After working their way up to an eventual blowout over St. John's in New York last week, the Jayhawks now have a semi-home game of their own tonight. Kansas will make the trip east to the
Sprint T-Mobile Center, home of some mixed results for Kansas over the years, to face the UTEP Miners.
UTEP is currently 4-3, with two of those wins coming against D2 schools. They've lost to USC-Riverside, and have somehow already played New Mexico State twice, dropping both games. They sit at 163rd according to Ken Pomeroy, and 155th per Bart Torvik. The two rank KU at 5th and 7th, respectively.
Offensively, UTEP has been nothing to write home about. They don't shoot many threes, and make just under 29% of them. They're also a very poor 44% from two. They're close to the middle of the pack in terms of turning it over and getting to the line, and while they're slightly above average on the offensive boards, they also haven't played a team in KenPom's top 110 yet, so it's hard to say whether that's a threat with KU's size and athleticism.
Defensively, look for UTEP to hit the glass and hunt for turnovers. They rank top 50ish in both categories right now, but again, strength of schedule should be taken into account in looking at raw numbers. They've also fouled far too much, especially given the opposition, and have allowed teams to shoot nearly 51% from two. While they're better on the defensive side of the ball, they aren't particularly intimidating on either end.
Players to Watch
Jamal Bieniemy, senior guard
Bieniemy is actually an Oklahoma transfer after playing his first two years as a Sooner. Since coming to UTEP last year, he's been just a 31% three point shooter in 100 tries, but thanks in part to volume shooting, he's recorded double digit points in every game this year. He's definitely not the most efficient player, but there's potential to go off if he gets hot. He also leads the team in assist rate.
Tydus Verhoeven, senior center
Verhoeven isn't a dominant overall player, but he does provide some rim protection, and at 6'9, 225, he could make David McCormack work for some points. Fortunately, despite his size he's a mediocre rebounder, and doesn't factor much into their offensive plans. Expect him to cement himself in the paint and challenge shots at the rim.
Souley Boum, senior point guard
Boum, whose name my phone is convinced is actually Boom, has scored 20+ points in two of the four games in which he's played this year. He leads the team in usage rate, and does so without turning the ball over, a valuable combination. He also generates a decent number of steals, and while he's a decent outside shooter, he'll also get to the line often, where he makes 82% of his attempts.
As of now, the line is Kansas -18. The
Sprint T-Mobile Center has seen some meaningful accomplishments for Kansas, but has also hosted some very disappointing performances for the Jayhawks. I'm not too focused on the venue, especially since it should be a vastly Jayhawk-heavy crowd. I really don't think UTEP's handful of defensive strengths are going to frustrate this Jayhawk team, and if they haven't put up good offensive numbers against a very weak schedule so far, I think KU should be able to keep them off the scoreboard for the most part.
This Jayhawk team has been unpredictable, but this feels like a good matchup, and I'm sure Self wants to build on their 20 point win over a much better St. John's team in a much tougher environment. I'll take the Jayhawks to cover and win this one going away. Kansas 85, UTEP 64
Record Straight Up: 6-0
Record ATS: 4-2