Coming off perhaps its best performance of the year, Kansas travels to the desert and if it can avoid getting distracted by the, uh, scenery, it should have revenge on its mind as the Jayhawks look to avenge last year’s shocking loss in Allen Fieldhouse.
It’s been a rough year for the Pac-12 in general, but Arizona State has mostly shown that last year’s 20-win season was no fluke and that this year’s edition should challenge for the conference title. They’re doing it a bit differently this year as well, as the Sun Devils rank all the way down at 322 in terms of attempting 3-pointers. They also don’t shoot them terribly well, making only a third of them, so the 3-point barrage that happened last season seems unlikely to happen again.
Arizona State likes to score at the rim, taking about 45 percent of its shots from that area (via Hoop-Math), which is one of the highest marks in the country. They are relatively poor shooting at the rim, ranking 261st, but that still comes out to 58 percent shooting at the rim. Unlike last year’s team, Arizona State has a ton of length in the backcourt and on the wings which will present a challenge for KU’s newfound switching defense of doom.
Defensively, Arizona State’s big problem is sending opponents to the free throw line, which should be a big benefit for Dedric Lawson. They also give up quite a few 3-point attempts, so (fingers crossed) maybe Quentin Grimes can have a nice finish to the pre-Christmas schedule. They don’t allow much at the rim (42nd in FG% allowed at the rim), but with all the fouling they do, I expect Lawson to have a nice game regardless.
Players to Watch
Luguentz Dort, 6-4 freshman guard
Dort is attempting to be the first NBA first-rounder from Quebec in over a decade, and he certainly has the build and skillset for it. His jumper isn’t great yet, but he takes over half of his shots from the rim, and is nearly impossible to keep out of the lane. He’ll likely draw a lot of attention from Marcus Garrett, and that is the matchup to watch tomorrow.
Kimani Lawrence, 6-7 sophomore wing
Lawrence takes jumpers for most of his shots, and is shooting about 38 percent from three this season. He’s also their best free throw shooter, although he’s only attempted 28 free throws this season.
The narrow win over Villanova and blowout over South Dakota has brought my against-the-spread record to an even 5-5 this season. Kansas has traditionally had some trouble in these last games before Christmas, but I think the loss to Arizona State last year will be enough to get their attention, and I don’t think Arizona State will be able to get a ton of points from behind the arc. Add in their problems with fouling, which should help the Jayhawks get some much needed easy points, and I like a narrow Kansas win and cover, 75-70.