foot frame, has made a large impact on KU’s dunking numbers as of late.

Azubuike appeared in 36 of the team’s 39 games during that 2017-18 season. He paced the Jayhawks with 122 dunks en route to leading all of NCAA Division I in field goal percentage (77.0) as a sophomore. No other Kansas player finished with more than 22 dunks that season.

Last season, Azubuike played in just nine games before suffering a season-ending injury the day before Kansas squared off with Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum. Azubuike still registered a team-high 33 dunks last year, while Ochai Agbaji finished in second with 15 dunks in 22 games after KU pulled his redshirt.

Azubuike already has 40 dunks this season and has been a key reason why KU is among the nation’s best at playing above the rim. Six different players have been credited with a slam, including nine from McCormack. Agbaji has seven dunks on 10 attempts, while Christian Braun, Silvio De Sousa and Tristan Enaruna all have two.

More importantly, a number of players have been responsible for getting KU’s dunkers in the right spot. Garrett netted the assist on two alley-oops in the second half — one to McCormack and one to Azubuike — against West Virginia. He also logged the assist on Azubuike’s dunk in the first half.

Agbaji and sophomore Devon Dotson were responsible for the other two alley-oops, both of which ended with viscous slams by Azubuike. Dotson’s assist, in particular, was significant to Self afterward and perhaps gives KU even more options moving forward to get more dunks.

“Marcus is usually the passer on the lobs more than Dot,” Self said. “But Dot did a good job on that one, and Dok went and got it.”

The big man agreed and noted that it could be a sign of things to come.

"I was surprised when (Dotson) did that because I haven't had a lob from him in a minute," Azubuike said. "I would say the chemistry is still coming along."

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

Getting to know: West Virginia basketball

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins screams at a referee during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins screams at a referee during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson) by AP Photo/Raymond Thompson

Kansas might be entering the Big 12 season in unfamiliar territory, but the expectation remains the same.

For the first time since the 2004-05 campaign, the Jayhawks will begin a league slate without winning at least a share of the conference crown the previous year. Still, No. 3 Kansas is considered the favorite to win the league title in 2020 by every sportsbook and computer model ahead of Big 12 play.

Yet one of KU’s biggest threats, West Virginia, is on deck for the league opener. The Mountaineers enter Saturday’s matchup with an 11-1 record and a No. 16 ranking in the latest AP Poll. West Virginia is even coming off a 67-59 win over then No. 2 Ohio State.

But the Jayhawks always seem to perform well to begin the Big 12 season. Kansas has won 28-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season, with 11 of those in Allen Fieldhouse and 17 on the road. The last time KU lost a conference opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991.

This will be the first time Kansas has played West Virginia in a league opener. Kansas leads the overall series with West Virginia, 12-5, and the Jayhawks have won six of the last seven meetings.

Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m.

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BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA

TOP PLAYER

No. 1 — F Derek Culver | 6-10, 255, so.

Culver is coming off a stellar freshman season for West Virginia.

As a freshman, Culver was named to the All-Big 12 second team and tabbed an unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 freshman team last season. He paced the Big 12 in rebounding in conference games with an average of 10.9 rebounds per contest last year. Culver averaged 11.5 points and a team-high 9.9 rebounds per game for the Mountaineers in 2018-19.

This season, Culver is leading WVU in rebounding with an average of 9.4 rebounds per outing to go along with 11.0 points per game.

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SUPPORTING CAST

No. 34 — F Oscar Tshiebwe | 6-9, 258, fr.

It should be no surprise how well Tshiebwe has been as rookie, considering his pedigree as a prospect.

Tshiebwe is just the second McDonald’s All-American to enroll at WVU as a freshman, joining Chris Brooks in 1986. He was ranked as a 5-star recruit and Top 25 senior by numerous scouting services.

Tshiebwe tallied 20 points and 17 rebounds in his second collegiate game, and has earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on two different occasions. Entering Big 12 play, he is averaging 11.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

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No. 10 — G Jermaine Haley | 6-7, 215, sr.

Haley has scored in double figures in 15 of the last 21 games.

During his senior season, Haley is averaging 10.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest for WVU. He started 24 of 36 games last season, scoring a career-high 28 points at Iowa State. Haley hit a game winner in a win over Kansas last season.

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No. 11 — F Emmitt Matthews Jr. | 6-7, 210, so.

Dating back to last season, Matthews has reached double figures in 10 of his last 18 games.

