Kansas may be lacking for numbers when it comes to available players, but the lack of quantity has not showed up in the quality of product thus far. The second-ranked Jayhawks have routed all but one opponent on their way to winning each of their first five games despite being shorthanded and look to ace their final mid-major test during the on-campus portion of the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Tuesday when they host Toledo.
Despite playing without highly touted 6-10 freshman forward Billy Preston and still waiting for Sam Cunliffe to gain eligibility for the second half of this season following his transfer from Arizona State, Kansas boasts a NCAA-best scoring margin of 32 points per game, with only its 65-61 victory on Nov. 14 over No. 8 Kentucky falling below that threshold. The Jayhawks topped the century mark for the second time in as many games in Friday’s 102-59 blowout of Oakland, as all seven of their available scholarship players reached double figures. One game after draining a school-record 19 3-pointers in a 114-71 manhandling of Texas Southern, Kansas used its superior size against the Golden Grizzlies, enjoying a 58-22 advantage in points in the paint. The Rockets have dropped a pair on the road after winning each of their first three at home and are coming off an 80-77 defeat at Cornell.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3
ABOUT TOLEDO (3-2): Senior swingman Tre’Shaun Fletcher (team-high averages of 19.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists), who ranks second in the Mid-American Conference in scoring and rebounding, posted his third double-double in four outings with 20 points and a career-high 12 boards against the Big Red. Jaelan Sanford (18.2 points) is coming off back-to-back 3-for-9 efforts from the field, but he sits fourth in the MAC in scoring and has already exploded for a career-high 31 (against Saint Joseph’s) and 26 (versus Oakland) this season. Nate Navigato (16.6 points, 5.2 boards) has played 119 of a possible 120 minutes over the last three games and paces the team with 17 3-pointers, including the career-high tying six he drained Friday.
ABOUT KANSAS (5-0): Much of the domination the Jayhawks enjoyed inside the paint came courtesy of 7-0 sophomore center Udoka Azubuike (16.8 points, seven rebounds), who finished with a career-high 21 points and 10 points in only 20 minutes of action. Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year selection Devonte’ Graham has seen his scoring average dip a bit from last season (13.4 to 12.0), but the senior guard is more than making up for it by dishing out 9.2 assists per game - the second-highest mark in Division I. Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (12.8 points) is coming off a season-high 15-point performance and has been consistently solid in the early going, going 11-for-23 beyond the arc and 9-for-9 from the foul line.
1. Graham’s 46 assists are the most by a Kansas player through the first five games of a season since Jacque Vaughn also had 46 to begin the 1994-95 campaign.
2. Toledo sophomore PG Justin Roberts, who is Lawrence (Kan.) High School’s all-time leading scorer, is the son of Kansas assistant Norm Roberts.
3. Exactly half of Azubuike’s 38 field goals are dunks; his 19 dunks are 13 more than any other Jayhawk has.
PREDICTION: Kansas 93, Toledo 71