One would expect Kansas fans would like a little bit more of a routine game tonight when Kansas takes on Louisiana. Vermont is a good team, but you’d expect the Jayhawks to win a little more handily at home against all but the very best teams.
It doesn’t get any easier, however. Lousiana ranks 124 in KenPom, and is among the favorites to win the Sun Belt. Also of note, they lost to probable future KU opponent Tennessee by 22.
Offensively, Louisiana looks like they will try to build on the gameplan Vermont employed on Monday. The Ragin Cajuns took about 40 percent of their shots from three against Tennessee, and although they don’t have the same type of shooters Vermont does, anything can happen in a one game sample.
Last season Louisiana was helped along by some good passing as well as very good offensive rebounding. Unfortunately for them, their best rebounder graduated, and they now have a pretty small team, with a below average height and no one taller than 6-8. It’s no surprise then that they weren’t great on the glass against Tennessee, and probably won’t be against Kansas.
Defensively, Louisiana led the Sun Belt last season, and did a really good job of limiting opponents’ 3-point attempts and offensive rebounds. One expects the Jayhawks to hit the offensive glass better than most teams, but they probably won’t take many threes, both by their design and Louisiana’s efforts. Last season they were a little above average at forcing turnovers, and they’ll probably have to do the same this year, although they did not do a good job of that at all against Tennessee.
I expect this will be another game for Udoka Azubuike inside, although they might want to feed Dedric Lawson as well in an effort to get him going.
Players to Watch
Marcus Stroman, 6-2 senior guard, Toronto Blue Jays (just kidding)
Stroman ranked 14th nationally in assist rate and 4th in free throw rate as a junior, so he’s going to be a handful for KU’s young guards. The good news is he has been very turnover prone for his entire career, so Kansas might be able to turn him over a few times and get some easy baskets.
Jakeenan Gant, 6-8 senior forward
Gant is Lousiana’s best defender, and probably its best rebounder now. He was 2nd in the Sun Belt in block percentage and 13th in offensive rebound rate. I don’t suspect he will be a threat on the glass against Kansas, but he will be someone for drivers to watch out for coming in from the weak side.
Cedric Russell, 6-2 sophomore guard.
Russell shot 43 percent from three last season, and was 3-6 against Tennessee, so I look forward to Kansas leaving him open 10 or so times tonight. He doesn’t do much else for the Ragin Cajuns, so maybe Bill Self can show the team highlights of what they did to Brady Heslip.
Although Louisiana is of similar quality to Vermont, I don’t see a lot of the same issues that Vermont gave them presenting themselves tonight. Louisiana doesn’t have the shooters to make it close (although like I said anything can happen in one game), and Kansas has a major size advantage. I’ll take the Jayhawks 89-65.