The Big 12 Conference is off to a huge roll to kick off this season. The Jayhawks will most likely move to No. 2 in the AP Poll after winning the Maui Invitational and steamrolling Loyola. Meanwhile, No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Maryland fell due to defeats by UCLA and UNC, respectively. This would also move No. 5 Iowa State and No. 6 Oklahoma to to the top 4, if everything falls in place.
Cheick Diallo had a great start in his debut after going off for 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 6 for 8 shooting in 16 minutes of play. This bodes well for the Jayhawks, who have had inconsistent play down low this season. The Jayhawks plan to keep this streak going as they play a struggling Harvard (2-5) squad Saturday at 2:15 PM on ESPN 2.
Four Jayhawk starters are averaging double digits as good team play puts Wayne Selden at 17.2 PPG, Perry Ellis 15.3 PPG, Frank Mason 12.5 PPG, and Devonte’ Graham at 10.2 PPG.
On the other hand, Harvard’s junior forward Zena Edosomwan is putting up 13.6 PPG and freshman guard Tommy McCarthy has 10.3 PPG. Harvard is not playing up to their potential from their NCAA tourney team from last year, as they rank 291st in offensive efficiency and 281st in tempo. Also, they turnover the ball like none other, which the Jayhawks will love, as KU plays a uptempo fast break, three point shooting kind of game. This has all the signs of a blowout for Kansas.
Kansas is 14-0 all time against Ivy League teams, and they have won four straight since losing to the most likely new No. 1 Michigan State. The Jayhawks, on the other hand, place 16th in the country in tempo and their defense has played better than expected.
There are some issues for the Jayhawks to fix though before the season gets into full motion. They are struggling from free throw range and are not feeding the post as much as they should. However, this is countered from constant success from three led by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Wayne Selden.
Offensive rebounding has been an issue for Kansas as the reliance on three point shooting leads to long misses and fast break opportunities for their opponents. Also, the addition of Cheick Diallo to the lineup should help as he has always proven to be a menace on that with his huge frame, also leading to an edge on defense.
Since KU is tenth in the nation in scoring margin at +23.5 and fourth in 3 point field goal percentage at 45.7%, there is no question that they should come away with the victory against Harvard. Nothing less than the usual 20+ point blowout is expected and should help solidify Kansas’s new position as the new No. 2.
My prediction: Kansas 97 Harvard 62