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Scouting Notes: Kansas



Indiana basketball vs Kansas
A deep dive into Kansas and some of the challenges it could give the Indiana basketball program in Saturday's matchup. (Kansas Athletics)

Indiana basketball is back on the floor after a week off when the Kansas Jayhawks come to Bloomington on Saturday.

The Jayhawks enter under Bill Self in his 21st season on the bench with a 9-1 record this season, ranked No. 2 in the country. Kansas is another very efficient team on both ends of the floor. It ranks 29th overall in offensive efficiency with a rating of 114.2. It also ranks 2nd in the country shooting 52.7 percent from the field. Defensively, Kansas is rated 9th with a defensive rating of 91.6. Overall, the Jayhawks are 12th in the KenPom ratings.

Here is a deep dive into some of the challenges Kansas could give the Indiana basketball program.

Key Players

Kansas is led by two All-American candidates, including one that Indiana basketball fans know quite well. Hunter Dickinson transferred to Kansas this offseason and is off to his best start in his career. He is averaging a career high in points, rebounds, steals, shooting percentage and three-point percentage. Dickinson has always been extremely efficient and effective in the paint but he has turned into a very consistent three-point shooter this season. He’s 11-of-19 on 3s this season and has at least one three made in seven of 10 games this year. Dickinson is going to be used at all three levels — the perimeter in pick and pop situations, the high post and the low post. He is able to score at any level and has good touch on the high-low pass to KJ Adams in the paint. Rebounding is another major asset of Dickinson’s. He’s the Big 12 leader in total rebound and defensive rebound percentages and fifth in offensive rebound percent. He ranks seventh in the NCAA in overall rebound percent.

Kevin McCullar Jr has emerged as one of the real two-way threats in the country. McCullar has put together two triple-doubles this season and is playing at an All-American level through the first month of the season. McCullar is a big, long and physical wing who is tremendous both on and off of the ball. While the Jayhawks have Dajuan Harris to orchestrate the offense, a lot of the offensive sets run through McCullar and his playmaking ability. If he’s on the ball, he loves to attack the paint and get to the rim. While he can finish in the midrange, he’s much more comfortable getting into the paint or out on the perimeter. Despite shooting 37.8 percent from three, he’s not an overly aggressive player when it comes to hunting his own 3s. At 6-foot-6, McCuller has great size and length to finish through contact at the rim — something he actively seeks out. He averages 5.4 free throws per game and shoots 81.5 percent from the line. With a limited amount of true knockdown shooters around him, Indiana should double him on every ball screen action and force the ball out of his hands as much as possible. When he’s attacking, forcing him into longer 2s is a win.

Rounding out the front court is hybrid-forward KJ Adams. This could be one of the most difficult guarding jobs Indiana basketball will face this year. He’s a 6-foot-7 and 225-pound forward who is not your typical player. Adams averages 3.1 assists per game with an assist rate of 18.1 percent. He is a terrific straight-line driver with the ball in his hand from the top of the key and does a good job at finding open teammates if the defense collapses on him — most notably to Dickinson on the other block. Adams plays with a high motor and physicality that will be a major test for the Hoosiers’ front court. While most plays aren’t run specifically for Adams, he ranks third in the Big 12 in offensive rating (119.9). He’s a major asset for the Jayhawks on the offensive glass, ranking sixth in the Big 12 in offensive rebound percent. Offensively, he’s only going to kill you with his scoring in the paint. He’s shooting 67.9 percent from the floor and has taken just five 3s in his three years. Defensively, Adams can guard every position on the floor. He has great lateral quickness and terrific athleticism to guard on the perimeter as well as be a very imposing shot blocking threat in the paint.

