Kansas and BYU meet up in the Maui Invitational Semifinals. Will the Jayhawks keep rolling or do the Cougars have another upset in them?
TV schedule: Tuesday, November 26, 10:30 pm ET. ESPN
Arena: Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii
After losing their season opener to Duke, Kansas (4-1) has certainly bounced back, looking for their fifth straight win and their second in Maui. There was little drama in their win against Chaminade, while their schedule features three solid wins over mid-majors. With Michigan State now in the loser’s bracket, will the Jayhawks be tested in Maui?
There’s plenty of talent on this roster, led by senior center Udoka Azubuike (12.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and sophomore guard Devon Dotson (18.8 ppg, 4.3 apg). Dotson led the Jayhawks with 19 points against Chaminade while Azubuike is a force in the interior defense. Someone to watch on this deep Kansas team is senior guard Isaiah Moss (10.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg), who’s provided a great scoring boost from the bench.
The Jayhawks are still piecing things together, but sit at 8th in KenPom and are certainly going to be a top 10 team again this season. They’ve been a great shooting team early in the season and are giving up only 63 ppg through their first five games.
Across the court, Mark Pope’s first season as head coach has seen an up and down start for BYU (4-2). They took care of UCLA 78-63 in the first round of the Maui Invitational, but have also dropped games to tough MWC teams in Boise State and San Diego State. This Kansas team is much tougher than any of their previous opponents.
These Cougars are led by a pair of talented senior guards. Jake Toolson (16.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) had 20 points against the Bruins while TJ Haws (12.0 ppg, 3.6 apg) added 15 of his own. Haws has played a major role on this team throughout his career and may be their best pure shooter. The other double-digit scorer to watch is junior guard Alex Barcello (11.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg), an Arizona transfer who scored 16 points last week against Houston in a win.
BYU currently sits at 68th in KenPom, but at times, has certainly looked better than that this year. They rank 43rd in offensive efficiency, with their efficiency on high display against the Bruins. Their bigs have struggled gathering rebounds at times this season, and the team as a whole has not excelled at free throw shooting.
For the Jayhawks, they’ll be greatly favored in a game where they should feed Azubuike while doing what they can to shut down BYU’s hot outside shooters. For the Cougars, they may need an even better shooting effort to topple Kansas, especially if their rebounding and free throw woes don’t change overnight.
Anything can happen on a neutral court, but I fail to see BYU hanging with this Kansas squad for forty minutes. This could be a great basketball game if the Cougars hit their shots early. However, this could also be the game where Kansas really catches fire against a strong opponent (sorry Monmouth), especially if Azubuike has another big game.