Kansas Basketball Takes on Familiar Davidson Team

Nov 22, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self reacts to a call during the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self reacts to a call during the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

Kansas basketball returns to the Sprint Center Saturday to take on old foe Davidson. Here are three things I’m watching for.

How will Carlton Bragg respond?

Bragg has certainly had an eventful week, and missed the last game due to suspension. However, he was never suspended from other team activities pending investigation. Bragg will return Saturday, when Kansas basketball plays the Wildcats. Even before the incident, Bragg lost his starting job to Lagerald Vick. This likely will not change anytime soon. If anything, hopefully the incident was enough to light a fire under the talented sophomore, and give him a laser focus on improving as a player.

Bragg steps back into action against a good frontline. Both Davidson’s big men can score and step out to shoot the three. To get playing time, Bragg will need to be able to stretch on defense to contain Davidson’s shooters. On the offensive side, Bragg will have a definite size advantage against Davidson’s 6’7 four-man Peyton Aldridge. He should be able to use that advantage to score some easy baskets in the post.

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Can KU corral Davidson’s three-point shooters?

The Wildcats can absolutely shoot anyone out of the gym, making them dangerous to anyone. They take a ton of three’s every game, averaging over 30 attempts. They make a decent amount, 31% as a team. Every one of their starters averages over three attempts per contest. KU’s small, athletic lineup will be a good matchup for the Wildcats. The Jayhawks can switch at least four positions depending on their lineup, so they shouldn’t leave too many shooters open.

Davidson is small at four positions as well. They start four players under 6’8, and one under 6’. KU’s quickness and length on defense will give them problems, especially with all the switching. Swedish big man Will Magarity could be a matchup problem for KU. He’s 6’11, and can stretch defenses out to the three-point line. Landen Lucas and Udoka Azubuike aren’t particularly good stretch defenders, and will have to at least be serviceable Saturday.

The Wildcat duo of point guard Jack Gibbs (24.3) and forward Peyton Aldridge (20) are the highest scoring duo in the country, and both can really shoot. Gibbs shoots 36% from beyond the arc, while Aldridge isn’t far behind at 35%. Look for KU to throw different looks at them both. Josh Jackson should defend Aldridge, while look for Graham and Mason to take turns on Gibbs. Holding them below their season averages would be a big step for KU.

Can Landen Lucas continue his solid play?

Against Nebraska, Lucas was a star of the game for the Jayhawks, making solid play after solid play. He scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds, both season highs. Lucas is the only big KU has that I trust to play extended minutes without getting into serious foul trouble. Hopefully, Lucas can reclaim his starting position over Azubuike, allowing the freshman to become a more short-burst role player.

KU needs Lucas to reach its ceiling. The senior forward is a very good rebounder, an area KU has struggled in so far in 2016. He can guard is position well, so KU doesn’t have to double the post most of the time. He’s a smart player as well. He usually doesn’t get into foul trouble or turn the ball over a lot. He’s almost always in the right position on both ends, allowing the Jayhawks to function better in the team concept. We all know Lucas’s limitations: he’s not a good athlete and doesn’t have good ball skills. However, KU needs what he does well. Hopefully, he can continue to play effectively against Davidson.

Bottom line

Davidson is a good matchup for KU. They’re undersized, and shoot a lot of three’s, something KU has historically defended well with pressure man defense. The Wildcats are a solid team as well, ranking 64th in the KenPom.com standings. They even played in-state rival North Carolina close, only losing by nine on the road. On a semi-neutral floor, Davidson will be a challenge. However, KU should meet it. Jayhawks win, 88-73.