Dajuan Harris is one of the top point guards in the country and is terrific for this team but has struggled this year with consistentcy. He’s a true point guard who looks for his teammates as his first, second and even third reads before looking to score. Harris is averaging 4.5 assists to just 1.6 turnovers in his career and is has a 2.7 to 1 assist to turnover ratio this season, but has made some uncharacteristic turnovers throughout this season. While he’s a terrific playmaker, he’s not a scorer. He’s also struggled more finishing at the rim this year and is shooting just 38.6 percent from the field overall. Harris has become a better shooter from three, however. He’s not a high-volume shooter but has numerous open looks throughout games. He’s shooting 45 percent on 3s but has just nine made 3s this season. Harris is a pest defensively as well. He has tremendous quickness, footwork and hands that allow him to disrupt any ball handler and jump the passing lanes when he’s off the ball. He’s the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Elmarko Jackson is the final starter for Kansas and the freshman has been a nice additional ball handler to the lineup. Jackson has good size and frame for a combo guard at the college level but he’s struggled shooting the ball this year — as most freshman do. He’s shooting just 37.8 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three. Most of Jackson’s scoring comes at the rim or in transition. He’s a 92 percent free throw shooter and is getting to the line nearly three times per game. Jackson is best on the defensive end of the floor to start the season.

The main rotation player off of the bench is freshman wing Johnny Furphy. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing who is a terrific floor spacer. His main role; shooting. Furphy is shooting 40 percent on 3s this year (12-of-30) and has made at least one three in seven games. Most of his looks are off the catch as a spot up shooter on the wing or corner of the floor.

Nick Timberlake is a transfer who Indiana basketball targeted this summer. He’s struggled to find any sort of rhythm this season. Known for his shooting ability, Timberlake is shooting just 29.2 percent from three and has scores three or less points in seven games this year. Three of his seven made 3s this season came in the season opener.

Key Tendencies

Kansas is going to move the ball, be surrounded by floor spacers and find ways to get into the paint. The Jayhawks are one of the top offenses in the country and have multiple different options all over the floor. The difficult part for defenses is the ability for Kansas to get its offense started by numerous different players. Kansas utilizes numerous different ball screen actions around the perimeter and has great off ball movement. Kansas leads the country in assists per game and assist rate, with 73 percent of its field goals coming off of an assist. Kansas is going to prioritize getting into the paint and do so religiously that opens up its shooters. The Jayhawks are shooting 38.2 percent from three but only take 17.3 3s per game.

Defensively, Kansas has three players who can guard almost every position — all with length, quickness and athleticism. One thing Kansas does is defend without fouling. One aspect of Indiana’s offense is getting to the foul line. They will pack in the defense and force opponents to shoot over top from the outside. nearly half of opponents field goals against the Jayhawks come from three, with 38.3 percent of its points coming from three. Despite taking 27.3 3s per game, opponents are shooting just 29.9 percent from the perimeter. Because of their length and size, Kansas is able to recover out to shooters and force difficult shots.

Indiana’s bench could be a significant lift in this matchup. Kansas ranks 343rd in the country in bench minutes and if IU is able to win the foul matchup and force Kansas to play more members of its bench for longer segments, it could tilt things in IU’s favor. Overall, Indiana basketball needs to be ready to take some 3s — regardless of make or miss. But, there needs to be an additional emphasis on getting shots up from the perimeter, because they will be there. If Indiana tries to pound it inside all game, it’ll be a long afternoon. On the flip side, Indiana needs to stay home on shooters and force each driver to score over top of the individual defender.

Projected Starters

G- Dajuan Harris (Juniro; 6-1, 160)

Stats: 6.1 ppg, 7.0 apg, 45% 3pt

G- Elmarko Jackson (Freshman; 6-3, 195)

Stats: 6.2 ppg, 3.1 apg, 1.0 spg

F- Kevin McCullar (Senior; 6-6, 205)

Stats: 19.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 37.8% 3pt

F- KJ Adams (Junior; 6-7, 225)

Stats: 12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.3 spg

C- Hunter Dickinson (Senior; 7-1, 255)

Stats: 19.4 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 57.9% 3pt

Key Notes

  • Hunter Dickinson is second in the nation in rebounds per game and the only player in the Big 12 to average a double-double
  • Kevin McCullar has two triple-doubles this year and posted them in back-to-back games
  • Kansas leads the nation in assists per game at 22.1 and in field goal percentage (52.7%)
  • Kansas is the only Power 5 school and just one of two teams (McNeese) to rank in the top 10 nationally in both FG% (second) and FG% defense, ninth at 36.1
  • Indiana holds an 8-7 edge all time in the series, losing the last two games however

SEE ALSO: With or without Xavier Johnson, Indiana basketball guards continue to be outplayed in big moments

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.