Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 21st, 2016

Feast Week is here. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments over the next week, our Feast Week Mission Briefings continue today with Kansas in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.

What They’ve Done So Far: In a break from the norm for traditional powers, Kansas has already played the toughest part of its non-conference schedule. The Jayhawks fell in overtime to Indiana on the first night of the season before edging Duke at the Champions Classic, both in neutral settings. Frank Mason has been fantastic to open the year; Not only did he bury a clutch jumper to sink the Blue Devils last Tuesday, but he has led the Jayhawks in scoring in each of their first three games and has taken advantage of the new officiating directives to make 30 trips to the free throw line (converting 76.6 percent of his attempts). Perhaps feeling tired legs from their trips to Hawaii and New York, the Jayhawks had some trouble shaking Siena for most of their home opener on Friday night, but pulled away late for an 86-65 win.

Frank Mason has come up big early for Kansas. Will the Jayhawks need to rely on him again this week in Kansas City? (Nick Krug/Lawrence Journal-World)

Opening Round Preview: Kansas opens against UAB in what would have been a reunion for former Jayhawks guard Jerod Haase, but Haase left the Blazers’ post over the summer to take the head coaching job at Stanford. UAB hasn’t played a very tough schedule to date, but they’ve held opponents to 36.3 percent shooting inside the arc, largely on the prowess of big man William Lee (13 rejections through three games). Kansas has meanwhile been very dependent on its inside game, ranking among the bottom 30 nationally in 3PA/FGA and shooting a miserable 23.1 percent from beyond the arc. A strong performance from Carlton Bragg to follow up a career game against Siena (15 points and 11 rebounds) would go a long way toward avoiding an upset tonight, especially if his teammates have another cold outside shooting night.

Potential Later-Round Match-up: An interesting clash of styles will take place Tuesday night if the Jayhawks meet George Washington (GW faces Georgia in tonight’s opener). The Colonials have one of the taller frontcourts in college basketball, starting preseason A-10 first-teamer Tyler Cavanaugh (6’9″), freshman Collin Smith (6’10”), and junior Yuta Watanabe (6’8″) on the back line. Both Cavanaugh and Watanabe can play out to the perimeter on offense, though, so if a tilt with Kansas comes to pass, we could see a great deal of the Jayhawks’ four-guard look. Meanwhile, Georgia gives regular minutes to just one player taller than 6’8″ (Mike Edwards, who checks in at 6’9″), so that match-up could lead to more minutes for seven-foot freshman Udoka Azubuike, who turned in a solid performance against Duke’s depleted frontcourt (six points and 12 rebounds in 15 minutes).

Outlook: Though Kansas’ perimeter shooting hasn’t been very good to start the season, the Jayhawks’ track record suggests that those struggles won’t last. What I’m more interested in seeing this week is if Josh Jackson can stay out of foul trouble long enough to take over games the way we saw in a short stretch against Duke and whether Bragg can string together the quality performances Bill Self is expecting from him. Even if the Jayhawks fall short in those two areas, they’ll remain a good bet to win the event in front of a de facto home crowd in nearby Kansas City, but the sooner they address their question marks, the better off they will be when league play rolls around.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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