Kansas travels to Sacramento to take on Stanford in a rematch of last year’s KU win in Allen Fieldhouse. Former Jayhawk Jerod Haase leads the Cardinal, though they haven’t had the greatest season, with zero KenPom top 100 wins.
Offensively, it’s a bit of good news, bad news. Bad news first: Stanford is one of the best teams in the country at drawing fouls. As we saw against Washington and Arizona State, that’s not good news for the Jayhawks. The good news, though, is Stanford isn’t very good at anything else. Specifically, they turn the ball over a ton, over 20 percent of their possessions to be exact. While Kansas might struggle with foul trouble, the hope is they won’t allow Stanford to get enough shots off for it to make a difference. And, given that the Cardinal are right around average at shooting the ball, when they do shoot they won’t make enough for it to matter.
Defensively, Stanford is one of the best 2 point defensive teams in the country. However, it should be noted two of their three top 50 opponents shot over 53 percent on twos against the Cardinal. Speaking of good news, Stanford doesn’t force many turnovers, and they are barely in the top 200 in three point attempts allowed. Kansas should be able to get good looks from three, and shouldn’t have many possessions where they come up empty.
Players to Watch
Reid Travis, junior forward
Travis scored 29 points in last year’s matchup, and was the game’s MVP even though he only went 5-14 from the field thanks to a remarkable 19-22 effort at the line. He’s drawing even more fouls this year, so expect another big game from Travis.
Daejon Davis, freshman guard
Davis is getting to the free throw line even more than Travis, but a turnover rate of 40 percent has limited his playing time. He’s shooting well from two and passing the ball well, so if he does cut down on those turnovers Stanford could have themselves a nice player.
Michael Humphrey, senior forward
The 6-9 (nice) Humphrey is shooting 11-20 from three so far this year after attempting 27 and 28 in each of his last two seasons (shooting 22 and 32 percent, respectively). Whether this is a real improvement probably remains to be seen, but signs are positive. He’ll be a tough cover for the Jayhawks. He’s also a reasonably good defender and one of the top defensive rebounders in the country.
Keys to the Game
- 3-point shooting - Kansas will get their opportunity to take a lot. This is the 3rd NBA arena they’ve played in so far, and are shooting just 32 percent in their previous two games in NBA arenas this season. They’ll need to do better than that to win tonight.
- Foul trouble - Travis will definitely draw some fouls. So will the rest of the Cardinal. How well Kansas can handle it (whether it be by getting Clay Young and James Sosinski some minutes or going with a 5 guard lineup) will go a long way towards deciding this one.
- Turnovers - Stanford commits a lot of turnovers and doesn’t force many. Regardless of how the rest of the game goes, it will be tough for them to pull the upset if they have 5-10 fewer possessions than the Jayhawks do. It’s imperative, therefore, that the Jayhawks do their best to force turnovers, and take advantage of the easy baskets they create.
Stanford is a tough matchup. We’ve also seen Kansas struggle with the last game before Christmas games quite a bit. Finally, Kansas might be looking forward to getting Billy Preston and/or Silvio De Sousa on the roster. Add it up and I think we have an unfocused Kansas team against a team that is a bad matchup for them (at least in their present roster construction). I am picking Stanford in a close one, 77-73.