Across the (By)Line: Kansas Jayhawks

Hunter Shelton

The “Across the (By)Line” series will give Kentucky basket- ball fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports editor. 

This week: Nathan Swaffar, The University Daily Kansan, University of Kansas. 

Ochai Agbaji leads the way for Kansas. What does he bring to the table, and is containing him even an option for Kentucky on Saturday?

Swaffar: Where do you even start with Agbaji? I haven’t seen a player of his caliber at KU since Frank Mason, probably four or five years ago. He’s a much more dynamic scorer than he has been in previous years. I wouldn’t say that Kentucky should try to contain him, but limit what he can do. I think with how he’s playing, you’re not going to be able to do so, because he’s at least going to score 15 just with how confident he is right now. But what I would say is contain everything else, because that’s really all you can do.

Oscar Tshiebwe mirrors Agbaji in the production that he brings to Kentucky. Will Kansas forward David McCormack be able to handle Tshiebwe and stop him from having a 20-rebound kind of night?

Swaffar: If you would have asked me this question three weeks ago I would have said Tshiebwe would outrebound the entire Kansas team just by himself. That has changed over the last two weeks, especially with David McCormack. He really struggled at the beginning of the year pretty much everywhere, and he was still trying to find his stride. But over the last two to three games from him, there’s been increased intensity. His rebounding has gotten so much better. He’s going up, trying to get every rebound he can, especially on the offensive end. I think it’s going to come down to how well Kansas can contain Tshiebwe on the offensive end, because they’re going to get out-rebounded.

How special is Allen Fieldhouse? To you, is it the biggest home court advantage in college basketball?

Swaffar: I don’t know how it couldn’t be. It is so tough to play at Allen Fieldhouse. It doesn’t matter whether KU is ranked, unranked, number one or the worst team in the country, because the crowd is going to bring it the entire time and especially for a game like this. I just think that this will be one of the best home crowds they’ve had a long time. I anticipate Allen Fieldhouse really being that sixth man and causing some pressure. There’s gonna be an incredible atmosphere, and I’d argue that there’s no real way to prepare for it.

What is the most intriguing matchup on Saturday in your opinion?

Swaffar: I’d have to say McCormack and Tshiebwe just because if McCormack doesn’t play well, again, Tshiebwe will have his way on the glass and under the basket. If McCormack is playing well, he brings a whole new factor to that team because now you have to worry about down low. And if Kentucky has to put pressure on McCormack, you’re gonna leave somebody open out wide, and then you just kind of pick your poison because you might have to double Agbaji, you might have to double McCormack, and because this KU team has so many playmakers, it really is kind of pick your battles and see what happens. I think it’s just all gonna come down to if McCormack will be able to rebound more than anything. Because if Tshiebwe is having his way, especially on the offensive glass, it’s going to be a problem for KU and they’ve struggled all year with defensive rebounding.

What is Kansas’ key to victory, and what is your score prediction?

Swaffar: This team has been so intriguing all year because they’ve had so much depth. Bill Self has never really found a consistent lineup, until we got into the Big 12 season. He’s had a consistent seven to eight man rotation. I’d have to think that for one, Self is going to be saying feed off the atmosphere. ​​But more than anything, it’s probably going to be rebounding, because he knows how much they’ve struggled to get those rebounds, especially on the defensive end. When you’re going against possibly the best rebounder in the country, you have to be on your A game, because if you’re not, it’s going to be a long night. This team has found ways to win. So I have to think that this is going to be no different. I think it’ll be close. I think that this is probably going to be a pretty high offensive game as well, so for the score, I’m gonna go with 78-74 Kansas.