The Kansas men’s basketball team prepares for a rare back-to-back stretch against the same opponent, starting tonight when it welcomes Iowa State to Allen Fieldhouse.
After tonight’s battle in Lawrence, KU and Iowa State will have just one day off before both teams square off again. The rematch will then take place at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa on Saturday.
There are benefits and challenges for both teams to have to play such a stretch. Fortunately for each squad, they will be on an even playing field in that regard.
These teams are not even in terms of where they are at in the standings, however. While winning the Big 12 is probably off the table, Kansas (13-7, 7-5) is still aiming for a high finish in the conference.
Iowa State, meanwhile, is just looking to get in the win column during league play. The Cyclones are 0-9 against conference opponents after winning just two games in nonconference action. ISU is 2-12 overall on the year.
Tipoff for tonight is slated for 6 p.m., while Saturday’s game will begin at 2 p.m. The former will be televised on ESPN, while the latter will be televised on ABC.
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BREAKING DOWN IOWA STATE
No. 45 — G Rasir Bolton | 6-3, 185, jr.
Bolton has been Iowa State’s best player during a rough season because of what he provides as a scorer.
This season, Bolton is leading the team in scoring with an average of 16.6 points per game while shooting 46.1% from the floor. Bolton has reached double figures in 13 of the 14 games this year for the Cyclones.
Bolton, who has eclipsed over 1,000 points in his career, is actually averaging 20 points per outing over the last four contests. He averaged 14.7 points per game last year after transferring from Penn State, which led to him making the All-Big 12 honorable mention team.
In addition, Bolton leads this year’s Iowa State squad in rebounds (5.3 per game), assists (4.5 per game) and steals (1.8 per game) entering this series against Kansas.
No. 5 — G Jalen Coleman-Lands | 6-4, 187, sr.
As one of four players to average double figures for the Cyclones, Coleman-Lands is second on the team in scoring ahead of this week’s two-game stretch.
Coleman-Lands, who has played in 13 contests this year, is averaging 11.9 points per game. It’s worth noting that two other ISU players average 11.8 points per outing and 11.7 points per game, so Coleman-Lands’ claim for second-leading scorer isn’t very strong.
The graduate transfer has scored 1,215 points in his career and ranks seventh among active players with 123 career games played. He has reached double figures in all but two games this season for the Cyclones.
Prior to coming to Iowa State, Coleman-Lands was at DePaul for a few seasons after originally starting his collegiate career at Illinois. For his career, Coleman-Lands has averaged 10.0 points per game with this season being his best scoring mark.
No. 33 — F Solomon Young | 6-8, 255, sr.
Young is fourth on the team in scoring with an average of 11.7 points per contest for the Cyclones.
This year, Young has played in 12 games after missing contests against Oklahoma State and Mississippi State due to health and safety protocols. This is Young’s fifth season with the program after taking a medical redshirt in 2018-19.
Young, who has a wingspan of 7-foot-1 according to Iowa State’s game notes, is averaging 4.9 rebounds per outing to go along with nearly a block per contest.
ONE THING IOWA STATE DOES WELL
The Cyclones have done a solid job at the free throw line, shooting 75.1% from the charity stripe on the year. It is a mark that ranks 52nd in all of college basketball.
ONE AREA IOWA STATE STRUGGLES
Opposing teams have dominated the glass against the Cyclones, who have allowed opponents to record an offensive rebound rate of 36.1% this year. For comparison, the national average offensive rebound rate is 28% and ISU’s mark actually ranks 343rd in the country.
MEET THE COACH
Iowa State is coached by Steve Prohm, who is 97-85 in his sixth season at ISU and 201-114 in his 10th season overall.
As of Thursday morning, Kansas is a 15-point favorite over Iowa State on FanDuel’s Sportsbook. That number is a bit higher than KenPom has it, as his system projects a 78-65 win for KU. KenPom currently projects a 76-67 victory for Kansas on Saturday as well.
In terms of this game, though, the 15-point spread seems a bit too high for me. The Cyclones have been more competitive of late, suffering single-digit losses to West Virginia, Oklahoma and TCU over the last three games.
So I’m taking the points, but expecting a comfortable KU victory in the end.
Prediction: Kansas 79, Iowa State 68
Another first-year quarterback is expected to be in the mix this spring for the Kansas football team.
Conrad Hawley, a QB from Raymore-Peculiar High School (Missouri), announced his verbal commitment via his personal Twitter account on Jan. 12. Hawley plans to enroll early, similar to Indiana prep QB Ben Easters, who signed with KU in December.
Also like Easters, Hawley is a three-star prospect on Rivals. Both are considered pro-style quarterbacks as well. Per Rivals, Hawley is listed as the 18th-best prospect in the state of Missouri in the Class of 2021.
The purpose of this report isn’t to determine who is the better option at quarterback. That will inevitably be decided at some point in their careers. Let’s focus on understanding who Hawley is as a player instead, and what he could ultimately bring to KU.
Based on his Hudl film, here is my report on KU’s newest quarterback:
Key stats: According to MaxPreps, Hawley completed 164-of-275 passes for 2,722 passing yards during his senior season at Raymore-Peculiar High School. He threw 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Hawley secured a state title and won the Simone Award in 2020.
