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.
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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.
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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
With the calendar flipping to January and a new year, the Big 12 race will take center stage as is usually the case during the first two months of every year.
Like most years, the Kansas men’s basketball team is expected to be in the mix for a league title. The Jayhawks have actually started off 2-0 in conference play, with a road win against Texas Tech and a home victory against West Virginia.
But this year’s Big 12 race figures to be as compelling as ever, with five different teams ranked inside the top-13 in the country in the latest AP poll. Because of that, I figured it would be interesting to monitor this riveting race on a regular basis.
Things will likely change a bunch over the next eight weeks, and the Big 12 stock report will help keep track of all that. In this blog, we will take a look at teams trending up and trending down as we continue to get more information over the next two months.
To help do that, I’m going to use KenPom’s projected Big 12 standings for the purpose of this blog. I think it will be interesting to see how certain results impact his projections.
So before all the Big 12 teams return to action on Saturday, let’s take a look at where the league stands after December.
KenPom’s projected Big 12 standings (on Dec. 31)
Texas Tech 11-7
West Virginia 11-7
Oklahoma State 7-11
Kansas State 4-14
Iowa State 4-14
*Please note that projected conference records may not sum to .500 due to rounding
These were KenPom’s projections for the Big 12 as of Thursday afternoon. For comparison, here is what KenPom had projected nine days earlier ahead of KU’s 79-65 win over West Virginia on Dec. 22.
KenPom’s projected Big 12 standings (on Dec. 22)
West Virginia 11-7
Texas Tech 10-8
Oklahoma State 7-11
Kansas State 4-14
Iowa State 4-14
Stock up: Kansas
There wasn’t much of a difference in the entire race based on the Dec. 22 games, but the Jayhawks managed to separate themselves from a strong tier of teams that includes West Virginia, Texas and Texas Tech.
How did KU do that exactly? Well, by picking up wins against two of those teams.
Baylor is deservedly the favorite, but the first week of league action really showed that KU is very much in the mix. Bill Self’s mastery really led to Kansas stealing a win on the road against Texas Tech in the Big 12 opener. KU then buried 16 3-pointers to run away from West Virginia at home.
Had Kansas gone 1-1 during that stretch, which was certainly plausible, maybe we’d be talking about how Baylor is the clear favorite entering January. The Bears probably still are the favorite, but I’m not so sure that it is as obvious as it was at the start of the season.
KU won’t face Baylor until Jan. 18, but it at least distanced itself from a good group of Big 12 squads. Kansas will face Texas next, and a win on Saturday could really give KU the inside track to making this a two-team race.
Stock down: Iowa State
The Cyclones’ projection didn’t really change, but it is clear that this was not the start they had hoped for. For one, Iowa State suffered a 74-65 loss to Kansas State at home in the Big 12 opener. And that showing came exactly one week after K-State suffered a 81-68 loss to Fort Hays State.
ISU followed that up by dropping a 70-65 decision to West Virginia on the road. The Cyclones are now 2-4 on the year following a nonconference win over Jackson State. Needless to say, there is a lot of red (which means bad) on Iowa State’s KenPom page.
To make matters worse, Iowa State will have to face Baylor on Saturday in its first game back from break. The Cyclones will need to do a better job of taking care of the ball moving forward. They currently have a turnover rate of 23.5%, a number that ranks 297th in the country.
Key stat: Close game percentage
It is still obviously early, but four of the nine Big 12 games have been considered close on KenPom. That means four contests have either gone to overtime or have been decided by four points or fewer.
The 44.4% close-game percentage is the highest mark among all conferences. No other league has a higher rate than 33.3% thus far. Again, it is still early, but that number should illustrate why this will be a compelling conference race this year.
