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Stephen F Austin Preview

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Stephen F. Austin v Texas Tech Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Tonight, the Jayhawks take on Stephen F Austin of Nacogdoches, TX. The Lumberjacks are 8-3, boasting wins over decent teams like Liberty and Buffalo, but it should be noted that four of those wins are over D2 schools, and they’re coming off an 82-69 home loss to KenPom’s 212th ranked team in Louisiana Monroe.

For SFA themselves, KenPom ranks them 154th, with a roughly even offense and defense, ranked 175th and 145th respectively. Bart Torvik’s ratings view them very similarly, placing them at 151st in D1. The first thing people like to know about a relatively little-known mid-major opponent is generally: how well do they shoot the three? Well, there’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that they shoot pretty well, with 35.5% putting them well into the top 100 nationally. The good news is they’re very hesitant to shoot them, with just over a quarter of their total shots coming from behind the arc. They might do well to start letting it fly a bit more, since they shoot a poor 48.2% from two, though they have been an excellent offensive rebounding team.

Given the discrepancy between the teams, you might see SFA shoot a few more threes in this one. It also might benefit them to look for shots early in the clock, since they turn the ball over on 21% of their possessions, and this has been a KU team that’s looked good scoring in transition. Defensively, the Lumberjacks may really have their hands full stopping Kansas from generating points near the basket. Despite a high block rate, they’ve allowed opponents to shoot a whopping 54.3% from two, and as good as they’ve been on the offensive boards, they’ve been dreadful on the defensive glass, while also fouling far too much. The main bright side to their defensive numbers is generating a lot of turnovers, thanks largely in part to a top 30 steal rate in the country.

Players To Watch

Latrell Jossell, sophomore guard

Jossell doesn’t start, but I have to lead off with the player who was in a Kansas uniform just last season. Jossell mostly only saw mop-up minutes as a freshman Jayhawk, but he’s played in about half the available minutes for the Lumberjacks this year. His role on the squad appears to be a three point specialist off the bench, as he leads the team with 36 attempts, having made a fantastic 47.2% of them. He’s only attempted 11 twos, making four of them, so expect Jossell to be looking for outside shots tonight.

Gavin Kensmil, senior center

Kensmil is 6’7, but 260 pounds and for the most part is SFA’s lone true big man. He has the highest usage rate on the team and leads the Lumberjacks in scoring. He’s hit 61.1% of his twos this year, but has a bit of an Azubuike-like conundrum. He draws a lot of fouls, but part of that is by opponent design, as he’s hit just 57.4% of 54 attempts from the stripe this year. He’s been an excellent offensive rebounder and respectable shot blocker, and with a wide frame, David McCormack probably won’t be able to abuse him in the paint, the way he might against some mid major big men.

David Kachelries, senior point guard

Kachelries makes the cut largely because he’s the only Lumberjack, aside from Jossell, willing to let it fly from three. He’s hit 40.7% of his 27 attempts, and does a good job of initiating offense with a 26.4% assist rate. He won’t turn it over much either, and will look for shots inside the arc with some degree of efficiency as well.

Prediction

The line sits at Kansas -23.5 in this one, with the Jayhawks coming off a massive blowout over Missouri last week. I’m leaning toward a cover in this one, because the areas where SFA excels (offensive boards, forcing turnovers, blocks and steals) just aren’t areas where I can see them taking advantage of the Jayhawks. And, Kansas has been good at forcing turnovers this year while SFA gives the ball away a lot, which sounds to me like some easy baskets should be coming KU’s way. Kansas 90, Stephen F Austin 64

Record overall: 8-0

Record ATS: 5-3