Body type/athletic ability: Hawley is listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds on Rivals. He comes in way closer to being college ready from a physical standpoint thanks to his own commitment in the weight room. Compared to his frame as a junior, Hawley put on close to 50 pounds and it really helped him take a huge leap as a signal caller.
Strengths: Strong arm, can make variety of throws, and ability to make plays out of structure
Hawley feels like the type of prospect that would have been a much bigger deal like a decade ago, when everyone was drooling over the strong-armed quarterback at all levels. Now, there seems to be an emphasis on landing more mobile quarterbacks and not necessarily the tall signal caller with a strong arm.
That said, Hawley’s arm strength was the first thing that popped when watching his tape. He has a segment labeled “deep balls” on his Hudl film at about the 2:20 mark. The first one really caught my eye, because Hawley put the 45-yard pass where only his receiver could make a play on the ball.
Hawley launched the ball as soon as he hit the final step of his drop back, and saw his receiver had a step on the defensive back. Hawley aimed the throw toward the sideline because there was a safety coming to provide help over the top. The receiver was able to get his hand on the ball at the goal line. It was just the perfect ball location.
Hawley had more throws like that, but that play really helps paint a picture of one of his best attributes. He really can drive the ball downfield, and he demonstrated great footwork on such throws. He had a quick release as well.
But Hawley showed the ability to make a variety of throws, as his Hudl film also had quick passes and mid-level tosses. He wasn’t afraid to throw in a tight window, which probably played a part in him tossing 12 interceptions.
My favorite play was when Hawley changed arm angles because he had two defenders in his face. Sometimes this can be a bad habit for young quarterbacks, but it didn’t seem like Hawley altered his throwing motion much outside of that specific play.
On this particular play, Hawley had to go side arm because he had a defender coming straight at him. The ball was slightly behind the receiver, who was about 10 yards upfield. Yet the pass was still on target enough to let the receiver make something happen after the catch.
The best part about the play was that Hawley threw to where the receiver had to be. At the time of the release, the receiver was directly behind a defender. Hawley threw him open, despite having to change his arm angle and having two defenders basically on top of him.
That play was a glimpse of what really made Hawley’s tape pop though. Many of Hawley’s best moments came when he had to make something happen out of structure.
Mobility will rightfully be a concern for Hawley, but he showed enough movement to extend plays during his senior season. He demonstrated solid pocket presence, and had a knack for getting in an athletic stance when he felt pressure.
Most of all, Hawley did a good job of keeping his eyes upfield whenever he ultimately had to improvise. Whether he was going left or right, Hawley was constantly looking for an open receiver when he was on the move. Sometimes young quarterbacks will just take off to gain yardage via a scramble.
I liked that Hawley's first priority was to find an open man when he had to leave the pocket.
One reason for concern: Won’t be used in the QB run game
Hawley was used as a runner at times in high school. At one point in his Hudl film, Hawley ran a QB draw to effectively ice the game. You can tell by his movement in the pocket that he has efficient footwork, and that should bode well for his future as a signal caller.
But I’d be surprised if Hawley is involved in the quarterback run game at the collegiate level. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Players are just faster and can tackle better in the Big 12, and it doesn’t seem like Hawley would have much success on designed runs.
As long as Hawley's ability to extend plays translates, though, I think that will be more than enough mobility for him to find some level of success as a collegiate quarterback.
Overall thoughts and projection: It is easy to be optimistic about Hawley’s fit after watching his highlights. He has a lot of traits that should translate. Hawley's growth as a player and a person ahead of his senior season should speak volumes to his work ethic and his commitment to getting better.
At the very least, Hawley provides depth in a quarterback room that now features three promising young signal callers. But I think there is reason to believe Hawley could push Jalon Daniels and Ben Easters for immediate playing time.
The Jayhawks should have an interesting quarterback room now with some serious potential, even if there are some growing pains at first.
After getting the weekend off, No. 9 Kansas is set to face No. 2 Baylor in a Big Monday matchup in Waco, Texas. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The Jayhawks (10-3, 4-2 Big 12) had their home game against Iowa State postponed due to COVID-19 protocols in the ISU program. That means it has been nearly a week since KU dropped a 75-70 decision at Oklahoma State on Jan. 12.
Some extra rest could be a good thing because Baylor (12-0, 5-0 Big 12) is the last remaining undefeated Power Five program. BU is coming off a 68-60 road win over Texas Tech this past weekend. The Bears are the nation’s only team to win every game by at least eight points this season.
Eight of the previous 10 meetings between these two teams have been decided by eight points or less, but nobody seems to believe that will be the case this time around. KenPom gives Baylor a 80% chance of victory and a projected victory of 76-66.
Kansas opened as a 10-point underdog in Vegas, but that line is down to 8.5 points on FanDuel Sportsbook as of Monday afternoon.
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BREAKING DOWN BAYLOR
No. 12 — G Jared Butler | 6-3, 195, jr.
It is no secret that any hope of stopping Baylor should begin with a game plan against Jared Butler.
Butler is back after becoming Baylor’s first underclassman to earn All-America or All-Conference first-team honors since 1980. And he’s even better this year. Butler ranks top-8 in the Big 12 in steals (1st), assists (3rd), scoring (5th), FG% (5th) and A-T ratio (8th).
