Game Time: 6:50 PM EST, Friday, March 16th
Location: Bank of Oklahoma Center, Tulsa, OK
UC Davis Aggies (22-12 overall, 11-5 Big West Conference)
So I originally described UC Davis as a team that utilized their perimeter defense and strong rebounding to offset an offense that leaned a little too heavily on Brynton Lemar and struggled to be an efficient or good-shooting offense thanks to a ton of turnovers.
So, of course, they go out and do literally the complete polar opposite. The Aggies shot 82% from the free throw line on 22 attempts, and were shooting 50% from the field and 38% from long range prior to missing their last four shots of the game.
They also still did the perimeter defense and rebounding things well, as they held NCCU to 5-for-26 three-point shooting and outrebounded the Eagles 40-26 (including snagging 85% of the rebounds on North Carolina Central’s offensive possessions).
Chima Moneke shone for the Aggies with 18 points and 12 boards, while Lemar and Lawrence White added another 15 and 14 points, respectively. They still turned the ball over like crazy, but they were able to limit NCCU to enough one-and-done offensive possessions that any related damage was relatively minimal.
Kansas Jayhawks (28-4 overall, 16-2 Big 12)
This has to be considered a bit of a down year for the Jayhawks, as they dropped a couple of close conference matchups on top their season-opening loss against Indiana, still pulled off the top seed for the conference tournament… and then couldn’t even get past TCU in their opening matchup.
That said, if 28 regular season wins and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is a down year, I think you’re doing alright.
The 2017 version of the Jayhawks is certainly fallible; they’re subpar at getting to the free throw line, and atrocious at making their free throws once they get there. They turn the ball over too much, and they kind of stink at defending the three.
That said, they are an absolutely lethal offense from the perimeter, which allows them to close or extend a deficit or lead in the blink of an eye. They’re also a strong offensive rebounding team that forces almost as many turnovers as they commit.
The cast of characters is familiar; Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the list goes on. Nobody on this team is a poor shooter, and freshman Udoka Azuibuike balances his status as the weakest link on offense by being an absolute shot-blocking monster.
I don’t need to tell you that UC Davis is one of the worst teams Kansas has played all year on paper. The Jayhawks played eight games against teams who finished outside the top 100 in KenPom, went 8-0 against those teams, and beat everyone by at least 15 points. Against teams 175 or higher, they went 5-0 and won by an average of 26 points. Only UNLV’s 18-point loss at home was even remotely competitive.
I expect this game to look an awful lot like the Jayhawks’ early season matchups against Long Beach State and UMKC – probably fairly competitive early on while Kansas feels out their opponent, but eventually the doors come off and the reserves are finishing out the game. The Aggies showed a new and improved identity against NCCU, but even that version of UC Davis wouldn’t be nearly enough to hang with the Jayhawks.
Kansas 96, UC Davis 66