Can KU handle the Big 12’s best 3-point team (BYU)? Betting odds and a prediction

The No. 7-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team will play host to BYU on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

KU opened as a 6.5-point favorite, but the Cougars provide unique challenges for the Jayhawks. BYU is ranked No. 18 in KenPom, and what makes the Cougars so dangerous is their 3-point shooting

BYU ranks No. 9 in adjusted offensive efficiency (121.1), which refers to points scored per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponent.

The Cougars’ offense is carried by its 3-point shooting. Threes account for 41.2% of BYU’s points, which ranks No. 3 in the nation. The team from Provo, Utah isn’t shy about launching it from deep, firing away at the fourth-highest rate in the country.

BYU attempts an average of 32 three-pointers per game and makes 11.3, which leads the nation in that department.

Although KU’s 3-point defense has left much to be desired this season, there have been signs of improvement. Kansas held UT to 4-for-13 (30.9%) from 3-point range in the first half of Saturday’s game.

Kansas guard Nick Timberlake explained the Jayhawks’ better 3-point defense this way: “We are beating people to the spots rather than having them throw the first move.”

A staple of KU coach Bill Self is conceding 3-point attempts instead of looks inside the arc. But this season’s team has has allowed subpar 3-point-shooting opponents to some enjoy season-best performances.

“I still believe in my heart, even though I say I don’t coach it this way, I still believe in the players model,” Self said. “We still defend from the inside out, and this is a game we need to defend from the outside in. I think the way we teach things and everything — no easy baskets, no straight-line drives (and) no angles on the post.”

One of the biggest reasons BYU’s offense is difficult to defend is 6-foot-11 sharpshooting center Aly Khalifa. He’s currently shooting 34.4% on 3-pointers on 2.9 attempts a game.

Let’s take a look at what makes him so difficult to defend.

The first clip against Baylor is a simple 3-pointer Khalifa created for a teammate. Khalifa quickly hits him for an open 3-pointer.

On the very next play, Khalifa showed off his range. He executed a pick-and-pop to perfection; the Baylor defender was too slow to recover and Khalifa made the Bears pay.

The Jayhawks need to run him off the 3-point line without overhelping. BYU has other capable shooters, with four players attempting at least 110 three-pointers this season.

Khalifa’s passing ability is also a constant threat, so Kansas must communicate when he has the ball. Otherwise, KU will slowly get picked apart on defense ... like Baylor was.

The Jayhawks have their work cut out for them.

“The other day we made three 3s and played really well,” Self said. “If they make 13 threes, they’ve already outscored you (by) 30 points from the field.”

Kansas vs. BYU game prediction

Boy, this should be a fun game.

Ultimately, it will come down to two things: How significant the 3-point disparity is, and whether KU can win the rebounding battle.

The Cougars are the second-best rebounding team in the Big 12 after Cincinnati.

If KU can limit BYU on the boards and ensure the 3-point disparity isn’t too large, the Jayhawks should be OK. Keep up the defensive intensity and KU should come out on top.

I like Kansas in this one.

Kansas 71, BYU 64

Shreyas’ pick to cover the spread: KU (-6.5)

Shreyas’ season record: 19-6

Shreyas’ record against the spread: 13-12