Big 12 games on Saturday, Jan. 2
Kansas (2-0 Big 12) vs. Texas (1-0 Big 12)
Iowa State (0-2) vs. Baylor (1-0)
Texas Tech (1-1) vs. Oklahoma State (0-2)
Oklahoma (1-1) vs. West Virginia (1-1)
Kansas State (1-1) vs. TCU (1-1)
There are no nights off in the Big 12, but tonight’s matchup between No. 3 Kansas and No. 7 West Virginia figures to be especially taxing in the final game before the break.
Not only is it another battle between two top-10 teams, but the style of play for WVU would suggest that this is going to be a slugfest. KU’s toughness will likely determine its fate in a classic Big 12 battle at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks (7-1, 1-0 Big 12) have won seven consecutive games since losing their season opener to No. 1 Gonzaga. Kansas is coming off a 58-57 road win over Texas Texas in the Big 12 opener.
On the other side, West Virginia (7-1, 1-0 Big 12) has won its last four games following its 70-65 victory against Iowa State.
KU holds a 14-5 advantage in the all-time series with West Virginia, which includes eight wins in the last nine meetings between these two teams. Kansas is 8-0 against West Virginia in games played in Allen Fieldhouse.
According to KenPom, Kansas has a 57% chance of victory against West Virginia in tonight’s conference clash. The Jayhawks are projected to win by a 71-69 margin on KenPom. The contest will begin at 8 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.
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BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA
No. 1 — F Derek Culver | 6-10, 255, jr.
Culver is a well-known player by now, as he is in third year with the Mountaineers. And he’s a big reason behind West Virginia’s physical style of play.
Through eight games, Culver is averaging a double-double in 27.3 minutes per outing. He has a scoring average of 14.4 points per game to go along with 10.9 rebounds per contest. Culver is shooting 47.8% from the floor so far this year.
It is no secret that Culver is going to be an integral part of this team. Per KenPom, Culver is taking 26.3% of the shots and is involved on 26.9% of the possessions. Both of those numbers lead WVU among players getting at least 50% of the team’s minutes.
Culver has appeared in 65 career games, which includes 47 starts in his tenure. He has posted five consecutive double-doubles, including an outing of 18 points and 12 rebounds against Iowa State.
No. 4 — G Miles McBride | 6-2, 200, so.
At this point in the year, McBride is leading the team in scoring with an average of 15 points per game.
Not only does McBride lead West Virginia in points, but he’s such an important player because of how often he is on the floor. He is leading the team in minutes with an average of 33.1 minutes per outing.
Per KenPom, McBride plays 82.8% of the team’s minutes and has an offensive rating of 118.6. Both of those numbers are the best on this West Virginia squad.
Last time out, McBride scored 18 points and collected six rebounds against Iowa State. He has started all eight games this year after making just two starts a season ago.
No. 34 — F Oscar Tshiebwe | 6-9, 260, jr.
Last but not least, it is time to introduce the 6-foot-9, 260-pound big man for WVU.
Tshiebwe is only averaging 20 minutes per game, but he’s managed to produce an average of 8.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per outing. Tshiebwe’s offensive rating of 116.5 on KenPom is the second-best mark on the team.
In addition, Tshiebwe’s rebounding rate is a big part of what he provides. He’s 16th in the nation in offensive rebound rate of 17.5%, while also posting a 21% clip in defensive rebounding.
Tshiebwe, who has started all 38 games of his career, was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team entering this year. He’s coming off a 12-point performance against Iowa State.
ONE THING WEST VIRGINIA DOES WELL
Given West Virginia’s size, it is no surprise that this team has an offensive rebound rate of 38.2% and ranks 12th in the nation in that category. Limiting second-chance opportunities will be key for the Jayhawks.
ONE AREA WEST VIRGINIA STRUGGLES
The Mountaineers simply aren’t shooting well this year, and that’s evident by their 45.3% effort on 2-point attempts through eight games. That mark ranks 246th in all of college basketball, so it is a good thing WVU tends to get extra shot attempts on offense.