Through 12 games, Butler is averaging 15.6 points per game to go along with 5.2 assists and 2.5 steals per contest. He’s shooting 47.2% from the floor, including a clip of 41.5% from beyond the arc.
Butler has 13 career games with at least 20 points, which includes a pair of 30-point performances. According to KenPom, Butler’s steal rate (5.0) ranks 17th in the nation and his assist rate (31.1) is 76th in the country.
No. 31 — G MaCio Teague | 6-4, 195, sr.
The difficult thing about defending Baylor is that containing Butler is not nearly enough. MaCio Teague is averaging 15.3 points per contest during his senior season. That clip ranks sixth in the Big 12 in scoring.
Teague has earned all-conference honors in all three collegiate seasons thus far, and likely will make it four for four. He was All-Big South First Team in 2017 and 2018 at UNC Asheville and All-Big 12 Second Team last year at Baylor.
Teague is the nation’s only active player with 1,500+ career points (1,653), 400+ rebounds (479), 225+ assists (244), 125+ steals (126) and 200+ made 3-pointers (250). He has also led the Bears in scoring in 11 of his last 24 games, which includes five different outings this season.
According to KenPom, Teague has a true shooting percentage of 60.3% and he plays 76.9% of Baylor’s minutes.
No. 45 — G Davion Mitchell | 6-2, 205, jr.
Back for another year as the starting point guard, Mitchell leads the conference in assists with an average of 5.9 per game.
Mitchell, who came off the bench for Auburn in 2017-18, has started in all 42 games at Baylor since joining the program. He was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year last season, while also earning a spot on the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and the All-Big 12 third team.
Mitchell also ranks second in the league in steals with an average of 2.2 per game. He’s made a 3-pointer in 30 of his last 38 games, shooting 37% from long range over that span.
Per KenPom, Mitchell has a true shooting percentage of 63.4% and ranks 131st in the nation in that department.
ONE THING BAYLOR DOES WELL
Baylor does a lot of things well, but 3-point shooting is the lone offensive category that Baylor is in the top-five on KenPom. The Bears are hitting 42.3% of their attempts from long range, which ranks fourth in the nation.
ONE AREA BAYLOR STRUGGLES
The Bears are allowing opposing teams to post a 9.4% block rate, a number that ranks 214th in the country. For comparison, the D1 average block rate is 8.8%. Yes, it was hard to come up with a way that Baylor struggles.
MEET THE COACH
The Bears are coached by Scott Drew, who is 354-213 in his 18th season at BU and 373-224 in 19th season overall.
This just feels like a trap. The Jayhawks are obviously never underdogs like this, and it almost feels like you are being tricked into taking the points because of that. At the same time, Baylor is a very good basketball team and there is a reason why it has won every game by at least eight points.
All that said, I’m falling for the trap. I’m taking the points for a Bill Self-led team coming off a loss and having a few extra days to prepare. There really is no other logic behind this pick.
Prediction: Baylor 78, Kansas 72
KU-IOWA STATE POSTPONED
Saturday's home game between No. 6 Kansas and Iowa State was postponed Friday evening because of COVID-19 protocol issues within the ISU program. No make-up date has been announced, but the schools plan to work with the Big 12 Conference to reschedule the game. KU now will play next Monday night at No. 2 Baylor in Waco, Texas.
No. 6 Kansas will look to put Tuesday’s loss in the rearview mirror when it plays host to Iowa State Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks are coming off a 75-70 road loss to Oklahoma State, marking their second conference defeat this month. KU has dropped two of its last four games, and is 10-3 on the year with a 4-2 clip in Big 12 play.
Iowa State (2-7, 0-5 Big 12) is looking to end a three-game losing skid after its 91-64 loss to No. 18 Texas Tech last weekend. The Cyclones have also fallen to Baylor and Texas over this recent stretch. Those are the only three games ISU has played in during the month of January thus far.
According to KenPom, Kansas has a 87% chance of victory against Iowa State this weekend. KU is projected to earn a 77-64 win in its final game before facing Baylor on Monday.
Tipoff will begin at 1 p.m., and the game will be televised on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
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BREAKING DOWN IOWA STATE
No. 45 — G Rasir Bolton | 6-3, 185, jr.
Bolton is off to a strong start to his junior season, leading the Cyclones in multiple statistical categories through nine games.
Entering this weekend, Bolton is averaging 14.8 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per contest. He’s also averaging 1.8 steals per outing, while shooting 48.6% from the floor.
Bolton, who averaged 14.7 points per game a year ago, has scored in double figures in 20 of his last 22 appearances. He ranks among the top-10 in school history shooting 84.8 percent at the charity stripe in his Cyclone career.
Last time out, Bolton scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the loss to Texas Tech. He has scored in double figures in three consecutive contests ahead of this weekend.
No. 33 — F Solomon Young | 6-8, 255, r-sr.
The Iowa State big man is back for a fifth season, and he’s putting together a solid campaign in the process.
Young is averaging a career-best 12 points per game this season. He’s one of four ISU players to average double figures in scoring. Young is also providing a team-high 5.2 rebounds per contest and shooting 57.3% from the field.
During this recent stretch, Young has really seemed to get things going. He’s scored in double figures in four consecutive games, which matches the longest streak of his career. Young registered 15 points against TTU last weekend.
