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Unranked BYU Stares Down Tall Task At No. 7 Kansas

Feb 26, 2024, 12:35 PM

LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time since November, BYU basketball enters a game without a Top 25 ranking next to its name. Meanwhile, their opponent resides within the Top 10 as they face No. 7 Kansas in historic Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas isn’t exactly the type of opponent that screams “bounceback opportunity” for BYU. But it’s the latest example of the buzzsaw before BYU in its inaugural Big 12 schedule.

“This Kansas team is Kansas,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “I mean, you know, Kansas Phog Allen, we’ve been saying the same thing for the last 40 years. They’re unbelievable and they’re big and physical and powerful and skilled. It’s a great environment.”

BYU is making its first trip to Kansas since the 1971 season. It’s the first meeting between BYU and KU since the 2019 Maui Invitational.

BYU vs. Kansas: How To Watch, Listen

Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Location: Allen Fieldhouse

Tip-Off: 6 p.m. (MT)/7 p.m. (CT)

TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Pregame begins at 5 p.m.)

What you need to know about BYU basketball

After BYU’s 10-point loss to Kansas State on Saturday, BYU traveled back to Provo that evening. They got a practice in on Monday morning and took off for Lawrence on Monday afternoon.

BYU’s struggles on defense continue. Less than three weeks ago, BYU was a Top 25 defense in the nation. They have allowed 84 points per night in the last four games in that stretch.

The ranking on defense has plummeted to No. 68 in the adjusted defense rankings.

Those issues on the defensive end get amplified when BYU’s offense experiences struggles, as they did on Saturday at Kansas State.

BYU shot 19.4% from three against the Wildcats. The Cougars are now 106th nationally in scoring offense this season.

BYU is comfortably in NCAA Tournament bracketology projections. But Mark Pope’s squad could use a boost with a quality road win. A victory at Kansas would be a statement nationally and have BYU climbing up the bracket.

BYU is 2-6 in true road games this season.

Five BYU players scored in double-figures during the loss to Kansas State, led by leading scorer Jaxson Robinson, who scored 15. BYU was aggressive on the glass against Kansas State with 19 offensive boards but could only score 14 points in those second-chance opportunities.

The Cougars have a tie to Kansas on their current roster. BYU freshman Marcus Adams Jr. was a former Kansas signee and participated in summer workouts with the Jayhawks before entering the transfer portal last July.

Adams has only appeared in one game this season for BYU. That was against Bellarmine on December 22.

Adams recently experienced tragedy in his family after his father, Marcus Adams Sr., passed away. The heralded freshman rejoined the BYU team after some time away.

Getting to know the Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas has won three of its last four games in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have sometimes been vulnerable in conference play on the road, dropping games to West Virginia, UCF, and Kansas State. But inside Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas is 14-0 this season.

Since Bill Self became the Kansas head coach in 2004, KU is 313-17 at Allen Fieldhouse. Kanas has only lost two Big 12 games at home in the last three years.

“Clearly, he’s been unbelievable for this league,” Pope said on Bill Self. “…He’s clearly set the benchmark here. I don’t the numbers but he wins every single year. You look down through this league and the coaches are just incredible. Certainly, he’s one of the most successful coaches in the history of college basketball. He’s right here still doing it. It’s pretty great.”

The Jayhawks will again be without star guard Kevin McCullar, who continues to deal with a bone bruise in his knee. McCullar has averaged 19.5 points per game this season and is viewed as a potential first-round NBA draft pick next June.

In place of McCullar will likely be Towson transfer Nick Timberlake. Kansas cruised to a blowout win over Texas on Saturday with Timberlake in the starting five and he had a highlight-worthy alley-oop showing off his athleticism.

But without McCullar, the already thin rotation for Kansas gets even tighter.

Kansas is among the elite teams nationally on defense. The Jayhawks are 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency. During Big 12 Conference play, Kansas only allows 69.6 points per game. That’s good for fifth in the Big 12.

The key piece to Kansas’ defensive efforts is star center Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson’s accolades are well-documented on the offensive end of the floor, scoring 20 points or more in eight Big 12 games this season.

But defensively, he’s a vacuum on the glass. Dickinson is number one in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage at 27.1%. In the last eight games, Dickinson has grabbed at least seven rebounds. He’s had six Big 12 games with at least 11 rebounds.

Freshman Johnny Furphy was a star in the win over Texas, scoring 16 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Since the loss to Kansas State on February 5, Furphy has scored at least 11 points in each of the four games since that setback.

BYU/Kansas Fast Facts

BYU

Overall record: 19-8

Big 12 record: 7-7

NET: 13

KenPom: 18

AP ranking: Not ranked

Coaches Poll: Not ranked

Kansas

Overall record: 21-6

Big 12 record: 9-5

NET: 14

KenPom: 15

AP ranking: No. 7

Coaches Poll: No. 9

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Unranked BYU Stares Down Tall Task At No. 7 Kansas