Dissecting the Jayhawks – A Sweet 16 Preview

The #4 seeded Providence Friars have made the Sweet 16 for the first time in 25 years. Who awaits them? The #1 seed Jayhawks.

We provide everything you need to know about the Kansas Jayhawks and what the Friars need to do to advance to the Elite 8.

Kansas Jayhawk Overview

30-6 Overall, Regular Season Big 12 Co-Champions, Big 12 Conference Champions

NCAA Tournament Games to Date: Defeated 16 seed Texas Southern 83-56 and 9 seed Creighton Bluejays 79-72

Players to Know

Ochai Agbaji – Averaging 19 and 5 rebounds and 40% from 3. Agbaji was a likely first round draft pick last year, but returned to increase his draft standing. This year, he’s an almost surefire lock to go in the NBA lottery, proving his bet to return has paid off. He’s a well-built 6’5/6’6 wing that can score and defend.

David McCormack – A 6’10 senior big who is averaging 10 & 7 rebounds. We’ll likely see a lot of him and Nate Watson matched up, as this is one of the few times where Watson will be paired with an equally sized and skilled big man. This will be a fun one to watch.

Christian Braun – A 6’6 Junior wing who likely doesn’t get the recognition and praise that he deserves. He averages 15 and 6 rebounds and shoots 40% from deep. He’s very much an unsung glue guy on this team that can absolutely explode on any given night. If he was on any other team, he’d the focal point of a team’s offensive sets. He is THAT good.

Jalen Wilson – A 6’8 sophomore wing that is coming into his own. He averages 11 and 7 rebounds.

Remy Martin – Martin is finally turning the corner, which is a problem for the Friars. A transfer from Arizona State, Martin was the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, but hadn’t lived up to expectations to date this season. Martin, however, has turned it on of recent, leading the team in scoring in the two NCAA games. Martin scored 15 points against Texas Southern and 20 points against Creighton, leading the team in scoring in both games. He is very much serving the Jared Bynum role where he comes off the bench and provides a scoring punch.

Kansas Team Statistics

  • 37.8 Rebounds/Game (Friars at 37.6), good for 50th nationally
  • 70th in Nation Defensive Rebounds/Game (Friars at 45th in Nation)
  • 17th in Nation at 47.94% from the floor scoring (for reference, South Dakota State was 2nd)
  • 33rd in Nation in Rebounding Margin against Opponents (5)
  • 33rd in Nation at Defending 3 at 30.4% (PC 32nd at 30.3%)
  • 22nd in Nation at Scoring Offense at 78.7 points/game (for reference, South Dakota State was 2nd)
  • 158th in Turnovers/Game at 12.4 (PC 78th at 11.6)

Keys to a Friar Victory

  1. Own the Glass – As illustrated above, Kansas does very well in the rebounding department. When looking at the stats of their key performers, the consistent theme here is that their wings are absolute forces on the boards. Not only do they score, they also contribute by securing rebounds.

In the two NCAA games thus far, Kansas outrebounded Creighton by 16 rebounds and Texas Southern by 12. In EVERY SINGLE LOSS this year (only 6 total), Kansas was outrebounded by the opponent. So, the recipe for the Friars? Ensure everybody contributes on the glass. It will come down to fundamentals. No ball-watching when a shot goes up. Find a body and box out and secure the rebounds. PC and Kansas’s rebounding numbers are identical, and the only chance Providence has against the Jayhawks is to impose their will when rebounding.

2. Limit, not shut down, Agbaji – Agbaji has totaled 26 points thus far in two NCAA games; however, he has been incredibly inefficient in doing so. He has totaled that amount by volume shooting, going 10-28 from the floor. Agbaji is too good to continue to have off-nights; however, I think Minaya’s defense is going to frustrate him incredibly. Just look at what he did to Burton and Scheierman. Minaya needs to play composed and stay attached to Agbaji. If he becomes a nuisance to Agbaji, Agbaji absolutely will begin to force things on the offensive end.

Minaya has a chance to make a lot of money in this match-up, and he is the perfect fit to guard the likely lottery pick.

The problem with Kansas is that even if Minaya does his job, Braun, Wilson, and Martin can carry the load on the perimeter. Providence cannot slack off the others while Minaya is doing his best to hound Agbaji.

3. Nate Watson needs to win the match-up against McCormack – In the first two games in the NCAA Tournament, both opponents doubled Watson almost every time he touched the ball. It was very clear the two coaches were daring the rest of the Friars to beat their team. With Kansas, Bill Self may trust McCormack to guard Watson 1:1. If that is the case, Watson absolutely needs to get the better of the big man match-up for Providence to feel confident in securing a victory. This may be the moment where Big Nate shows his offensive prowess on a national scale. I’d envision him having a lot of 1:1 opportunities in this one.

4. Ball Pressure – Kansas is effectively great at everything. The one flaw with them appears to be taking care of the basketball. They are a bit loose with it, and I am hopeful that PC’s stellar team defense causes them to have a few bad turnovers that lead to easy buckets for the Friars. Providence should deploy that similar full court press with Minaya in the center of it a few times throughout the game to see if it rattles the Jayhawks.

Predictions

BOC: I see this going two ways. One option is Providence wins a close one and secures the upset. The other option is Kansas flexes its muscles and wins by low double digits. I’m going to go with the first option, with Providence winning 71-70 and advancing to the Elite 8.

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