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Omaha Preview

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NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough couple games for the Jayhawks, a visit from a team who has two wins by a combined three points on the season is just what the doctor ordered. Omaha has played just one top-100 team this season, losing by 27 to Creighton, and they have struggled quite a bit across the board.

One thing decreasing their upset odds is the lack of opportunities and ability behind the 3-point line. The Mavericks shoot just over a fourth of their shots behind the arc, and also rank 242nd nationally in 3-point shooting, making fewer than 30 percent of their attempts. That right there should ease pretty much all fears of a shocking home loss, but Omaha also turns it over at a high rate (23 percent of possessions) and doesn’t attack the offensive glass much, so it’s tough to see them scoring anywhere near enough to win.

Their defense also ranks near 200th in terms of adjusted efficiency allowed, but there are some positive signs there. For starters, the Mavs are getting incredibly unlucky at defending the three. They severely limit 3-point attempts (just 31.2 percent of opponent attempts have been from deep) but teams are shooting a whopping 41 percent from three against them. Assuming that corrects, Omaha could definitely make a run in the Summit League.

Without a ton of size, it looks like it will be another game where Kansas tries to get David McCormack going, but it also might be a good opportunity for the Jayhawks as a whole to start converting some attempts at the rim. According to Hoop-math.com, Kansas is currently 244th nationally in terms of field goal percentage at the rim. As a coach who prides himself on creating easy looks at the rim, I am sure Bill Self is beside himself. But even though Omaha has been a pretty good 2-point defensive team this season so far, their lack of size does give the Jayhawks some opportunities to improve at the rim.

Players to Watch

Ayo Akinwole, 6-0 senior guard

If there’s a person to watch from behind the arc, it’s Akinwole, who is 8-18 on the season and a 39 percent career shooter behind the arc. He’s also probably the team’s best perimeter defender.

Matt Pile, 6-8 senior forward

The Wichita native has been one of the Summit League’s best rebounders the last couple seasons and also a pretty good shot blocker despite being just 6-8. He’s also their most efficient option inside the arc and is an increasingly rare college player who is a senior who has not attempted a three in his career.

Marco Smith, 6-2 junior guard

The Kansas City native and UMKC transfer is shooting 59 percent on twos this year despite his size, although he has had a problem both from three and in terms of turning the ball over.

The Pick

Even with some of the struggles Kansas has had the last couple games, I don’t see Omaha having the ability to keep it close. The pessimist’s view is that they might make a couple threes more than you’d expect and their 2-point defense continues to be legit, making this a 10ish point game, but I am going to go the other way (partly against what my head is telling me to be honest) and say this will be a bit of a get right game for Kansas and they’ll get a much needed blowout win, covering the 24-point spread, 86-60.

2020-21 record ATS: 4-1