Earlier this season, Matthews netted his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds against Austin Peay. Matthews is averaging 9.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per outing this year for the Mountaineers.

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MEET THE COACH

The Mountaineers are coached by Bob Huggins, who is 281-152 in his 13th season at his alma mater and 871-363 in his 38th season overall.

ONE THING WEST VIRGINIA IS GOOD AT

West Virginia is a physical team that can make an impact on the glass. So far this season, the Mountaineers have posted an offensive rebound rate of 38.0%. That mark trails only six teams in all of college basketball.

ONE THING WEST VIRGINIA IS BAD AT

The Mountaineers are not a good shooting team, particularly at the free throw line. West Virginia is shooting 66.7% from the charity stripe, which ranks 267th in the country.

VEGAS SAYS

Kansas is a 9-point favorite over West Virginia, which is right in line with KenPom’s projection of this game. KenPom projects KU to win by a 74-65 margin. It might seem like a lot of points between two top-16 teams, but the Jayhawks have won so many conference openers in a row for a reason. I expect them to handle this one, and ultimately create a cushion in the second half in front of a home crowd.

Prediction: Kansas 78, West Virginia 64

This year’s record ATS: 6-5

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Jayhawks remain favorite to win league title in 2020 ahead of Big 12 play

Kansas head coach Bill Self huddles up with his players during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas head coach Bill Self huddles up with his players during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

It figures to be a different type of Big 12 race for the Kansas men’s basketball team in 2020, at least compared to the previous 15 years.

After finishing third in the league last year, behind co-champions Kansas State and Texas Tech, KU’s streak of 14 straight Big 12 titles came to an end. So this season will be the first time since the 2004-05 campaign that the Jayhawks didn’t win at least a share of the conference crown the previous year.

“Definitely going into this year, it is different from last year,” sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji said. “We are going to take it game by game, not really focus on what is going on.”

It could mean that there is no pressure for this year’s squad, but No. 3 Kansas (10-2) is the prohibitive favorite to reclaim its spot atop the Big 12 Conference this season.

According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, KU’s odds to win the league has actually increased since the original odds were released on Nov. 5. The Jayhawks are now +105 to win a 15th league title in Bill Self’s 17th season after opening at +125 in early November.

With Big 12 season starting on Saturday, here is a full look at the updated odds as of Friday:

Odds to win Big 12 Conference

Kansas — +105 (was +125 on Nov. 5)

Baylor — +230 (was +350)

West Virginia — +500 (was +1800)

Texas Tech — +700 (was +1000)

Iowa State — +2500 (was +3000)

Oklahoma — +2500 (was +1600)

Oklahoma State — +2500 (was +1600)

Texas — +2500 (was +1000)

Kansas State — +5000 (was +3000)

TCU — +5000 (was 5000)

West Virginia, KU’s opponent for the league opener, was one of the biggest movers from the initial odds. The Mountaineers, who will take on the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse at 3 p.m. Saturday, enter the matchup 11-1 and ranked No. 16 in the country following a 67-59 win over Ohio State.

Baylor, meanwhile, is 10-1 and considered the sixth-best team in the nation via the latest AP poll. No. 22 Texas Tech (9-3) also has a win over then top-ranked Louisville, so the Jayhawks should have a few formidable foes this season.

“When you look at a race like this, you kind of look at consistency because that’s kind of who you are,” Self said. “You also look at what their ceiling is, and there is a lot of teams with high ceilings.”

But projections support the latest odds that the Jayhawks are still the favorite. Ken Pomeroy released his conference simulations in an article on The Athletic earlier this week, which gave Kansas a 75% chance to win at least a share of the Big 12 title. Baylor is at 20%, while West Virginia was listed at 13%.

KenPom’s current projections have the Jayhawks winning the league outright with a 14-4 record in league play. Both Baylor and West Virginia are projected to finish as runners-up with an 11-7 clip.

KenPom’s projected Big 12 standings for 2020

Kansas — 14-4

Baylor — 11-7

West Virginia — 11-7

Texas Tech — 9-9

Oklahoma State — 9-9

TCU — 8-10

Oklahoma — 8-10

Iowa State — 7-11

Texas — 7-11

Kansas State — 6-12

BartTorvik.com, meanwhile, gives Kansas an even better chance entering league play. KU has an 80.6% chance to share a league title and 67.6% chance to win it outright via his model. Baylor and West Virginia are also KU’s biggest challengers, according to Torvik’s system.

