After traveling roughly a billion miles and playing two teams who could join Kansas in the Final Four in April, it must be nice to return to Allen Fieldhouse to play the home opener.
Sadly, Siena is no slouch. The Saints currently rank 79th in KenPom and suffered just a two point loss to George Washington in their most recent contest.
As is often the case with these analytic mid major darlings, Siena is better on offense than defense. They finished 2nd in the MAAC last season, scoring 1.10 points per possession, and shot 37 percent from three last year. If you’re hyperventilating about Siena coming in raining threes to pull the upset, you can calm down a bit: the Saints attempted fewer than 30 percent of their attempts from deep last season, meaning they’ll have to go out of their comfort zone to keep things close.
It’s tough to read much, if anything, into two games, but so far the biggest change Siena has made is in the turnover department. Siena turned it over on 22.2 percent of its possessions last season, which ranked 345th nationally, but this year the Saints have turned it over on just 9.7 percent of their possessions.
The other interesting change is in offensive rebounding: Siena hammered the offensive glass last season, ranking 6th nationally in rebounding its own misses. However, through two games so far Siena is grabbing just 27.8 percent of its misses. If the Saints get back to their 2016 levels of hitting the glass, it would be a nice opportunity for Kansas to work on its defensive rebounding in a relatively consequence free scenario.
Players to Watch
Nico Clareth - Sophomore Guard
Clareth was probably Siena’s best player last year as a freshman, shooting 57 percent on twos and ranking in the top 100 in steal rate. This year his percentages have tanked, going to 36 percent on twos and 28 percent from deep. A 6-5 guard, Clareth and Devonte Graham will likely be matched up on both ends.
Marquis Wright - Senior Guard
Wright struggled last year, and played in just 19 games due to a stress fracture in his foot. Wright is 7-12 from deep so far this season, is drawing just under 7 fouls per 40 minutes, and has played in 95 percent of Siena’s minutes without turning the ball over once. Most importantly, he wears a t-shirt under his jersey.
Javion Ogunyemi - Senior Forward
Ogunyemi was Siena’s best offensive rebounder last year, and this year has added scoring to his game. The senior is shooting just under 57 percent on twos while leading the team in usage rate. He also draws a ton of fouls and is a good interior defender in his own right.
Things To Look For
- Can Kansas avoid fouling? It will obviously be easier against a less athletic opponent, but the Jayhawks have committed 58 fouls in their first two games. They’ll need to tone down on that, especially until Dwight Coleby gets fully healthy and Mitch Lightfoot gets used to playing major college basketball.
- Will Mason and Graham get some rest? With a ton of winnable games until 2017, the Jayhawks’ two point guards need to rest. They’ve played 88 and 89 percent of the team’s minutes, and hopefully Self can put aside his competitive fire long enough to realize having them fresh for March outweighs the need to beat teams by 20 vs 10. While we are on the topic of rest, Landen Lucas could do with a game off to rest his foot a bit.
- The wing battle. Svi and Vick have both had their fair share of really nice plays and headscratchers. With Kansas playing a lot of 4 guard lineups, Self doesn’t need to cut one from the rotation, but I suspect one will eventually emerge a bit.
There might be a bit of a letdown here, and Siena is a good team so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this relatively even for much of the first half. Both teams have played relatively quickly this year, so it could get high scoring. I’ll take the Jayhawks 93-76.