No. 5 — G Jalen Coleman-Lands | 6-4, 187, sr.
Ranked second on the team in scoring, Coleman-Lands is averaging 12.7 points per contest for the Cyclones this year.
In nine games, Coleman-Lands is playing 33.4 minutes per outing and contributing in more ways than one. He’s averaged 4.3 rebounds per contest, while knocking down 46.3% of his shots and 100% of his attempts at the charity stripe this season.
Coleman-Lands has been a nice addition for the Cyclones as a graduate transfer, providing experience in the backcourt. He actually ranks among the nation’s leaders in career games played and 3-pointers made.
Coleman-Lands has even drilled a 3-pointer in every game this season for ISU.
ONE THING ISU DOES WELL
The Cyclones do a good job of defending the 3-point line so far this season. Opposing teams are shooting 28.3% from three-point range, a number that ranks 26th in the nation.
ONE AREA ISU STRUGGLES
Iowa State doesn’t do well on the glass on either end of the floor. ISU has an offensive rebound rate of 23.8%, which ranks 266th in the country. ISU is also allowing an offensive rebound rate of 33.3%, and that ranks 309th in all of college basketball.
MEET THE COACH
Iowa State is coached by Steve Prohm, who is 97-80 in his sixth season at ISU and 201-109 in his 10th season overall.
According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, Kansas is a 13.5-point favorite over Iowa State as of Friday evening. The Cyclones are struggling, and the Jayhawks will be looking to put their recent loss behind them. But this is too many points, even at home. I’ll take Iowa State to cover, but KU still wins by a comfortable margin.
Prediction: Kansas 77, Iowa State 68
No. 6 Kansas is back on the road Tuesday when it travels to Stillwater, Oklahoma to take on Oklahoma State inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
This conference clash will begin at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on Big 12 Now over on ESPN+.
Kansas (10-2, 4-1 Big 12) has won back-to-back games since falling to Texas at home. KU defeated a shorthanded Oklahoma squad by a 63-59 margin on Saturday.
The Jayhawks would break a league record of consecutive road conference victories with a win tonight. Kansas has won 11 in a row away from home against league opponents, a stretch that matches its previous record.
Oklahoma State (8-3, 2-3 Big 12), on the other hand, is coming off a 70-54 road win over Kansas State on Saturday. OSU connected on its final 13 shots to ultimately finish off Kansas State for its second league win of the season.
KenPom gives Kansas a 56% chance of victory tonight. His model projects KU to earn a 72-71 win in Stillwater.
BREAKING DOWN OSU
No. 2 — G Cade Cunningham | 6-8, 220, fr.
The scouting report on Oklahoma State has to start with Cade Cunningham, who is currently projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
So far in 11 games at the collegiate level, Cunningham has been as advertised. He’s averaged 17.4 points per game to lead the way for OSU, while also posting an average of 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest. Cunningham is averaging 33.4 minutes per outing.
Cunningham can get to the rim with ease, and he’s a phenomenal passer. Cunningham’s best performance so far was when he poured in 29 points on Oral Roberts. It was the most by an OSU player since Jawun Evans scored 30 against UNC in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 22, 2016.
Cunningham was the 2020 Naismith High School Player of the Year in his final prep season.
No. 13 — G Isaac Likekele | 6-5, 215, jr.
The Cowboys only have two players averaging in double figures in scoring and Isaac Likekele is one of them.
Likekele is averaging 12.3 points per contest, but his rebounding as a guard is especially impressive. Likekele is third in the Big 12 in rebounds per game with an average of 8.1 rebounds per contest. He’s also dishing out 3.5 assists per game.
In addition, Likekele takes efficient shots. He’s first in the league with a 59.6% field goal percentage. He was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore last season, but he has taken a big leap this year.
No. 14 — G Bryce Williams | 6-2, 180, sr.
There is plenty of balance for the Cowboys after their top-two players, so let’s highlight Bryce Williams because of his defensive play.
Williams is averaging 1.4 steals per game, which ranks 11th in the Big 12. He’s a pesky defender that should create problems for members of KU’s backcourt tonight. Because of his defensive play, Williams is among the OSU leaders in plus/minus per 40 minutes with a mark of +8.3.
The Cowboys in general have had a solid defense. They force 14.4 turnover per game and are holding opponents to a 39.8% field goal percentage from the floor.
ONE THING OSU DOES WELL
The Cowboys do a good job of crashing the glass. They have a 32.2% offensive rebound rate, which ranks 67th in the nation.
ONE AREA OSU STRUGGLES
Oklahoma State is not a great 3-point shooting team, to say the least. The Cowboys are hitting 31.6% of their shots from long range, which ranks 232nd in the nation.
MEET THE COACH
The Cowboys are coached by Mike Boynton Jr., who is 59-52 in his fourth season at OSU.
According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, Kansas is considered a 3.5-point favorite over Oklahoma State as of Tuesday morning. I know KenPom has this closer, but I’m going to lay the points in this one. Jalen Wilson didn’t have his best game on Saturday, and a strong bounce back by him should lead to more of a comfortable win for KU.
Prediction: Kansas 75, OSU 69
The Kansas offensive line received a much-needed boost on Tuesday, when former Notre Dame backup center Colin Grunhard announced he was transferring to the University of Kansas.