MEET THE COACH
The Mountaineers are coached by Bob Huggins, who is 298-162 in his 14th season at WVU and 888-373 in his 39th season overall.
According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, Kansas is a 2.5-point favorite over West Virginia as of Tuesday morning. Home court doesn’t mean anything to me this season, but it is worth mentioning how difficult it has been for West Virginia to win in Lawrence.
That said, I’m taking West Virginia to win and cover. I just don’t think this is an ideal matchup for KU. The Jayhawks probably can’t play small against the Mountaineers’ lineup, and I don’t believe the best version of this team is playing big — at least as of late December.
As we saw in the Big 12 opener, it is hard to count out Bill Self because he is so incredible at in-game adjustments and late-game situations. That's obviously not news, but worth something in a likely intense Big 12 race.
But I’m picking Huggins and company to get a win in Allen Fieldhouse tonight.
Prediction: West Virginia 69, Kansas 67
The season really begins tonight, when the Kansas men’s basketball team travels to Lubbock, Texas to take on Texas Tech in the Big 12 opener. The game is slated to begin at 6 p.m. in United Supermarkets Arena.
Both teams enter this league opener with the same 6-1 record and similar expectations. No. 5 Kansas and No. 14 Texas Tech both have aspirations of contending for a Big 12 title in what figures to be the toughest league race yet.
While it is just one game, it has also been a long time since the Jayhawks dropped a conference opener. They have won 29 consecutive Big 12 openers, which is a streak that dates back to the 1991-92 season. Of those 29 wins, 17 of them have come away from Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas also enters the matchup on a nice win streak, having won six games in a row since falling to top-ranked Gonzaga in the season opener. Texas Tech, meanwhile, has won four in a row and is now 5-0 at home to start the 2020-21 campaign.
KU leads the overall series with Texas Tech, 37-6, which began in 1959.
According to KenPom, the Jayhawks are actually projected to lose to the Red Raiders tonight. KU is given a 41% chance of victory, with a projected score of 68-65 going in Texas Tech’s favor for this matchup.
The game will be televised on ESPN with Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas calling the action.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS TECH
No. 0 — G Mac McClung | 6-2, 185, jr.
McClung has led the Red Raiders in four of seven games in scoring, including a 20-point performance in the opener and 20 points against Troy.
Through seven games, McClung is pacing Texas Tech with an average of 14.1 points per game to go along with 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per contest. It is the type of instant impact that the Red Raiders expected from their junior guard in his first season with the program.
McClung transferred to Texas Tech after he averaged 14.2 points, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.8 rebounds in 50 career games at Georgetown University. He is coming off a sophomore season where he led Georgetown by averaging 15.7 points per game.
It is why McClung was named to the All-Big 12 preseason honorable mention squad entering the year, and why he’s the top player on the team thus far.
No. 1 — G Terrence Shannon Jr. | 6-7, 210, so.
As one of three players on the team averaging in double figures, Shannon is scoring 11.8 points per contest in six games so far this season. He is also averaging 4.7 rebounds per game for TTU.
Shannon missed the game against Abilene Christian due to an ankle injury, but has started every other game and was back on the court in a big way last time out.
Shannon led the Red Raiders with 15 points and seven rebounds last Saturday against Corpus Christi. He was 5-for-10 from the field and 5-for-6 at the free-throw line to lead the team in scoring for the first time this season and the third in his career.
Shannon is on the Julius Erving Award Watch List for the top forwards in college basketball.
No. 11 — G Kyler Edwards | 6-4, 195, jr.
In seven contests, Edwards is third on the team in scoring with an average of 11.3 points per game. He also leads the team in assists with an average of 3.6 assists per contest.
As a starter in 38 consecutive games, Edwards has been a familiar face for a quality program. Edwards played a reserve role in all 38 games as a freshman during the Final Four run and started all of Texas Tech’s games last year as a sophomore.
Edwards is a key player, but he’s always willing to do whatever it takes for the team. He wore No. 0 the first two years of his career, but offered to give that number to McClung over the summer.
