Just when you hoped the Kansas Jayhawks (8-3) might have an easy game scheduled, a quick glance at the record of the Toledo Rockets (12-0) indicates this might not a game that the Jayhawks can take for granted.
No, Toledo is not a ranked team nationally, or any kind of powerhouse. No, they haven’t played a very tough schedule (Strength of Schedule is 264th according to CBSSports.com’s RPI). Still, they are ranked 44th in the country according the the CBSports.com RPI rankings, and they are 12-0. They will offer the Jayhawks a nice test as Kansas prepares for the start of Big 12 Conference play next week.
Toledo has built its unblemished record by putting points on the board – a lot of points. They average 86.3 points a game, good for the 10 highest mark in the NCAA. They have scored more than 90 points 5 times, and more than 100 twice. Their average margin of victory is 13.9 points. Although they have allowed over 90 points twice, those are the only games in which their opponents scored more than 80 points. They have held their opponents under 70 points in half their games, including the last 4.
They feature a balance attack with 5 players averaging in double figures. Senior guard Rian Pearson is the leading scorer, putting up 16.6 points a contest. Justin Drummond, Julius Brown, J. D. Weatherspoon, and Nathan Boothe also score more than 10 points an outing.
Weatherspoon leads the Rockets with 6 boards a game, and Julius Brown dishes a terrific 7.3 assists per outing. Pearson has 17 steals on the season to pace the Rockets, and Boothe tops the team with 13 blocked shots.
Toledo averages 16 assists a game and only commit 10 turnovers as they can protect the ball. They also shoot 49.8% from the field, the 14th best figure in the country.
There isn’t any doubt they a very good, very dangerous team. But they haven’t faced a team even close to as talented as the Jayhawks. Boothe is 6’9″ and freshman reserve Zach Garber (12 minutes a game) can match that height, but those two are the only Rockets over 6’7″.
The Jayhawks regularly play seven guys who stand 6’7″ or taller. Kansas should by pounding the ball inside tonight, making the shorter Toledo players guard hard, and maybe get them in foul trouble. There is no reason the Jayhawks shouldn’t dominate the paint against the Rockets.
The Jayhawks are led in scoring by Andrew Wiggins with 15.5, followed by Pery Ellis with 13.3, and after a few nice games games, Joel Embiid also scores in double figures with 10.5 a contest. The Jayhwaks average just 78.2 a game, 70th in the NCAA. Naadir Tharpe leads the Jayhawks in assists with 5 an outing.
Embiid tops the team in rebounding with 6.6 boards a game, steals with 13 total, and blocked shots, with 25. The freshman center has been making improvements ever single game of late. He averaged 17.5 points in the last two games against New Mexico and Georgetown. Watching his growth has been a blast for Kansas fans as he has become a force in the middle of the floor for the Jayhawks.
Kansas cannot let the name on the jersey of the opposition lull them into complacency. The Rockets can fill the basket and can run with a lot of teams. The Jayhawks need to use their length to disrupt on defense, and their size to dominate on offense.
This might end up being a high scoring game, but it will be a good test to see if the improvement Kansas showed on defense against Georgetown nine days ago is for real.
Kansas should win this one, but it may not be the walk in the park fans anticipated when the schedule came out.