Torvik’s odds to win Big 12 title

Kansas — 80.6% share (67.6% sole)

Baylor — 15.7% share (8.1% sole)

West Virginia — 14.6% share (7.5% sole)

Oklahoma State — 3.1% share (1.2% sole)

Texas Tech — 1.2% share (0.4% sole)

Oklahoma — 0.5% share (0.1% sole)

TCU — 0.5% share (0.1% sole)

Texas — 0.4% share (0.1% sole)

Iowa State — 0.3% share (0.1% sole)

Kansas State — 0.0% share (0.0% sole)

It remains to be seen if KU will reclaim its spot as the top team in the conference come March. But the odds and computer models clearly suggest that the Jayhawks remain the team to beat ahead of this race, even if they are in unfamiliar territory.

“I think the whole team is ready for these games because that’s when the pressure really builds,” sophomore forward David McCormack said. “For all of us, it shows where we stand and where we are as a team.”

Reply 2 comments from Creg Bohrer Brett McCabe

Getting to know: Stanford basketball

Stanford head coach Jerod Haase gets the attention of his defense during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Stanford head coach Jerod Haase gets the attention of his defense during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The key for Kansas will be not letting one loss turn into two.

Eight days after falling at Villanova, KU (9-2) will hit the road again by traveling to Stanford for a Sunday afternoon matchup. The Jayhawks dropped their No. 1 ranking in the AP poll after the 56-55 defeat, and are now the fifth-ranked team in the country.

KU’s two losses this season have been by a combined three points and both against ranked foes.

But the Jayhawks have performed well in this situation under head coach Bill Self. Kansas is 94-13 following at loss in the Self era, including 1-0 this year. KU went 8-1 after a loss last year, and is now 43-5 in such scenarios over the last six seasons.

Stanford is 11-1 this year and has won four straight after its 62-59 win against San Diego in the Al Attles Classic in San Francisco on Dec. 21. Stanford’s lone loss came to Butler, 68-67, in the title game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Nov. 26.

Kansas leads the series with Stanford, 11-3, and has won the last three meetings. Sunday’s contest will be only the third meeting between the schools at Stanford with the last in 1968.

Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.

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BREAKING DOWN STANFORD

TOP PLAYER

No. 13 — F Oscar da Silva | 6-9, 225, jr.

Picking up where he left off in 2018-19, Oscar da Silva has emerged as Stanford’s top producer so far this season.

He is the team’s leading scorer with an average of 17.6 points per game and paces Stanford in rebounding with a clip of 6.0 rebounds per outing. He has reached double figures in all but one game, shooting 61.2 percent from the floor.

Against UNC Wilmington on Dec. 1, Oscar da Silva poured in a career-high 26 points after going 11-of-14 from the field. Entering the year, he was Stanford’s leading returning scorer and rebounder and has been as advertised through 12 games.

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SUPPORTING CAST

No. 3 — G Tyrell Terry | 6-2, 160, fr.

Even as just a freshman, Terry has been very effective running the offense for Stanford.

Terry has scored in double figures in 10 different games, which includes consecutive double-doubles against William & Mary and Oklahoma. He became the first Cardinal freshman with back-to-back double-doubles since Michael Humphrey in 2015.

Terry, who has produced five 20-point games, is averaging 15.6 points to go along with 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists through 12 games of his freshman campaign.

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No. 14 — F Spencer Jones | 6-7, 195, fr.

Jones was inserted into the starting lineup following the season opener.

Since then, Jones has provided a much-needed spark for the Cardinal. He is averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and has been a weapon from deep. Of Jones’ 40 field goals, 34 have come from beyond the arc, including his first 17 baskets to begin the season.

Jones has reached double figures in scoring six times, and has made a team-best 47.2 percent (34-72) from long range. To top it off, his size and athleticism have presented matchup issues for opponents all year.

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MEET THE COACH

The Cardinal are coached by former Kansas guard Jerod Haase, who is 59-50 in his fourth season at Stanford and 139-103 in his eighth season overall.

ONE THING STANFORD IS GOOD AT

Stanford has held all 12 opponents to under 70 points, marking the first time the team has accomplished that feat since a 13-game stretch from Nov. 12, 1999-Jan. 13, 2000. Stanford has allowed 57.5 points per game, which leads the Pac-12 and ranks 11th in the country.

ONE THING STANFORD IS BAD AT

Stanford hasn’t taken care of the rock particularly well this season. The Cardinal have posted a 21.6 turnover rate on offense, a mark that ranks 281st in the nation per KenPom. Stanford’s non-steal turnover rate of 12.9 ranks 324th in the country.