For his career, Edwards has scored 641 points, accumulated 162 assists and knocked down 92 3-pointers in 76 career games.
ONE THING TEXAS TECH DOES WELL
The Red Raiders are once again a really good defensive team this season. KenPom actually has Texas Texas as the No. 1 team in adjusted defensive efficiency (85.1) in the country.
ONE AREA TEXAS TECH STRUGGLES
Texas Tech has seven new players on this year’s roster, which probably is hard to deal with in a year where Big 12 play is starting earlier and the offseason was more limited. TTU has an average experience of 1.36 years on KenPom, a mark that ranks 260th in the nation.
MEET THE COACH
Texas Tech is coached by Chris Beard, who is 100-45 in his fifth season at Texas Tech and 196-75 in his ninth season overall.
According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, Texas Tech is a 3.5-point favorite as of Thursday morning. I know what KenPom projects. I know this is a tough conference, and winning on the road in this league is never a given with or without fans.
But picking against KU in a Big 12 opener seems silly.
Prediction: Kansas 73, Texas Tech 70
In an unusually early college basketball showdown, No. 5 Kansas is slated to square off with No. Creighton in Allen Fieldhouse today. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The tip time shouldn't take away from what figures to be a really good college basketball game. The Jayhawks are 4-1 with their lone loss coming at the hands of top-ranked Gonzaga. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are 3-0 after three double-digit victories to start the season.
It is the second Big 12/Big East battle for Kansas, which dropped a 56-55 decision at Villanova last season. KU is 8-4 in conference challenges entering this matchup. It will also be KU’s third ranked opponent through the first six games of the season.
This will be the first meeting between Kansas and Creighton since 1974.
BREAKING DOWN CREIGHTON
No. 11 — G Marcus Zegarowski | 6-2, 180, jr.
Let’s start with Marcus Zegarowski, who is the team’s top player ahead of this highly-anticipated showdown.
Zegarowski was named the preseason Big East player of the year and was a preseason first-team all-american by multiple outlets. Through three games, Zegarowski is actually second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.3 points per game after he was the leading returning scorer in the conference with an average of 16.0 points per outing last year.
So far this season, Zegarowski is averaging 7.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per contest. While the numbers have dropped a bit, this would seem like the perfect opportunity for Zegarowski to get going since he thrived in big moments a year ago.
Creighton went 6-2 against top-25 opponents last year because of the play of Zegarowski. He averaged 18.9 points per game while shooting 60.4% from the field (58-for-96) and 51.4% from 3-point range (18-of-35) against top-25 competition.
No. 24 — G Mitch Ballock | 6-5, 205, sr.
There is no need to really introduce Mitch Ballock, who is a former Eudora High School standout. I actually remember covering a game where Ballock scored 29 in high school, and he thought he struggled in that game.
Ballock has continued to have a knack for scoring at the collegiate level. He surpassed 1,000 career points in the season opener against North Dakota State, and now ranks 40th on the all-time list with 1,022 points in his Creighton career.
This season, Ballock is averaging 8.7 points per game and shooting 29.4% from beyond the arc. He actually ranks fifth in Creighton history with 238 career 3-pointers, and is the only player in program history to have 90+ triples in back-to-back seasons.
Creighton has more players from the state of Kansas (4) than any other state, including Ballock who has started every game for the past two seasons.
No. 13 — F Christian Bishop | 6-7, 220, jr.
Christian Bishop, a Lee’s Summit native, has also started every game for Creighton over the past two seasons.
Head coach Greg McDermott has called Bishop the most-improved player on the team, and it has certainly shown through the early part of the season. He led Creighton in scoring in each of the first two games with 16 against North Dakota State and 18 against Omaha.
As of right now, Bishop paces the Blue Jays in scoring with an average of 15.0 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds per contest. He’s also shooting 81% from the floor, which leads the conference.
