One of the most anticipated matchups in the Big 12 season has finally arrived. The No. 4-ranked Houston Cougars head to Allen Fieldhouse to take on the No. 8-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.
The Cougars come into this matchup hot, having reeled off five straight victories after suffering only two losses in back-to-back games. Conversely, Kansas hasn’t enjoyed much success so far this conference season, with wins and losses scattered among their last five contests, but this massive home test could just be what Kansas needs to get back on track.
Now, we focus on the other end of the court where this game will be decided. The Jayhawks’ well-oiled machine offensively and their experience have brought them this far.
Houston Cougars’ defense has yet to be tested by any team; Houston ranks No. 1 nationwide and has proven adept at keeping opponents out of the paint. Additionally, Houston leads both in 2-point percentage allowed and block rate.
Houston must pay close attention if Hunter Dickinson is on the low block and receives extra attention, as Kansas shouldn’t fear its perimeter shooting. Kansas may need to rely on ball movement to break through this defense, which currently ranks third for defensive turnover rate.
If they want to keep this contest close, Kansas may need to diversify their offense.
Although everyone knows of the Cougars’ defensive capabilities, to truly challenge Blue Blood teams they will also need to remain efficient on offense.
Thus far, Houston has relied on its talented backcourt, highlighted by three guards who have shown great range from beyond the arc: L.J. Cryer, Jamal Shead and Emanuel Sharp all shot 35% or better from downtown. These shooters must remain accurate from deep, given Houston lacks the size to match up against Kansas’s defense but has found success exploiting Kansas’s weaknesses around their perimeter defenders.
Houston’s perimeter shooting will help them take advantage of another strength – on the offensive glass. They rank sixth for offensive rebounding rate despite not possessing large players.
Assuming they keep to their usual scheme, expect the Cougars to remain effective on offense.
Houston’s defense will be the difference in this game. I know it’s at Kansas, but Houston is the better team, Houston 73, Kansas 69.
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