Grunhard, a former walk-on who eventually earned a scholarship, will have two years of eligibility left. Before joining the Fighting Irish, Grunhard was a four-year starter at Bishop Miege and received offers from Air Force, Colgate and South Dakota.
Grunhard probably could have gone elsewhere in the transfer portal, but playing time seems to be a big reason why he landed in Lawrence. According to NCAA Premium Stats on Pro Football Focus, Grunhard played 99 snaps at center across three seasons with Notre Dame.
As a result, there really isn’t a lot of tape on Grunhard at the collegiate level. Fortunately for the purpose of this report, Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant put together a 13-minute video of Grunhard’s snaps at Notre Dame that featured multiple angles on each play. I highly recommend checking it out to form your own opinion.
After watching the video multiple times myself, I have a better understanding of who Grunhard is as a player and how he will fit with the Jayhawks. So here is my full report on KU’s newest center:
Key stats: Grunhard appeared in 13 games in his career, including three in 2020. Per PFF, Grunhard had a run-blocking grade of 53.7 on 12 total snaps in 2020. He posted a run-blocking grade of 72.8 on 39 such snaps in 2019 and finished with a mark of 65.8 in 23 plays as a run blocker in 2018.
In terms of pass protection, Grunhard did not have a snap in 2020. He posted a pass-blocking grade of 79.9 on 18 plays in 2019, while finishing with a mark of 72.9 on two pass snaps in 2018.
For comparison, the highest pass-blocking grade by a KU player with more than 20 snaps this past season was Chris Hughes with a mark of 55.1. Earl Bostick Jr. paced the run-blocking unit among regular linemen with a grade of 72.2 on the year.
Body type/athletic ability: Grunhard is listed at 6 feet and one-half inch and 290 pounds, according to the Notre Dame roster. Grunhard probably won’t get much bigger, but he’s ready to play as is. His height has been viewed as a concern by some, but I actually think it helps him have great pad level and leverage in most situations.
More importantly, Grunhard has the athletic ability to be a starting center at the college level. He’s explosive after the snap, with great initial footwork to get in position. He has solid speed to get to the second level and execute blocks in space, and was even asked to be a puller on occasion for Notre Dame.
Strengths: Competitive toughness, explosiveness and pad level
There was one play all the way back in 2018 that really highlighted who Grunhard is as a player and why KU fans should be excited that he is coming to Lawrence.
It was an outside zone run to the right, in which Grunhard didn’t immediately have a player to block. After making sure his right guard didn’t need help, Grunhard picked up a crashing linebacker at the time of the handoff. Grunhard met him with good pad level and solid hands, and there was no chance of his man making the play behind the line of scrimmage.
Grunhard could have stopped there. After all, he had done his job and the play was going the other way. Instead, Grunhard maintained his block all the way through. When the Wake Forest defender spun and headed upfield, so did Grunhard.
Grunhard proceeded to stick with his block for nearly 10 yards until the final whistle. The play ended on the other hash, and Grunhard was the only player blocking by the end of the sequence.
It really just highlighted Grunhard’s biggest attribute, which is his competitive toughness. Grunhard has a tendency to block until the final whistle on most plays. He’s seemingly always looking to hit someone. Grunhard has a fiery style of play, which is a trait that not every lineman has.
Grunhard has even more positives from a technical standpoint, too. Grunhard has good explosiveness, and was often the first player in position after the snap. His solid initial footwork, particularly with his lead step, allows him to reach either a 0-tech or 2-tech defender to get in position to make a play.
When Grunhard does meet a defender, he is often the low man at point of attack. Grunhard has really good pad level, which allows him to have great leverage on most blocks. Grunhard might not get much push at the point of attack, but his pad level and solid use of hands should translate to success in the run game.
Grunhard also showed the ability to get to the second level and execute blocks in space against more athletic defenders.
One reason for concern: Lack of reps in pass protection
This actually isn’t a knock on Grunhard, but one thing that stood out was the lack of times he was asked to pass protect. There were very few of those reps in that 13-minute video on Jayhawk Slant, and there is a reason for that. Per PFF, Grunhard had just 20 snaps in pass protection during his Notre Dame career.
Now, let’s use some common sense here. The reason why that is the case is because Grunhard was a reserve and he typically saw action late in games when Notre Dame was just running out the clock. In fact, half of Grunhard’s pass-blocking reps came in his 18-play outing against Bowling Green in 2019.
Based on what Grunhard is good at in run blocking, though, we can make an educated guess on how well he will hold up in pass protection. I would expect a center who has really good pad level and technically sound hand placement when he is ultimately asked to pass protect for KU.
Like most centers, Grunhard won’t be asked to have too many one-on-one battles and that is good because he probably doesn’t have the play strength to overpower defenders.
Grunhard’s ability to read and pick up blitzes will determine how well he does in pass protection. But there was some of that mental processing on display in the run game, so that probably won't be an issue.
Overall thoughts and projection: It might not be saying much because KU’s offensive line was terrible in 2020, but that position group just got better by adding Grunhard to the mix.
Grunhard comes from a prestigious program like Notre Dame, which consistently has one of the better offensive line units in the country. Because of that alone, Grunhard should be able to bring a leadership aspect to this group and ultimately help turn things around up front.
