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<p>Kansas players Jalen Wilson and Ernest Udeh. (Kansas Athletics)</p>
Kansas players Jalen Wilson and Ernest Udeh. (Kansas Athletics)

Indiana Basketball Film Breakdown: Why Kansas is one of the nation's best

The Hoosiers have quite the challenge on the road against the Jayhawks this weekend

The last of the daunting non-conference games is here for No. 14 Indiana. After an 89-75 loss against No. 9 Arizona, the Hoosiers travel to Lawrence this Saturday to take on No. 8 Kansas.

The 2022 national champions aren’t quite the team they were last year, but the Jayhawks still enter with a 9-1 record, having only lost to sixth-ranked Tennessee. Let’s take a look at why KU is so effective.


The big thing to know about this Jayhawks team is that they are much smaller than in previous years. Kansas’ starting center KJ Adams is only 6-foot-7. Because of its lack of height, Kansas plays a spread-out style.

Kansas typically likes to pull Adams (or another big man) out as a screener while spreading the rest of the team out along the perimeter. KU usually has four shooting threats on the floor. The Jayhawks do a wonderful job lifting opponents’ centers from the paint and opening the floor for a spread pick-and-roll. This leaves Kansas’ bigs with a ton of space to operate for easy layups.

The Jayhawks run these spread ball screens and give the big man, ball handler and shooters a good chance to score. Indiana will need to take away the easy layup to the big first and be ready to rotate back out to KU’s perimeter players.

One potential flaw that stands out in Kansas’ offense is the lack of self-creators. When the Jayhawks create open shots in the flow of their offense, everything goes swimmingly. But when teams can contain KU’s initial action, the team has struggled to improvise.

Kansas’ offense has stalled against some of the elite defenses it’s faced. The Jayhawks have dropped over 90 points in back-to-back contests so they might be figuring it out. KU is starting to pick up the pace to avoid these dormant situations in halfcourt offense. It might be ideal for the Hoosiers to keep Saturday’s game at a slower pace and force Kansas to make unscripted plays.

The one player that Kansas does trust to create for himself is forward Jalen Wilson. The redshirt junior has been the focal point of Kansas’ offense this year. Wilson averages 22.1 points per game after scoring 11.1 ppg in 2021-22. With multiple starters transitioning to the NBA from last season, Wilson has taken on KU’s scoring burden.

Wilson, while scoring at a high volume, has had just average efficiency this season. Wilson has made 46% of his 2-pointers this year, which is well below the national average of 49.8%. Wilson is tasked with creating a lot for KU, and the results are mixed.

Wing defense may be the worst aspect of Indiana’s defense. The Hoosiers don’t necessarily have anyone with the athleticism and lateral quickness to check Wilson. I’d expect Race Thompson to guard Wilson for most of the game. 

Saturday’s game could also be an opportunity for Jordan Geronimo to get meaningful minutes off the bench for IU. Geronimo played only eight minutes last Saturday against a supersized Arizona squad. Because of KU’s smaller lineups, Geronimo might see more playing time and could guard Wilson for much of this game.

The other name to watch on Kansas is freshman Gradey Dick. Dick averages 15.4 points and is drilling 46.6% of his 3-pointers this season. Dick is a threat to fire as soon as he catches the ball. His shooting has changed games for the Jayhawks early this season.

Indiana’s defense has to identify where Dick is at all times on Saturday. He is quite the threat in transition, so the Hoosiers have to identify Dick when the tempo ramps up. If Trey Galloway remains in the starting lineup for IU, I’d expect to see him guarding Dick. Indiana could use Galloway’s skills as an off-ball chaser to bother Dick.

This Kansas offense has scored 186 points against quality teams in its past two games. While the Jayhawks struggled offensively earlier this year, they seem to be hitting their stride now. Indiana cannot allow this to be a high-paced game if it wants to slow KU down. The Hoosiers can also not let Wilson explode if they want a chance to get an upset victory in Lawrence.


When watching Kansas defend, the Jayhawks’ perimeter defenders stand out. Like its shooters on the offensive end, Kansas keeps four quality perimeter defenders on the court. 

KU has athletic and experienced defenders that don’t get beat off the dribble. These defenders also know when to show help and when to stay with their man. The Jayhawks rely on their outside defense to lead the charge defensively. 

Kansas guards ball screens at the level of the screen. This means that the screener’s defender is usually adjacent to the screener. Playing at the level gives the ball handler less room to attack without committing to a full hedge. The Jayhawks rely on off-ball defenders to help when the screener rolls and then recover to their initial man.

When defended correctly, this coverage forces the ball out of the handler's hand and limits the roll. Guarding this way requires communication and recovery skills, which Kansas has displayed this year. By guarding ball screens aggressively, Kansas keeps opponents from reaching the teeth of the defense. 

KU appears to play this way because it lacks legitimate paint protectors. Instead of letting offenses get downhill and trusting their big men to make vertical contests, the Jayhawks try not to let the play reach that point. Throughout the year, there have been moments when Kansas’ rim protection has looked weak or nonexistent.

KU’s lack of experience at center gets spotlighted sometimes on defense. This could become the biggest storyline of Saturday’s game, considering how much work the Hoosiers want to do inside.

Kansas has not faced an elite post player yet this season. When the Jayhawks played against Seton Hall, a team that uses post-ups to set up other plays, they sent a lot of traps to the post.

Trayce Jackson-Davis will probably see multiple defenders on post-ups in Saturday’s game. Kansas won’t want its big men isolated against IU’s star.

“I’m sure that they’ll double team our bigs on the block,” Mike Woodson said Thursday. “Guys have just got to be ready to step up and make shots.”

Of Indiana’s marquee non-conference games, this is the most suitable matchup for Jackson-Davis. Even though Jackson-Davis will see double teams, this is still a much smaller opponent that hasn’t seen a center with his skill. Look for Jackson-Davis, who scored 11 points against Arizona, to be aggressive early on Saturday.

Indiana needs to find ways to move the ball and cut effectively against Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks have a rotation-heavy defense, and the Hoosiers must exploit those rotations with timely cuts and passes. Other than that, IU must make open shots and find ways to get all the way to the basket against a rugged Kansas defense.


While not perfect, Kansas is a two-way force. The reigning champs have responded to their “Feast Week” loss with three dominant victories. The Hoosiers will have their hands full at Allen Fieldhouse this weekend.

Indiana can’t allow a layup fest for KU this weekend. The Jayhawks love using the threat of their shooters to open up easy looks inside. IU also has to contain Wilson when on drives. Kansas asks a lot of Wilson, and the offense becomes a juggernaut when he gets rolling.

Kansas has a very principled defense. This team rotates well and has crisp communication on that end. The Jayhawks’ main goal is to restrict opponents from getting deep into the paint. Jackson-Davis must perform well for IU to get a crucial road victory. Much of the team’s offense should go through Jackson-Davis to test Kansas’ inexperienced frontcourt.

The Hoosiers will be underdogs in Lawrence this weekend. Bill Self has lost just 16 home games in 20 seasons as Kansas’ head coach. Indiana will have to play a focused game with some luck involved to pull off the upset this weekend.

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