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.
Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @bentonasmith & @SJacksonLJW
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
It is never too early to make predictions regarding the Kansas men’s basketball team. Forecasting the team’s leading scorer is something fans and reporters start doing before the previous season is even over.
The Jayhawks have plenty of production returning from last year’s team that finished third in the Big 12 conference before eventually falling to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Kansas returns 55.2 percent of its minutes from a team that featured a talented group of freshmen.
Bart Torvik, who operates a website much like KenPom for analytical purposes, is one of the few prognosticators that already has his projections accessible to the public. His projections rank Kansas as the third-best team in the nation, trailing only Michigan State and Florida.
Perhaps the most interesting feature about Torvik’s website at this point in the offseason, though, is the fact he has a top-10 projected contributors for each team. As a result, I thought it would be fun to go over what he has projected for Kansas.
Before revealing his numbers, it is important to note that this is one system and it is constantly being updated this offseason. I’m sure different prognosticators, if they chose to have this feature, would have different results as well. Torvik even said on Twitter in late June that Kansas is hard for the algorithm to accurately project minutes.
That being said, it is only July and there is not much else going on. Why not get into Torvik’s statistical projections for the Jayhawks?
Leading scorer: Devon Dotson
Before even looking at the numbers, Dotson might have been the pick to lead Kansas in scoring this upcoming season.
What Dotson did as a freshman point guard last year was incredible. Dotson, who started all 36 games, averaged 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while playing an average of 32.4 minutes per contest. Dotson was named to the All-Big 12 third team in his first collegiate season.
If Dotson can shoot better than 36.3% from long range, it is safe to assume he will take a big leap this year. Dotson flashed superb speed and an uncanny ability to get to the rim. Dotson made 61.3% of his 168 shots at the rim last year, which was a better clip than what Frank Mason III accomplished during his senior season when he converted 56% of his 191 attempts at the rim.
Dotson’s projections could be inflated given that Torvik’s algorithm does not include production from backup point guard Issac McBride. Still, Dotson as KU’s leading scorer would be my bet.
Four double-digit scorers for KU
Look at that balance.
It is not a new concept for a Bill Self-led team, of course, especially one as talented and deep as this year’s roster appears to be. Last season, though, Dedric Lawson and Dotson accounted for nearly 42% of KU’s scoring.
Torvik’s projections suggest that Kansas will have more balance this season, which could be a problem for opposing teams. Marcus Garrett (13.5), Ochai Agbaji (12.5) and Udoka Azubuike (11.3) are all projected to average double figures along with Dotson.
Garrett’s offensive boost is especially noticeable, though that may be due to McBride’s absence. Garrett is projected to play 76% of the minutes, which is the second-highest clip on the team. While Garrett will certainly have to be on the court due to how much he can impact a game in other areas, some of those minutes are probably from him filling in at point guard.
Regardless, KU should have more balance this season and multiple players will have their opportunity to shine.
Azubuike’s usage rating
When Azubuike announced he was coming back for his senior year, it was no secret that he was going to be a big part of KU’s offense.
These projections support that theory, as Azubuike leads Kansas with a 25.0 usage rating. In late June, Torvik tweaked his projections algorithm to implement a minutes dampener for guys who foul a lot. That led to Azubuike’s minute percentage to be at 67%, which is fifth on the team.
Since the 2013 season, only six Kansas players have posted a usage rating of at least 25.0 while playing at least 67% of the team’s minutes. Those players include Dedric Lawson (2019), Devonte’ Graham (2018), Frank Mason III (2017), Josh Jackson (2017), Perry Ellis (2015) and Andrew Wiggins (2014). Ellis was the lone player to play less than 80% of the team’s minutes, however.
Azubuike will be a focal point of KU’s attack when he’s on the floor. In fact, he registered a 28.2 usage rating in the nine games he played last year. It still remains to be seen if Azubuike can be as efficient if he’s ultimately given less minutes.
It may not have been Quentin Grimes’ initial plan, but he’s choosing to make the most of his current situation.
The one-time 5-star prospect has had a wild 12-plus months since joining the Kansas basketball program. At first, the expectation was for Grimes to play one season with the Jayhawks before eventually becoming a likely lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. That didn’t happen.
Grimes did start all 36 games for the Jayhawks during his freshman season in 2018-19, but never seemed to meet expectations. He averaged 8.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 27.4 minutes per game last year.
Still, Grimes chose to enter the NBA Draft even though his stock had plummeted. Grimes eventually pulled his name out of the pool on May 29, though he immediately announced that he would be transferring. It wasn’t until late June that Grimes revealed his next stop, as he chose to continue his playing career at the University of Houston.
