Game 33 – No. 16 UC Davis vs. No. 1 Kansas: Preview and Prediction

The Kansas Jayhawks (29-4, 16-2 Big 12), the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, open up NCAA Tournament action on Friday evening when they take on No. 16 UC Davis. It has been a while since we’ve seen the Jayhawks after losing in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament just over a week ago. It is safe to say that KU should be well rested for this one.

UC Davis comes in streaking. The Aggies are winners seven of their last eight, including a run through the Big West tournament and a win over North Carolina Central in an NCAA First Four matchup on Wednesday. They hold a record of 23-12 and finished 11-5 in conference play.

Game Notes

  • This is the first meeting between Kansas and UC-Davis
  • This is KU’s 47th NCAA Tournament appearance, and a record 28th consecutive appearance
  • This is the 13th time KU has been selected as a No. 1 seed, and the seventh time under Bill Self.
  • KU went to the Elite Eight last season before falling to eventual National Champion, Villanova
  • KU has a record of 100-46 in the NCAA Tournament
  • This is UC Davis’ first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament
  • UC Davis became Division I in 2007-2008
  • UC Davis is ranked 215th on KenPom.com, the worst mark for any team in the field. Kansas is ranked 10th
  • UC Davis is 291st in offensive efficiency and 112th in defensive efficiency
  • On Thursday, KU head coach Bill Self was named a finalist for Naismith National Coach of the Year, along with Chris Collins of Northwestern, Mark Few of Gonzaga and Jay Wright of Villanova.
  • VegasInsider.com has Kansas as the favorite at -22.5

When: Friday, March 17, 2017, 5:50pm CT

Where: HOK Center, Tulsa, OK

How to Watch: TNT or NCAA March Madness App

How to Listen: Jayhawk Radio Network

UC-Davis Aggies (23-12, 11-5 Big West)

Aggies head coach Jim Les took over a struggling program in 2011 and slowly but surely has turned UC Davis into one of the better basketball programs in the Big West. After going a combined 29-65 in his first three seasons, the Aggies have gone 59-38 over their last three seasons, including a Big West regular season title in 2015.

Les also should have some familiarity with KU. Prior to being hired at UC Davis, Les was the head coach at his alma mater, Bradley, from 2002-2011. KU fans might remember (even though they probably don’t want to) that Bradley knocked the Jayhawks out of the tournament in 2006 in a 13-over-4 upset.

Kansas will pose a large challenge to the Aggies. KU will be, without a doubt, the best team UC Davis will play all season. They have faced just one opponent from a power-five conference this season (Cal), and they lost that game by 25 points. That being said, this is the NCAA tournament, so the Jayhawks should expect UC Davis’ best shot.

The Aggies are led by senior guard Bryton Lemer, who is third in the Big West in scoring, as he averages 16.1 points per game.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Strength – Defensive Rebounding: The Aggies are an adequate defensive rebounding team, as they haul in 74% of their opponents misses. KU should still have some chances for some offensive boards though.

Strength – Scoring Defense: UC Davis ranks in the top 100 in opponents points per game. Part of that could be chalked up due to the fact they play a slower brand of ball.

Strength – Three-Point Defense: Opponents are shooting just 32% from three against the Aggies this season, which ranks 41st nationally.

Strength – Close Shot Defense: The Aggies’ opponents are shooting 54% at the rim this season, which is good for 51st nationally.

Strength – Depth: UC Davis has seven players averaging over 20 minutes per game, and nine players averaging over 10.


Weakness – Transition Defense: The Aggies rank among the nation’s best in opponents FG% in transition, but the problem is that their opponents get their fair share of transition opportunities (194th NCAA). That will be a problem against a Kansas team that thrives in the open floor.

Weakness – Ball Security: UC Davis is one of the worst teams in the nation at holding on to the ball. They turn the ball over an average of 14.3 times per game, which is 288th in the nation. Turnovers can lead to easy run outs for KU.

Weakness – Fouling: The Aggies are committing nearly 20 fouls per game, which ranks them 222nd nationally.

Weakness – Inside Scoring: The Aggies are not the biggest team in the world, as they have just one player over 6’8″. This contributes to their lack of inside scoring. This season they are shooting a mere 56% at the rim, which ranks 285th.

Weakness – Transition Offense: If this gets into a run and gun match, say goodnight to UC Davis. They are one of the worst transition offenses in the nation. They rank 296th in transition FG attempts and 247th in FG% in transition.

Aggies to Watch

Bryton Lemler – 6’4″, Guard, Senior

  • Team’s leading scorer at 16.1 PPG
  • Team’s best three-point threat – 38% from range
  • Shoots a high volume of shots, but still for a decent percentage at 42%
  • Averaging 19 PPG in postseason play this year

Chima Moneke – 6’6″, Forward, Freshman

  • Team’s best inside scoring threat – averaging 14.5 PPG
  • Team’s best rebounder at 9.5 RPG
  • Team’s best rim protector – averaging 1.4 blocks per game
  • Has had a double-double in three of his last four games

Siler Schneider – 6’3″, Guard, Sophomore

  • One of UC Davis’ main scoring threats – 10.8 PPG
  • Decent rebounder and distributor
  • Native of Lansing, KS
  • Shoots the three reasonably well at 34%

Keys to Victory

  • Get Out and RUN: If Kansas makes this into a track meet, UC-Davis won’t have the horses to hang. Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham should push it as much as possible.
  • Be Ready for Some Punches: We saw it just last night in the 1 vs. 16 matchup. Mount St. Mary’s hung tight with Villanova for a half, but then the Wildcats ramped it up in the second half and ran away with it. Kansas can’t get tight if the Aggies knock ’em in the mouth.
  • Utilize the Size Advantage: Kansas will have a decided size advantage over the Aggies. If they can get things going down low with Landen Lucas and Josh Jackson, it will open things up on the perimeter for KU’s guards.

Prediction

Kansas 84, UC Davis 66

Just because it’s March, UC Davis can hang around in the first half, just maybe not as close as Mount St. Mary’s did vs. Villanova.

Ultimately, Kansas will make this into a track meet, and the Aggies just don’t have the firepower to keep up with that.

I feel this is a great matchup for Josh Jackson’s return. The Aggies don’t really have anyone to matchup with his athleticism and size. I think he should have a nice day scoring and rebounding the ball. For once, he will most likely get matched up against somebody who is smaller than he is.

This also goes without saying, but expect Frank Mason to lead the charge. He’s done it all year. He’s going to set a tone in this one. He should be able to have a field day in transition. Also, he needs three points to pass Perry Ellis for 8th place on the all-time Jayhawk scoring list. I like his chances to get that done.

All stats from: TeamRankings.com, HoopMath.com, KenPom.com, ESPN.com, KUAthletics.com, Big12Sports.com

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I grew up a Notre Dame fan, as many of my family members graduated from there. I attend every home football game, and my fair share of basketball games. My Kansas fandom is something I brought upon myself when I was little. Around the time I was in first grade, Kirk Hinrich was leading Kansas to back-to-back Final Fours. I loved Hinrich those KU teams, and ever since they I've been hooked on Kansas basketball. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1. I'm excited for the opportunity here at Rock Chalk Blog. I hope to provide you with some thoughtful and informational analysis. Aside from my work here, you can catch some of my work at OneFootDown.com on SB Nation. There I cover Notre Dame football and basketball, as well as a little recruiting.