Last season, Bishop led Creighton with 38 dunks and 35 blocked shots. So look for him to be a presence around the rim on both ends of the floor.
No. 23 — F Damien Jefferson | 6-5, 220, sr.
Through three games, Damien Jefferson is one of six players averaging in double figures for the Blue Jays.
Jefferson ranks sixth in scoring with an average of 10.0 points per game in 24.7 minutes per contest. He is shooting 52.4% from the floor, including 44.4% from long range. Jefferson is averaging just 3.7 rebounds per contest after leading Creighton in rebounding a year ago.
According to Creighton’s official game notes, Jefferson flirted with the NBA Draft before withdrawing and had two SportsCenter top-10 plays against Seton Hall.
ONE THING CREIGHTON DOES WELL
Always worth noting when a team is coming into Allen Fieldhouse, but Creighton can really take care of the rock. The Blue Jays have a turnover rate of 10.8% on offense, which ranks third in the nation on KenPom.
ONE AREA CREIGHTON STRUGGLES
The smaller lineup does mean less of a chance to get second looks. Creighton has an offensive rebound rate of 19.8% through three games. According to KenPom, that mark ranks 262nd in all of college basketball.
MEET THE COACH
The Bluejays are coached by Greg McDermott, who is 234-116 in his 11th season at Creighton and 514-311 in his 27th season overall.
According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, Kansas is a 4.5-point favorite in this matchup between a pair of top-eight teams. Most of the money seems to be going on the over, which means we should expect a high-scoring game. Because of that alone, taking the points is the smart play in this one.
But I actually do think the Blue Jays could win this thing outright, especially in an Allen Fieldhouse that has limited attendance. We all saw a tired KU team survive a scare against North Dakota State over the weekend, while Creighton has had an extra day of rest and could just be a bad matchup based on its 3-point shooting and experience.
I think it will be a good game that could come down to the final possession. For now, give me the team that has a definitive go-to option in a game that comes down to the wire.
Prediction: Creighton 76, Kansas 74
A winless Kansas football team will have to hope that history can repeat itself this weekend, as it heads to Lubbock, Texas for a rematch of last year’s thriller with Texas Tech. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. at Jones AT & T Stadium.
The Jayhawks have lost 12 games in a row since their wild 37-34 win over the Red Raiders on Oct. 26, 2019, a stretch that includes an 0-8 (0-7 Big 12) start to the 2020 campaign. This will be Texas Tech’s regular-season finale, as the team enters the weekend with a 3-6 record and is 2-6 in conference action.
Texas Tech announced earlier this week that head coach Matt Wells tested positive for COVID-19 and began isolating. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is expected to fill in for the second-year head coach on Saturday.
According to Odds Shark, Kansas is a 26-point underdog to Texas Tech as of Friday afternoon. It is hard to expect the Jayhawks to win a Big 12 game at this point, so the real battle will be covering the large spread.
So let's take a closer look at the Red Raiders to see if covering the big number is a possibility.
As a reminder, log on to KUsports.com for our live coverage and follow our team on Twitter: @KUSports, @BentonASmith, @mctait and @SJacksonLJW
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS TECH:
Quarterback — Similar to Kansas, Texas Tech has had troubles picking a quarterback and keeping him healthy in 2020. Alan Bowman began the season as a starter, but was sidelined midseason by an injury. Utah State transfer Henry Colombi took over and played well, though both signal callers eventually played in the same game against Baylor.
Due to an injury to Colombi, Bowman started last week against Oklahoma State and had a strong performance. Bowman was 31-of-46 through the air for 384 yards to go along with three touchdowns and one interception. In his lone career start against KU, Bowman threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns in Texas Tech’s victory in 2018.
Running backs — Under Matt Wells, the Red Raiders want to create a nice balance with an emphasis on the ground game. Sophomore running back SaRodorick Thompson is leading the way for the Red Raiders with 593 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 20 catches for 116 yards thus far.