As a player, Grunhard has all the tools to compete for immediate playing time. Grunhard has really good pad level and leverage to go along with solid technique on a consistent basis. He also appears to be one of the more competitive players on the football field, and that mentality should be evident as soon as he steps on campus.
A lot of things can still happen before the 2021 campaign begins, but I would expect Grunhard to be the starting center for the Jayhawks in the season opener.
Coming off a conference loss, No. 6 Kansas will look to bounce back on the road against TCU on Tuesday. Tipoff is slated for 9 p.m. in Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
Last time out, the Jayhawks (8-2, 2-1 Big 12) suffered a 84-59 loss to Texas in Allen Fieldhouse this past weekend. TCU (9-2, 2-1 Big 12), meanwhile, is riding a five-game win streak after its 67-60 victory at Kansas State on Saturday.
Despite recent results, KU is expected to win this game. According to KenPom, Kansas has a 65% chance of victory and is projected to win by a 71-67 margin. Torvik gives the Jayhawks a 60% chance to defeat the Horned Frogs.
All of that makes sense when you consider how good KU has been coming off a loss under Bill Self. With Self at the helm, KU is 97-13 following a defeat and is even better over the last six-plus seasons by posting a 46-5 clip over that span.
The game will air on ESPN with Mark Neely and Fran Fraschilla on the call.
BREAKING DOWN TCU
No. 22 — G RJ Nembhard | 6-5, 195, jr.
TCU has a talented backcourt, which is led by junior guard RJ Nembhard.
Nembhard leads the Big 12 in scoring with 18.7 points per game, which includes a really impressive stretch as of late. Nembhard has netted 20 or more points in four consecutive games. Last time out, Nembhard scored 21 points on 50% shooting from the floor.
Nembhard ranks sixth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (48.8%) and is also sixth in assists per game (4.4) so far this season. Nembhard is an athletic scoring guard that can really produce off the dribble, but he can also be careless with the ball at times.
Last season, Nembhard was second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.1 points per game.
No. 1 — G Mike Miles | 6-2, 195, fr.
The other piece of that talented backcourt tandem is freshman guard Mike Miles.
Miles has three 20-point games this season and ranks ninth in the Big 12 in scoring with an average of 14.8 points per contest. Among freshmen, Miles’ scoring average is second in the Big 12 and 10th nationally. He is also converting on 46.8% of his shots, which ranks ninth in the Big 12.
Coming out of high school, Miles is the 114th-ranked prospect in the Class of 2020 and the 27th-best point guard by Rivals. Miles has really good handles, and excellent playmaking ability in his first year with TCU.
No. 21 — C Kevin Samuel | 6-11, 255, jr.
To complete a nice balance, the Horned Frogs have a reliable veteran presence in the paint.
Junior center Kevin Samuel is the only other TCU player to average in double figures with a scoring average of 10.2 points per game through 11 contests. He’s also averaging 10.2 rebounds per contest and 2.6 blocks per outing.
Samuel is TCU’s career leader with 191 blocked shots. He leads the Big 12 and ranks 20th nationally with 2.6 blocks per game. Samuel tallied seven blocks against Oklahoma State on Dec. 16, which was the most by a TCU player in 20 seasons.
In addition, Samuel’s rebounding average paces the Big 12 and ranks 20th nationally.
ONE THING TCU DOES WELL
TCU has fared well on 2-point shots so far this season, hitting 54.5% of such attempts from the floor. That clip ranks 57th in the country, according to KenPom.
ONE AREA TCU STRUGGLES
The Horned Frogs won’t get much production from the charity stripe. TCU’s 64.2% clip from the free throw line ranks 292nd in the nation. TCU averages 11.9 made free throws per contest.
MEET THE COACH
The Horned Frogs are coached by Jamie Dixon, who is 93-59 in his fifth season at TCU and 421-182 in his 18th season overall.
Kansas is a 6.5-point favorite at the FanDuels Sportsbook as of Tuesday morning. KU has obviously done a good job of bouncing back after a loss, but I think this is too many points to lay on the road. TCU does a good job of protecting the rim, an area where KU has struggled so far this season.
Give me Kansas in a close one.
Prediction: Kansas 76, TCU 73
Especially in this instance, it would be easy to get lost in the recruiting rank when discussing four-star receiver Quaydarius Davis from Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas
Davis, who verbally committed to play football for the University of Kansas on Saturday, is a big get for Les Miles and his staff. Davis is rated by Rivals as the No. 5 receiver in the entire Class of 2021 and is considered the 36th-best overall prospect in the country.
While his commitment is a non-binding pledge, Davis would become the highest-rated recruit to join the Jayhawks since Rivals began ranking players in 1999. But that doesn't really explain the type of player KU is getting, if Davis does end up signing his national letter of intent to the program in February.
So let’s take a closer look at the potential Jayhawk, shall we? For the purpose of this report, I tracked down as much film as I could find over the weekend using Hudl, YouTube and Twitter.
It won’t be as good as watching full games, but it will provide more information on what Davis does well as a player and what he could ultimately bring to KU.
Body type/athletic ability: Davis is listed at 6-foot and 193 pounds. He’s already pretty thick in his shoulders and chest, but will obviously add more muscle in college. Davis has really good acceleration and his explosiveness is evident when he’s got the ball in his hands.
