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KU Hoops Preview: UMKC

The Jayhawks will try to avoid what played out in their last "easy" game against EIU

NCAA Basketball: UMKC at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight's opponent is, I believe, now just referred to as the Kansas City Roos, but KenPom went back to labeling them UMKC, the name they've used for my whole lifetime. Regardless of the school's name preference, this should be an easy game. Of course, last week I went on and on in my preview about how awful Eastern Illinois was, only to see Kansas struggle to put them away in the 2nd half. UMKC is not quite as bad as EIU, but there isn't a big gap between them. The Roos are ranked 281st by KenPom, not substantially better than the 321st where EIU, whom the Jayhawks defeated by single digits at home, sits on the table.

UMKC (that’s what I’m calling them) sits at 3-5 on the year, with two of those wins being sub-D1 competition in early November. The only D1 opponent they’ve beaten was the last team they played, SEMO, a game they dominated, winning 74-44. They’ve played a few decent teams, so we actually do have some results that give us some insight as to how they stack up against legitimate competition. They played Baylor, ranked 7th by KenPom, and lost 99-61. They followed that up with a game at Colorado State (ranked 21st), which they lost 84-61. They were competitive in losses to Brown and Middle Tennessee, while UNC-Greensboro beat them 76-64.

Finding strengths for the Roos is a bit tough. They have crashed the offensive boards reasonably well, ranking 57th in OReb%, and similarly hit the glass hard on the defensive side, where they rank 53rd. They don’t shoot particularly well, sitting at 219th in 2 point % and 194th in 3P% at 32.4%. They’re downright terrible at the free throw line, where they hit 61.5% as a team. They’ve done a poor job of even getting to the free throw line, and they’re close to dead last in all of D1 in sending opponents to the free throw line routinely, with a defensive free throw rate at 51.8%, which is a hideous number and suggests their big men and help defenders struggle to defend around the basket without hacking. That’s also backed up by the fact that they allow opponents to make a whopping 55.8% of their twos, 312th in the country. They do block a decent 10.5% of shots, but it clearly comes at the cost of fouling when they fail to block the shot.

The Roos don’t have any real standout players. 6’5 junior Jamar Brown leads the team in scoring, and is hitting 38.2% of his threes, so he would seem to be the primary offensive threat, and will likely draw Kevin McCullar as his primary defender. Anderson Copp is their senior point guard, leading the team in assists while being their 2nd leading scorer, but he’s been awful from behind the arc so far, sitting at 21.2% on a team-high 33 attempts. He clearly has the green light to shoot and had good 3 point numbers in his last full season (he missed all but three games last year) where he hit 39.2% of his 97 attempts, but for his career he’s only 30.4% from behind the arc. He’s a guy who could potentially go off from behind the arc if he’s feeling it, but he’s yet to consistently get his perimeter shot going. However, he’s also had some success in getting to the line, where he’s already attempted 26 free throws and made 76.9% of them. As a team they have decent size, with a number of players between 6’5 and 6’8, but they lack any one quality player standing any taller than that. They’ll likely be forced to double Hunter Dickinson every time he touches the ball, which should open up plenty of opportunities for others to score, as well as giving Dickinson some chances to head to the free throw line as shorter defenders try to stop him in the paint.

Prediction

I picked a blowout win over Eastern Illinois last week only for the game to end up close. I then picked UConn to beat Kansas fairly easily, only to be dead wrong again. That said, the EIU game was the fluke, looking at how the Jayhawks have performed in every other game in which they played bad opponents. Hunter Dickinson will cause UMKC a ton of problems with his height, and will likely get some chances for assists as the Roos flock to him in the paint when he touches the ball. McCullar should be able to drive and get to the free throw line as well, given how much UMKC fouls shooters, and how well McCullar draws fouls when he’s locked in. I said something similar about EIU, but ultimately the Roos just don’t have anything going for them that concerns me going into this game.

Kansas 90, UMKC 59