Thompson reached the 100-yard mark again last weekend against Oklahoma State, as he rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Thompson has really good footwork for the position, and has a nice stop-start ability that could lead to him finding a role at the next level.
Receivers — Sophomore Erik Ezukanma is having a true breakout season, establishing himself as one of the better receivers in the conference. Ezukanma ranks second in the league in both receptions (44) and receiving yards (728), which trails only Tylan Wallace of Oklahoma State.
Ezukanma was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list Monday after catching seven passes for a career-high 183 yards against Oklahoma State.
KeSean Carter has 30 catches for 290 yards and four scores this season. Ja'lynn Polk has hauled in 26 receptions for 251 yards and two touchdowns, while T.J. Vasher has grabbed 19 balls for 227 yards and two scores.
Offensive line — Based on the team’s depth chart in the game notes, Texas Tech is trotting out sophomore Ethan Carde (LT), sophomore Weston Wright (LG), junior Dawson Deaton (Center), junior Jack Anderson (RG), and senior Josh Burger (RT) along the offensive line.
According to PFF’s Premium Stats, Texas Tech is sixth in the Big 12 with a pass-blocking grade of 64.3 and seventh in the league in run blocking with a mark of 63.4.
Defensive line — One senior and two sophomores are listed as the three starters along the defensive line. Senior Eli Howard, who is 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, is the team’s starting defensive end. Jaylon Hutchings (Nose) and Tony Bradford Jr. (DT) are also starters as sophomores.
Howard, who has missed the last three games for TTU, has 16.5 career sacks and was a preseason All-Big 12 pick. His availability could be the difference between a good (relatively speaking) or bad day for KU's offensive line.
Linebackers — The Red Raiders have a veteran group at the linebacker position, with seniors Riko Jeffers (SAM) and Colin Schooler (WILL) cracking the opening lineup. Junior Krishon Merriweather is the team’s starting MIKE linebacker as well.
Merriweather, who is a junior-college transfer, currently leads the team for total tackles (63) and is tied for second in tackles for loss (4.5) this season.
Secondary — Texas Tech’s most-experienced group is on the back end. And while some players might end up coming back, it is worth noting that it is senior day for all four starters in the secondary: Zech McPhearson (CB), DaMarcus Fields (CB), Thomas Leggett (S) and Eric Monroe (S). McPhearson enters the weekend tied for the Big 12 lead with four interceptions this year.
That said, that level of experience has not necessarily translated to success this year. Texas Tech’s PFF coverage grade of 57.0 ranks ninth in the Big 12. That mark is only better than the Jayhawks, who have a coverage grade of 36.9 in 2020.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Junior Jonathan Garibay is the placekicker for Texas Tech, while sophomore Austin McNamara is the team’s punter. Garibay made his debut against Baylor, and went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts in that game. McNamara, who has the longest punt in Big 12 history with an 87-yard boot against West Virginia earlier this year, is averaging 45.9 yards per punt this season.
VEGAS SAYS… On this week’s edition of Kansas vs. the spread, the winless Jayhawks are considered a 26-point underdog against the Red Raiders on Odds Shark. That seems like a lot of points, considering the fact that Texas Tech is also one of the bottom-tier teams in the Big 12.
I'm taking the points, but I certainly don't feel great about it.
Prediction: Texas Tech 35, Kansas 14
No. 7 Kansas (1-1) should be more prepared than usual for this year’s Champions Classic, when it takes on No. 20 Kentucky (1-1) at 8:30 p.m. tonight in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Normally, this is the first big test every year for the Jayhawks and the fellow elite college basketball programs who are in this event every season. Yet KU already faced a team in Gonzaga that is arguably better than Kentucky, Michigan State or Duke.
The Jayhawks dropped their season opener, 102-90, to the top-ranked Bulldogs on Thanksgiving Day. But it should have given Bill Self’s squad an idea of who they are and what they have to do to compete with some of the best teams in the country.