Strengths: Hands, body control and yards after the catch
I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking they were watching the same three plays on Davis’ senior year Hudl film. Skyline did a lot of throwing the ball up to Davis, and letting him go make a play on the ball. It is not a bad strategy when a team has a receiver as talented as Davis.
Davis won’t be able to do that in the Big 12, but I thought it highlighted some of his biggest strengths as a prospect. Davis simply has really good hands and excellent body control. Most of Davis’ best plays came because he was able to adjust to a ball in the air, finding a way to come down with the grab. The combination of those two traits is why Davis is able to make all those difficult catches look so easy.
When Davis wasn’t running straight down the field and catching a jump ball on his highlight film, he was usually making defenders miss after a screen or short pass. There was one noteworthy example of this, in which Davis leaped over a defender on his way to a game-winning touchdown last December.
Davis’ ability to essentially turn into a running back after the catch is not a trait that a lot of receivers have. In fact, Davis was even used as a running back by Skyline. It is something that makes players like AJ Brown of the Tennessee Titans so successful at the NFL level, and a quality that could lead to some big plays for Davis in Lawrence.
Weaknesses: Route running and maybe blocking?
Davis didn’t exactly demonstrate a full route tree on any of his highlight videos. That’s not really a knock, because so few high school prospects come out as crisp route runners. And, as mentioned earlier, Davis did have a ton of success winning jump balls and making plays after the catch.
That said, Davis did face a lot of off coverage in the tape I watched. That was obviously because of the threat of his speed, but Davis’ inefficient footwork prevented him from creating separation at times. This is something that I expect KU receivers coach Emmett Jones, who played a key role in landing Davis, will be able to fix when Davis does get to Lawrence.
It is also worth noting how few blocking plays were available on any of Davis’ highlight videos. It is hard to know for certain what Davis can provide as a blocker, but I’m guessing that will be an area where he has room for improvement. He certainly has the physical traits to have success as a blocker, I just didn't see anything to suggest that is already a big part of his game.
Overall thoughts and projection: These recruit reports will always lean toward reasons for optimism. I just think it is more important to focus on what a prospect does well, rather than what an 18-year-old can’t do on the football field.
But Davis would be a big-time addition to the KU football program.
Just think about how often Kansas had some screen pass concepts incorporated in this RPO-system under Brent Dearmon. For that reason alone, Davis would be a contributor on this offense whenever he got the opportunity. Davis can play inside or out, so he would likely make an impact early in his career.
There are obviously still concerns about who would be throwing Davis the ball and if the quarterback has enough time to even get it to him. Those questions will certainly have to be answered.
Davis is legit, though, and KU fans should be counting down the days until he can sign.
No. 3 Kansas trailed from start to finish of its 84-59 loss to No. 8 Texas Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. Limited crowd or not, that’s not the sort of thing that happens to the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
In fact, KU’s 25-point loss is the team’s largest margin of defeat in Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self era and largest by the program since 1989.
But the sky is not falling for the Jayhawks, who are now 8-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play.
Almost a year ago to the exact date, Kansas dropped a 67-55 decision to Baylor at home. The performance highlighted some limitations that the Jayhawks had at the time, though they never lost again and ended up winning 16 in a row after that.
It is not fair to expect that level of response from this year’s squad, of course, but it illustrates the importance of not overreacting from one game. With that said, here are a few observations from what was the first KU game of 2021:
KU’s poor transition offense led to slow start
Entering Saturday, Texas ranked fourth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. The Longhorns’ length and athleticism was supposed to make life more difficult for the Jayhawks, and they ended up shooting 20-for-65 from the floor.
Kansas missed its first eights shots from the floor, and never really got into a rhythm after that. But KU’s decision making in transition certainly played a part in all that, especially when the team couldn’t buy a bucket out of the gate.
Following a missed layup by Texas, Kansas had a chance to hit its first field goal in a four-on-two situation. Jalen Wilson, who collected the defensive rebound on the other end, fired a pass to Ochai Agbaji along the perimeter.
Agbaji missed the 3-pointer, which was KU’s eighth miss of the game.
A wide-open 3-pointer is usually a good shot, but KU could have attacked the rim to get a better look in this scenario.
It merely highlighted some of Kansas’ struggles in transition, however.
Just over one minute later, Wilson had a two-on-one with Christian Braun and chose to do it all himself. He ended up getting the foul call, but it was a sequence that could have been a lot easier had Wilson dished the ball to Braun for an easy layup.
For the game, KU only had 6 fastbreak points against Texas. On a day where hitting shots was so difficult, more success in transition could have ultimately led to some easy buckets for the hosts.
Agbaji got too comfortable taking mid-range jumpers
The junior guard was the only source of offense for the Jayhawks in the early going. By the second media timeout, Agbaji had made all three of KU’s shots to that point in the game.
Agbaji finished with 11 points in the loss. He was the only other player to finish in double figures along with Wilson, who paced the team with 20 points. Agbaji was 5-of-14 from the floor, including 1-of-6 from long range.
But Agbaji could have helped himself by getting better looks, too. Agbaji hit a couple mid-range jumpers in the first half that served as one of the rare offensive bright spots for KU. At the 5:38 mark, Agbaji hit a pull-up jumper over 6-foot-10 Texas forward Jericho Sims.
