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KU Hoops Preview: Yale

Can KU avoid the pre-Christmas letdown?

NCAA Basketball: Yale at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

I planned to write this preview late. I’ve been planning it for weeks. It’s very cynical of you to assume I thought this was a Saturday game and had to scramble and put together a last second preview. Shame on you.

With that out of the way, KU hosts Yale tonight. Maybe it’s a natural bias tied to the way we view Ivy League schools in general, but it seems like they’re always better than they actually are. It feels like I’ve watched a ton of Ivy League schools go on March runs out of the blue, when it truth it hasn’t happened much. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that Yale is going to look much better than KenPom’s 109th ranked team tonight.

There is some justification for that. Yale is led by 7 foot center Danny Wolf, who’s hit half his 24 threes this year, and has scored in double digits in Yale’s last nine games. That includes three 20+ point performances. He’s an outstanding defensive rebounder and above average on the offensive glass. He’s also hit exactly half his twos. Probably some smart guy thing he’s doing as part of his thesis. I don’t know. He’s also a good shot blocker and dishes out a surprising 15.4% assist rate. Bill Self said this week that Wolf is every bit the shooter and passer that Hunter Dickinson is, and claimed there was no exaggeration.

7 foot star aside though, Yale is just 7-5 this year with losses to teams like Weber State, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Fairfield, so it’s not as though they’re a machine. The only truly good team they’ve faced is Gonzaga, and they lost by 15. Their most impressive win, according to KenPom rankings, is 125th ranked Loyola Maramount.

As a team, they struggle in some key areas. Despite Wolf grabbing some offensive boards, they’re overall pretty bad at grabbing their own misses (though they have been a great defensive rebounding team). While they rarely turn the ball over, they don’t force many on the other end. They don’t draw a lot of fouls and don’t shoot many free throws, despite being a 75.7% free throw shooting team. They make under 49% of their twos and though they hit a reasonable 34.5% of their threes, they only shoot a third of their shots from behind the arc.

Prediction

Kansas has no reason to lose this game. They’re currently favored by 15.5 points, so fears about this game are overblown. Still, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen KU struggle with a team they should blow out in a game right before Christmas when the students are mostly back home. I don’t think Kansas will lose tonight. The Jayhawks have their own 7 footer who is probably just a little bit better than the Ivy League guy. This isn’t a team designed to exploit KU’s weaknesses, with just the 145th ranked defense in D1. I do think it could be sloppy, and we may be cussing at our TVs for a while until Kansas pulls away, but I believe the Jayhawks will come away with the win.

Kansas 74, Yale 65