One of the best parts of Bill Self’s nonconference scheduling is RPI booster games like this. South Dakota State likely won’t beat Kansas (KenPom gives them a 5 percent chance), but the Jackrabbits are a borderline KenPom top 100 team, and could be a top 100 RPI team by the end of the year, adding another jewel to a potential 1-seed resume.
The Jackrabbits have one of the more interesting offensive profiles so far this season. They’re taking well over half their shots from three, and shooting 48.4 percent from deep, but they’re shooting just 32.7 percent on twos. Against UC Irvine, the Jackrabbits shot 3-22 on twos. Seriously. They also shot 59 percent on 29 threes against Alabama State, which is awesome.
This isn’t a new development. Under coach TJ Otzelberger (a former Iowa State assistant), SDSU took 45.6 percent of their field goals from behind the arc. They should be letting it fly early and often in Allen Fieldhouse, which could cause some tense moments if they are hitting them early.
Defensively the Jackrabbits haven’t been nearly as good. They ranked 303rd nationally last season, and gave up almost 1.13 points per possession in the Summit League. They’ve held all three opponents below a point per possession this year, but haven’t faced a KenPom top 150 opponent yet. Last season, SDSU gave up a ton of threes (46 percent of opponents’ field goal attempts), and also allowed teams to shoot over 50 percent on twos. They also struggled on the glass and didn’t force any turnovers, so certainly Kansas should be able to keep up and weather the storm even if the Jackrabbits are firing on all cylinders offensively.
Player to Watch
Mike Daum, junior forward
There’s only one guy to pay attention to, and it’s South Dakota State’s NBA Draft prospect. It’s weird to say this when Kansas just got done playing Kentucky, but Daum is the best college player Kansas will have seen thus far this season. He hasn’t totally gotten it going inside the arc this season, but last year he shot 56 percent on twos, 42 percent on threes, and ranked in the top 20 nationally in usage. He can handle the ball on the perimeter, even at 6-9, and has good post up skills as well if you try to guard him with someone small.
Keys to the Game
- Threes - SDSU will shoot a ton, knowing its their best chance at an upset. Kansas will need to make it as tough as possible for them to get clean looks
- Turnovers - Kansas did a much better job of not turning it over against Kentucky, but still had some tough ones (as well as the 1 on 3 drives that went down as a missed shot but probably should be called turnovers). If they don’t give away possessions, they should pile on the points.
- Pace - The Jackrabbits ironically have been a fairly methodical team thus far under Otzelberger, and while KU’s lack of depth might relish the idea of getting to rest a bit, an up and down game will favor KU’s athletes.
It probably won’t happen this way because it seems almost too obvious, but look for SDSU to come out hot, maybe stick with the Jayhawks for a few minutes, and even keep it semi-close at halftime, before KU’s overall skill takes over. Jayhawks 84-69.