Because of that, Agbaji probably took more of those types of shots than he should have. Agbaji ended up missing four of his six total jumpers (inside the arc) against Texas. He did not score at all in the second half, missing all five of his attempts from the floor.
Entering this weekend, Agbaji was 4-of-16 on “Far 2” shots, according to Torvik. As a team, Kansas is 43-for-145 (29.7%) on such attempts – not counting the Texas game – on the year.
Mitch Lightfoot delivers two big blocks
The Jayhawks’ lack of rim protection is nothing new, but it was obvious against a team like the Longhorns that can play above the rim. A total of 13 of Texas’ 30 made field goals came at the basket, with the visitors recording seven layups and six dunks on the day.
Coming off the bench, Mitch Lightfoot did his best to deter Texas from getting easy looks. He recorded two blocks in his five first-half minutes, including this nice recovery swat late in the first half.
That showing, along with David McCormack’s rough stretch to end the first half, was enough for Lightfoot to earn playing time to begin the second half. McCormack didn’t check back into the game until nearly 13 minutes had passed in the second half.
Lightfoot didn’t record another swat in the second half, but his play was worth mentioning given how Kansas has fared at protecting the rim this year. Entering Saturday, KU had a block rate of 8.6% and that number ranked 155th in the country on KenPom.
For the season, Lightfoot has netted a team-high nine blocks in 80 minutes of action.
It is time to really get into Big 12 play, as Kansas hosts Texas for a conference clash on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 11 a.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.
The first game of 2021 will pit two contenders for the league title against each other. Baylor is considered the favorite, but both KU and UT are expected to be in the mix. While much will change about the Big 12 race over the next eight weeks, a win on Saturday could be crucial for either team.
No. 3 Kansas has won eight in a row since falling to top-ranked Gonzaga in the season opener. The Jayhawks are 8-1 overall, which included a 2-0 clip in Big 12 action. They bested Texas Tech and West Virginia in December.
No. 8 Texas, meanwhile, returns to the court for the first time in 13 days after a 77-74 win in the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State. This will be just the second league outing for the Longhorns, who enter the weekend with a 7-1 overall record.
KenPom gives Kansas a 61% chance of victory against Texas. His system projects the Jayhawks to earn a 70-67 win over the Longhorns.
The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. Dan Shulman (play by play) and Jay Bilas (analyst) will call the action.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS
No. 4 — F Greg Brown | 6-9, 205, fr.
Brown has really hit the ground running during his freshman campaign for the Longhorns.
Over the last three contests, Brown has averaged 19.7 points per game to go along with 8.7 rebounds per contest and 2.7 blocks per outing. He scored a career-high 24 points and collected 14 rebounds and three blocks in 26 minutes of action against Oklahoma State.
For the season, Brown is averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for UT. He ranks third in scoring and first in rebounding. Brown has taken 32.7% of Texas’ shots, which ranks 41st in the nation by an individual player.
Brown has reached double figures in scoring in six games and double digits in rebounds three times. Brown has recorded three double-doubles.
No. 2 — G Matt Coleman III | 6-2, 180, sr.
Coleman is in his fourth year as the starting point guard for the Longhorns. He has played and started in 109 of a possible 110 games in his career.
So far this season, Coleman leads the team in scoring with an average of 13.9 points per game to go along with 4.5 assists per outing. Coleman also leads UT in minutes with an average of 35.9 minutes per game.
Entering this weekend, Coleman has converted 44% of his attempts from the floor and is knocking down 38.5% from long range. Last time out, Coleman scored 15 points and collected a career-best seven rebounds against Oklahoma State.
Coleman earned All-Big 12 third-team honors a season ago. He led Texas in scoring with an average of 12.7 points per game and posted a team-best 3.4 assists per contest as well.
No. 3 — G Courtney Ramey | 6-3, 185, jr.
The Longhorns have had a good start to the season because of Ramey’s emergence in the backcourt.
Through the first eight games, Ramey ranks second on the team in scoring with an average of 13.1 points per game. He is also second on the squad in assists with an average of 3.6 assists per contest. Ramey is shooting 42.9% from 3-point range, knocking down 15 of his 35 attempts from beyond the arc.
This type of production was really on display toward the end of last year though. During Texas’ five-game win streak late last season, Ramey averaged 15.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per outing. He was named to the All-Big 12 honorable mention team as a sophomore.
ONE THING TEXAS DOES WELL
At this point in the season, Texas really has a strong defense. The Longhorns rank fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency (88.0) on KenPom.
ONE AREA TEXAS STRUGGLES
The Longhorns have turned the ball over on 19.6% of their possessions this season, but their non-steal turnover rate of 12.4% rate ranks 263rd in all of college basketball.
MEET THE COACH
Texas is coached by Shaka Smart, who is 97-79 in his sixth year at UT and 260-135 in his 12th season overall.
Kansas is a 4.5-point favorite over Texas as of Friday evening, according to FanDuel’s Sportsbook. I picked KU to lose outright when it was a small home favorite last time out, and I won’t make that mistake again. That said, I do think Texas will cover the spread.
KU is 4-4 ATS so far this season.
Prediction: Kansas 74, Texas 70