Six days after that contest, KU will get a chance to see how it stacks up against another quality program when it faces Kentucky tonight. The Wildcats are coming off a 76-64 loss to Richmond on Sunday, but have a talented roster once again under John Calipari.
KenPom gives Kansas a 60% chance of victory in tonight’s matchup with Kentucky. The Jayhawks are projected to win by a 74-71 margin.
BREAKING DOWN KENTUCKY
No. 3 — G Brandon Boston Jr. | 6-7, 185, fr.
Boston leads the team in scoring through two games, so we will put him down as the top player even though this entire roster is relatively unknown at this point in the year.
To be fair, Boston was a consensus five-star prospect and Kentucky's top-ranked player in the 2020 class. He’s delivered right away, averaging 17.5 points per game to go along with 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per contest. Boston is playing 35.5 minutes per outing, which is the highest mark on the squad.
Through two games, Boston has taken 32.4% of Kentucky’ shots and has an offensive rating of 107.0 on KenPom. He’s a smooth scorer with a nice jump shot to go along with the ability to beat defenders off the dribble. And he has great length for the position.
Unsurprisingly, Boston is a projected lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
No. 5 — G Terrence Clarke | 6-7, 194, fr.
Clarke has strong numbers through two games, helping create a nice tandem in the backcourt for the Wildcats.
After one week, Clarke is second on the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game to go along with 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per outing. He also paces Kentucky with 2.0 steals per contest entering tonight’s matchup.
Coming out of high school, Clarke was also a consensus five-star prospect and ranked as high as No. 8 in the final Rivals rankings. At 6-foot-7, Clarke is a big scoring guard with a pro frame to go along with his elite athleticism.
Clarke is a strong ball handler, and can really beat defenders on the dribble, especially going to his left.
No. 30 — F Olivier Sarr | 7-0, 237, sr.
As one of the few upperclassmen on the team, Sarr’s leadership figures to be an important attribute in tonight’s clash.
Sarr is third on the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game this season, while averaging 29.5 points per outing. He is adding an average of 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest during his senior campaign with the Wildcats.
As a junior at Wake Forest, Sarr was named the ACC’s Most-Improved Player a season ago. He started in 15 of the 30 games, averaging 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. He paced Wake Forest with 11 double-doubles and 33 blocks on the year.
No. 23 — F Isaiah Jackson | 6-10, 206, fr.
As another former five-star prospect, Jackson is off to a solid start to his collegiate career.
Jackson is leading the team in rebounding with a clip of 9.0 rebounds per game. He is averaging 21 minutes per contest in the early going, while shooting 46.2% from the floor. However, Jackson has yet to reach double figures through two outings.
Jackson was ranked the No. 28 overall player in this recruiting class, and also has a shot of making an impact at the next level. Jackson is a tremendous athlete to go along with great length and size, so he’s obviously viewed as a first-round talent in the upcoming NBA Draft.
ONE THING KENTUCKY DOES WELL
The Wildcats’ length leads to success on the glass with an offensive rebound rate of 45.1% so far this season. Per KenPom, only six teams in all of college basketball have a better offensive rebound rate.
ONE AREA KENTUCKY STRUGGLES
Coming off a 21-turnover game against Richmond, Kentucky has some issues taking care of the rock to start the season. The Wildcats rank 200th in the country with a turnover rate of 24.8%, according to KenPom.
MEET THE COACH
Kentucky is coached by John Calipari, who is 331-78 in his 12th season at UK and 776-218 in his 29th season overall.
Kansas is a 5-point favorite over Kentucky on most sportsbooks, a line that has really moved in KU’s favor today. I explained earlier today why many of the gambling analysts are backing the Jayhawks, which essentially comes down to their experience advantage over the Wildcats.
That said, I’m going to fade the consensus and take the points in this one.
Prediction: Kansas 81, Kentucky 78