Before the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks head to Hawaii for next week’s Maui Invitational, they have a date with the Buccaneers of East Tennesee State on Tuesday night. Kansas throttled Monmouth over the weekend but will face a step up in competition in this game. It will be the second time the Jayhawks have played a team from the Southern Conference, having dispensed of UNC-Greensboro a week and a half ago.
Steve Forbes leads yet another strong East Tennessee State team in 2019-20. Fresh off a nice home victory against Winthrop, the Bucs will look to remain undefeated on the young season while also picking up a tournament resume-building win. ETSU was a fan favorite last season but lacked the marquee win to get it into the dance. This season, the Buccaneers have fewer opportunities to build the resume, so seizing the day will be paramount.
Can Buccaneers Ruin Kansas’ Voyage To Paradise?
Forbes has elevated the ETSU program in his time as head coach. Since his arrival, the Buccaneers have never won fewer than 24 games overall and never fewer than 13 games in conference play. This season, they are led by a trio of guards in Bo Hodges, Tray Boyd III and Patrick Good, all of whom are averaging at least 13 points on the young season.
In recent seasons, Forbes has slowed the tempo way down, but as a team, the Bucs are efficient, which has led to many wins in the past two seasons. It has been speculated for years that Forbes is due for a Power 6 job, but ETSU has lucked out in keeping him. As long as he roams the sidelines, this team will always be a threat to high major teams that aren’t completely focused.
Jayhawks Hunting A Quality Win
Despite the difference in name value, this would be a quality out-of-conference win for Kansas. It won’t be a huge difference-maker in March, but ETSU has been a top 100 team each of the past three seasons.
For the Jayhawks, Udoka Azubuike has to get back to what made him so successful in years past. He has been underwhelming this season as he is fairly one-dimensional. David McCormack has been a pleasant surprise so far, logging 17 points and 11 rebounds in Kansas’s most recent game versus Monmouth.
Kansas should be able to take advantage of superior frontcourt talent in this matchup. The Jayhawks are lacking some depth at the wing and up front, as Jalen Wilson and Mitch Lightfoot are both still out with injuries.
Pick and Prediction
As stated above, this is a good win for either team. A victory for Kansas would be a quadrant 2 win, while ETSU has an opportunity to pick up a gem for its tournament resume. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, the Jayhawks, and more specifically Azubuike, are due for a complete game. Phog Allen Fieldhouse is a top-five home-court advantage.
While ETSU has a quality trio in the backcourt, what they will see in this one is unlike anything they have encountered yet, as Kansas has a huge backcourt with Ochai Agbaji, Tristan Enaruna, Isaiah Moss and Marcus Garrett are all at least 6-5 and quality defenders.
Kansas has been decent defensively, and ETSU is efficient offensively, but the Bucs may not have the horses to keep up. Size on the wing, glass eaters up front, and All-American Devon Dotson at the point have me thinking a blowout in the Phog. Lay the 14.5 points, take the over 143.5.