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UTEP Preview

NCAA Basketball: Texas-El Paso at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a huge win against Baylor*, the Jayhawks finish out their regular season against UTEP. While I maintain the funniest outcome would be Kansas losing to UTEP given many people’s insistence that the Jayhawks only added the Miners to the schedule so they wouldn’t lose on senior night (although that theory was quickly debunked when they actually did the senior night stuff last week), a quick perusal of UTEPs season shows that this is pretty unlikely.

UTEP is ranked 139 in KenPom, or about 10 spots worse than TCU, and they might not even be that good. They have 2 top 100 wins, 0 top 50 wins, and are 2-5 against the KenPom top 100. They are riding a four game winning streak, however, so anything can happen.

UTEP doesn’t take a ton of threes, under the national average, and the Miners don’t shoot them well either. UTEP shoots under 34 percent from three, and a paltry 46 percent from two, to rank 279th nationally. I like that the Miners rarely commit turnovers, just 16.1 percent of their possessions, which will give Kansas practice both at trying to take the ball from a stingy team and at playing good solid defense for an entire possession, knowing they won’t, or shouldn’t, give away too many free possessions.

Defensively, UTEP excels at taking away the 3-point attempt. Opponents shoot just 31.1 percent of their field goal attempts from three this year, which ranks 20th nationally, and they make just under 34 percent of their 3-point shots, right at the national average. They also are really good on the glass, but I think that is moreso a function of no one in Conference USA making offensive rebounding a part of their offense.

Also of note, the Miners send people to the line like crazy, ranking 321st nationally, so this may be a good game for the Jayhawks to practice their free throws.

Players to watch

Jamal Bieniemy, 6-5 junior guard

Old friend alert. After two seasons at Oklahoma, Bieniemy has had a nice run at UTEP. He’s 7th in Conference USA in assist rate and shooting 34.5 percent from three in league play.

Bryson Williams, 6-8 senior forward

Williams is shooting 53 percent from two this season but just 15-54 from three (so expect a 3-5 night tonight). He is also a pretty good rebounder and ranks 4th in the conference in free throw shooting.

Tydus Verhoeven, 6-9 junior forward

Verhoeven is shooting 63 percent from two this season and is also the best shot blocker on the team.

The Pick

UTEP is bad and Kansas is good. I’ll take the Jayhawks 81-68.

2021 ATS: 17-8