To say it was an unusual path for Grimes would be an understatement. This past weekend, Grimes sat down with NCAA.com correspondent Andy Katz to go over his crazy summer in an interview that was posted via Twitter on July 20.
When asked what led to transferring from KU, it was clear that it was an easy decision for Grimes.
“I feel like Kansas was a good, OK, alright season for me,” Grimes said. “I just feel like it wasn’t a good situation all in all. I feel like I just kind of had to get a new start, go to a different setting (and) different environment.”
Perhaps Houston is the perfect situation for Grimes to thrive then. The UH campus is roughly an hour away from Grimes’ home in The Woodlands, Texas. The Cougars have had success, winning the American Athletic Conference with a 16-2 record a season ago before falling in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky in the Midwest region.
Grimes initially wanted to play right away, but his waiver request was ultimately denied. As a result, Grimes plans to make improvements while sitting out for the 2019-20 campaign.
“Coming here, I get to work on my game,” Grimes said. “I get to tighten everything up, so that when I do get to play, when I am ready, that I will definitely be able to jump in there and go back to that old Quentin that everybody is used to seeing.”
But Grimes doesn’t want to just get back to the way things used to be. In fact, Grimes told Katz that he believes he can hit a different gear when he returns to the court for the 2020-21 season.
“I feel like my game would have taken off to a different level, honestly,” Grimes said. “I feel like having all that responsibility on my shoulders is definitely going to push me and lead me to a different direction, just unlock something I didn’t know I had in me. I feel like a year from now, I will probably be a totally different person on and off the court.”
Kansas point guard Devon Dotson might just have his answer memorized by now.
Since announcing his decision to return to KU for his sophomore season, which came at 7:59 p.m. on May 29, Dotson has fielded many questions about electing to pull his name from the NBA draft pool. When asked about returning to Kansas, Dotson has alluded to the fact he has things he wants to accomplish for the 2019-20 campaign.
Dotson’s interview with NCAA.com correspondent Andy Katz was no different, which was posted via Twitter Monday morning. To begin the interview, Katz asked Dotson about why he came back to KU.
“I felt like, from a team perspective, I had unfinished business. We fell short of some team goals that we had last season,” Dotson said.
It was a similar answer to what Dotson have given since coming back to Lawrence. After all, last year’s team ended a streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles when it finished third in the conference behind Texas Tech and Kansas State.
Later in the interview, Dotson even admitted that is something that pushes the Jayhawks this offseason.
“We don’t want to be the players that didn’t win anything to come through here in the past 14 years,” Dotson said. “For the bigger picture, which is the national championship, I feel like we have a great chance of coming close or achieving that goal.”
While team success is clearly important to Dotson, the most interesting answer he gave during his interview with Katz was about himself.
Katz noted that Kansas head coach Bill Self considers Dotson as a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate and could be one of the better players in the country. When asked what makes Self believe this, Dotson admitted that he’s been motivated this summer.
“I am making a point to be in the gym multiple times a day. Just getting that extra reps in and just improving every aspect of my game,” Dotson said. “I’m a student of the game and will try to soak any information I can out of the coaches. I’m hungry, I just want to take it to the next level.”
That type of determination is impressive, especially considering how well Dotson’s debut season went. Dotson, who started all 36 games as a freshman, averaged 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while playing an average of 32.4 minutes per contest. Dotson was named to the All-Big 12 third team and also landed on the conference’s all-freshman team.
So how will he do even better during his second act? Well, Dotson may have shed some light on that when asked about what he learned about his game during the NBA Draft process.
“Getting more consistent on my outside shot,” Dotson said. “Just leading out there, talking more out there on the court. Just improving all aspects of the game — IQ wise, passing. I felt like it has helped out a lot. I heard they think really highly of me. If I decide to come out next year, it will be a great spot.”
Dotson shot just 36.3% from long range last season on an average of 2.5 3-point attempts per contest. Early prognosticators believe that Dotson will take a big jump this season. Bart Torvik projects Dotson to lead KU in both points (16) and assists (4.4) per game. He also ranks Kansas as the No. 3 team in the nation behind Florida and Michigan State.
Katz considered Dotson as not only KU’s best player but one of the top players in the country before the interview. Katz ranked Dotson as the No. 12 player in the country ahead of the 2019-20 season. Udoka Azubuike, who was listed at No. 14, is the only other Jayhawk on the top-25 list by Katz.
Given that Kansas is returning 55.2 percent of its minutes from last season, Dotson’s ability to take the next step might be the difference in what this team can accomplish this year.
“This team has a lot of depth to it,” Dotson said. “This season should be really exciting, I’m looking forward to it.”