VEGAS SAYS

Kansas is a 6.5-point favorite as of Sunday morning on most sportsbooks. That line feels about right, to be honest. I do think Kansas will win this game, but it will be lower scoring and I’m taking the points for the home team because of it.

Prediction: Kansas 69, Stanford 65

This year’s record ATS: 6-4

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Getting to know: Villanova basketball

Villanova head coach Jay Wright yells at his team during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright yells at his team during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Now that Kansas is No. 1 in the nation, it is time for the team’s first true road test of the year.

The Jayhawks, who are ranked No. 1 in the latest AP poll, will travel to No. 18 Villanova Saturday morning. They will then have a road tilt at Stanford next weekend, meaning it will be a tough stretch for the Jayhawks with conference play right around the corner.

Villanova (8-2) has won four games in a row since an 87-78 loss to Baylor on a neutral court. The Wildcats also suffered a 76-51 loss at Ohio State in the second game of the season. Kansas, meanwhile, is now 9-1 on the year after winning nine consecutive games.

"Kansas presents so many problems," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said in a team release. "Obviously they are a great offensive team that averages 85 points a game. They're great in transition, have size and can really spread you out. Plus they're a great defensive team.”

The KU-Villanova series is tied at 4-4. This will be the third meeting since March of 2018, with KU winning last season by a 74-71 margin in Lawrence.

Tipoff is slated for 11 a.m.

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BREAKING DOWN VILLANOVA

TOP PLAYER

No. 41 — F Saddiq Bey | 6-7, 222, so.

Bey has been on another level in December.

The 6-8 forward has averaged 20.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per outing in the Wildcats’ four games this month. For the season, Bey leads Villanova in scoring at 16.3 points and adds 5.5 rebounds per contest.

Last year, Bey made an immediate impact at Villanova and was named to the All-Freshman team in the BIG EAST. He averaged 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 29.6 minutes per game in his rookie campaign.

SUPPORTING CAST

No. 2 — G Collin Gillespie | 6-3, 191, jr.

As one of four players averaging in double figures for Villanova, Gillespie is an important part of the team’s success.

This year, the guard is posting a scoring clip of 14.4 points per contest to rank second on the team. He is shooting 41.3% from the floor, while leading Villanova with 21 made 3-pointers through 10 games.

In addition, Gillespie scored 20 points in the Wildcats’ 78- 66 victory over Saint Joseph’s on Dec. 7.

No. 24 — G Jeremiah Robinson-Earl | 6-9, 232, fr.

A former KU target could be primed for a big showing this weekend.

Robinson-Earl was a Bishop Miege standout before electing to play his final season of prep basketball at IMG Academy in Florida, and then he ultimately picked Villanova over the Jayhawks in October of 2018.

This season, he is averaging a double-double during the first 10 games of his college career with a clip of 12 points and 10 rebounds per contest.

No. 5 — G Justin Moore | 5-11, 193, sr.

Moore has become familiar with the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award.

He earned the honor after he scored 16 points and added three assists in Villanova’s 78-70 victory over Delaware last Saturday at the Never Forget Tribute Classic. Moore has earned the honor for the third straight week, and his the first player to do so since 2009-10 when Dane Miller of Rutgers accomplished that feat.

For the year, Moore is averaging 12.6 points per outing.

MEET THE COACH

The Wildcats are coached by Jay Wright who is 456-177 in his 19th season at Villanova and 578-262 in his 26th season overall.

ONE THING VILLANOVA IS GOOD AT

As usual, Villanova can shoot the ball. The Wildcats rank 13th in effective field goal percentage with a mark of 56.6%, per KenPom. They are 31st in 3-point percentage, hitting 38.1% of their shots from downtown.

ONE THING VILLANOVA IS BAD AT

Villanova’s struggles on defense have been noticeable. The Wildcats’ defense ranks 256th in 3-point percentage (35.1%) and 226th in effective field goal rate (50.7%) thus far this season.

VEGAS SAYS

Kansas is a 1.5-point favorite on most sportsbooks entering its first true road test of the year. These matchups are always tricky, with winter break and the holidays just around the corner. It is also a morning game on the road, so that doesn't necessarily help. Despite all of that, I trust KU’s defense to travel and I’m laying the points.

Prediction: Kansas 75, Villanova 70

This year’s record ATS: 6-3

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