The Jayhawks host Toledo tonight in their penultimate game against a non power 5 team this calendar year. Toledo beat common opponent Oakland by 7 points earlier this season, but is coming off back to back losses to Syracuse and Cornell.
With two juniors and a senior in the starting lineup, it is no surprise the offense is ahead of the defense right now. Toledo ranks in the top 100 nationally, and has scored at least 1 point per possession in four of its five games. The Rockets turn it over on just 13.1 percent of their possessions, 7th nationally, which will be a big test for the Jayhawks despite Kansas’s ability to turn opponents over thus far (20.6 percent of possessions). This is more theory than anything, but it is more likely Kansas’s forced turnover numbers have more to do with the opposition than any effort on the Jayhawks’ part to force turnovers. Indeed, this would be Kansas’s highest turnover rate forced since 2008.
Toledo has also shot and made a ton of threes, taking 42.4 percent of their shots from deep and connecting on 40.2 percent of those threes. With their ability to take care of the ball that well and shoot from the outside, it’s no surprise they are a top 100 offense.
Oddly enough, Toledo ranks 19th nationally in height, and four of their top five players in terms of usage rate are 6-8 or taller, but the Rockets don’t attack the offensive glass, ranking 260th in offensive rebounding. They also don’t go to the line a ton, and get a lot of their shots blocked.
Defensively, Toledo is pretty bad. They’ve held just two teams under a point per possession (and only 1 Division 1 team), and finished just 6th in the MAC defensively last year. Chief among their concerns is turnover rate, as only New Hampshire forces fewer turnovers than Toledo. They’re relatively average in terms of allowing 3-point attempts, as well as opponents’ shooting percentage from two and three. Considering they have not faced a top 50 opponent yet, this likely bodes well for Kansas. The Jayhawks should get to attempt a lot of shots, and they’ll probably make quite a few more than Toledo is used to seeing.
Players to Watch
Nate Navigato, 6-8 junior forward
He’s playing more minutes than anyone in the country right now, and is performing quite well in them. Mostly a spot up guy, he’s shooting 41 percent from deep, and he ranks 27th nationally in turnover rate.
Jaelan Sanford, 6-4 junior guard
Also playing a ton of minutes, Sanford will be a tough assignment for (probably) Malik Newman. He’s shooting 63 percent on twos and 37 percent on threes, while also leading the team in assist rate. His play will be key to the Rockets’ hopes of an upset.
Justin Roberts, 5-10 sophomore guard
Roberts plays in just 8.1 percent of the team’s minutes, but he’s a Lawrence native, the son of KU assistant Norm Roberts, the brother of former Jayhawk Niko Roberts, and Lawrence High School’s All-time leading scorer.
Let’s not complicate this too much. Kansas is good, Toledo is just OK. Toledo also can’t really shut down what Kansas does well, while Kansas can (mostly) shut down what Toledo does well. 93-66 Jayhawks.