As most everyone around college basketball already knows, the NCAA finally cleared Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo in a ruling that figures to add much-needed frontcourt depth and rim protection to the Jayhawks’ roster. Diallo will make his college debut tonight, giving a boost of significance to what would otherwise be a relatively meaningless home cupcake game against Loyola (MD). While Bill Self said yesterday that the Mali native would come off the bench and recommended that initial expectations remain tempered, there will be considerable interest in how Diallo looks right out of the gate. Let’s take a look at what kind of opportunities the Greyhounds will present to the long-awaited jewel of the Kansas recruiting class.
Over the last few years and for a variety of reasons, Self’s marquee freshmen have struggled to hit the ground running. Tonight should be a somewhat different story as Loyola’s attacking style of play should provide Diallo with opportunities to create highlight-worthy plays from the start. The Greyhounds rely heavily on their inside game to generate offense, which means that they’ll be coming right at the freshman in spite of his defensive abilities. According to hoop-math.com, 46.7 percent of the Greyhounds’ field goal attempts this season have been at the rim (27th nationally), but the Greyhounds are shooting just 55.5 percent on those close looks. For some context, last year’s Kansas team that struggled to find answers inside made 58.0 percent of its close shots. Put differently, one of the worst-performing offenses in Bill Self’s 13-year tenure at Kansas still had more success at the rim than Loyola has experienced in its first six games this season. That’s not good, and making matters worse for Loyola (or better for Diallo), the Greyhounds don’t have the long-range threats needed to make the Jayhawks stretch their defense.