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Kansas Jayhawks at UNLV Runnin' Rebels Preview

NCAA Basketball: Southern Illinois at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas faces its last nonconference game (for a month) before beginning Big 12 play, and does it in a true road game. This last game before Christmas has been a bit of a speed bump for Kansas in the past (who can forget the 77-52 drubbing by Temple exactly 2 years ago today which somehow seems like it was 20 years ago). Fortunately for the Jayhawks, UNLV is bad. The Runnin Rebels are 7-5 but already have home losses to TCU and South Alabama, and lost by 24 to a bad Arizona State team.

Their big problem is on the offensive end of the floor. UNLV ranks 200th in Kenpom, and has only once scored a point per possession or better against a top 200 opponent. Kansas’s defense is still a work in progress, but tonight there should be some progress. UNLV turns it over on a fifth of its possessions, and shoots just 47 percent on twos. Fortunately for Kansas, UNLV doesn’t shoot a lot of threes either.

Defensively, UNLV isn’t great either. They never force turnovers, they allow teams to shoot basically the D1 average from two, and allow teams to shoot basically the D1 average number of threes. They do rebound well on the defensive end, but Kansas shouldn’t miss enough shots for that to matter.

Players to Watch

Jalen Poyser, sophomore guard

Poyser is shooting 39 percent from three and 47 percent from two, and has the highest usage on the team among players who have played in all of their games. He also draws 5 fouls per 40 minutes and commits just 1.6 per 40.

Tyrell Green, senior forward

UNLV doesn’t have a ton of height, so it falls to Green to be the big man of sorts. He has a typical 60.6 percent eFG for a big man, but gets there in an interesting way, shooting 51 percent from two, and 50 percent from three, making 25 of his 50 attempts thus far.

Troy Baxter, freshman forward

Baxter has come on as of late, in terms of playing time, and has three double digit performances thus far this season. He hasn’t taken a lot of shots for UNLV, but is making over half his twos.

Things to watch

  1. No letdowns - we are just 3 days from Christmas (and I need to finish my shopping) and this is Kansas’s first road game, so maybe there will be let down. It’s also in Vegas, and with how much Landen Lucas likes poker maybe there will be some distractions. Speaking of which I am still trying to get a heads up game going with him. While I am at it let’s talk heads up strategy. Do you open on the button every hand or mix in some limps? I think you mix in some limps but then how wide is your limping range? You probably need to mix in some good hands but then you let your opponent take the betting lead which could be costly if you don’t connect, but if you raise on the button too wide then your opponent can come over the top and steal too much. Oh wait, basketball. That’s right.
  2. Turnovers - UNLV turns it over a lot, but Kansas doesn’t force a lot of them. They might need to now that Udoka Azubuike is out. Speaking of which, my official Azubuike take is it is a big loss. He had the worst offensive rating on the team, but that was basically all because of his habit of turning the ball over, and usually that is a thing you see cleared up as the season progresses (in freshmen). He also had a habit of fouling too much, but ditto. At his best he was a force inside who could dunk anything, was an effective rebounder, and good interior defender.
  3. The big man rotation - Speaking of Azubuike being out, it’s time to see whether Coleby or Lightfoot steps up. Both have been OK in spot duty, and Coleby was worthy of an all SEC pick as a sophomore at Mississippi, but this is obviously different.

The Pick

UNLV is bad. Kansas is good. Happy Holidays everyone. Kansas 83, UNLV 69.