A Kansas victory over TCU tonight will mean the Jayhawks will clinch a share of their 13th straight Big 12 title, will give the players time to hopefully get some rest, and just as importantly will maybe save some fans from heart attacks during the remaining Big 12 games. Tonight’s game against TCU is also notable for the Jayhawks retiring Brandon Rush’s number and a chance to see my favorite non Kansas Big 12 player (more on that later).
First on Rush. I think I am guilty of underrating his three years at Kansas. He doesn’t have the most eye popping tempo free stats, but he was a career 43.5 percent three point shooter on 471 attempts, a career 46 percent two point shooter on 722 attempts, and he did that mostly as a jump shooter. He wasn’t a great rebounder, but then again this is in the era when Bill Self’s wings didn’t do a ton of rebounding, and he didn’t get to the free throw line a ton.
But that overlooks just how good he was defensively. He, Robinson, and Chalmers all worked in concert defensively, but Rush was the most versatile of those three, able to guard Derrick Rose, Steph Curry, and Chris Douglas-Roberts all effectively. I also think his knee problems kept him from being one of the best 3 and D wings in the NBA.
Anyway, on to TCU. The Frogs have endured a 3 game losing streak, dropping them from 6-5 in the league to 6-8, but probably will finish a couple spots higher than I pegged them for in the preseason. TCU ranks 8th in the league offensively, but I see some room for improvement, especially next year.
For starters, TCU makes more twos than anyone in the league (52.4 percent) and they take a lot of threes, comparatively speaking. Their main problem is turnovers, as they turn it over on 21.2 percent of their possessions, but that is going to happen when you have a non lottery pick freshman with a lot of ball handling duties. They also are 10th in the league at getting to the free throw line (and send teams to the line fewer than any other Big 12 team, so it should be a fairly quick contest tonight).
Defensively, TCU also ranks 8th in the league. Unlike offense, however, there isn’t as much room for optimism defensively. The Frogs don’t give up a lot of 3-point opportunities, but barely turn teams over, and let opponents shoot 50 percent on twos against them. As previously mentioned, they don’t send teams to the line often, which is nice, and it’s worth noting opponents are shooting 77 percent at the line against them, so maybe they are getting some bad luck there.
Players to Watch
Vladimir Brodziansky, junior forward
My favorite non KU player in the league this year, the 6-11 Slovakian is 3rd in the league in offensive rating, 8th in usage, 6th in effective field goal percentage, 6th in offensive rebounding, 9th in defensive rebounding, 2nd in shot blocking, and 3rd in free throw percentage. Again he’s 6-11. He’s probably a lock for 1st team All Big 12 at this point.
Jaylen Fisher, freshman guard
Fisher has played both on and off the ball this year, and ranks 5th in the league in assist rate. The problem is said assist rate is still lower than his turnover rate. He’s reasonably efficient inside the arc at 49 percent, and shoots 39 percent from three so Kansas would be wise to follow him around.
Kenrich Williams, junior forward
Williams has had a couple nice games against Kansas in his career, with 11 and 11 earlier this season and 13 and 9 last year at home. Williams is probably TCU’s best rebounder, ranking 8th in the league offensively and 6th defensively, and he’s shooting 53 percent inside the arc, though it’s worth noting he doesn’t shoot a ton. Williams is also 40-115 from three in two years at TCU, so he’s the type of guy who, while he doesn’t shoot a great percentage, could get hot and have a nice night behind the arc,
Things to Watch For
- Turnovers - This was a big deal against Baylor, and should be tonight. With how well TCU shoots inside the arc, Kansas will want as many empty possessions as possible.
- Rebounding - Kansas was able to negate Baylor’s edge on the offensive glass by grabbing offensive rebounds of their own. TCU interestingly ranks 29th nationally in offensive rebounding and 210th in defensive rebounding, but 5th in offensive rebounding and 3rd in defensive rebounding in Big 12 play. I don’t know either.
- Rest - The title isn’t clinched, and I don’t think Kansas should look past TCU, but it is time for Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, Landen Lucas, and Josh Jackson to get some rest. Let’s hope one of the other rotation players can step up and lead the way for the rest of the regular season.