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UMKC spring semester basketball preview

Despite other sports having their seasons postponed or cancelled due to concerns over COVID-19, both UMKC men’s and women’s basketball will be played this spring. 

 Men’s Basketball

The Kansas City men’s basketball team has had an up-and-down season thus far, and there are key upcoming conference games that can change the outlook of their season. While the team is competent at home with a 3-2 record, their road record is what hinders this team from reaching their potential. Kansas City possesses a 1-5 record on the road, and are only 1-3 in conference play. The next stretch of games will be pivotal for Kansas City as they look to make a move up into the standings in the Summit League.

The Roos will face a challenge on the road against Oral Roberts. This season, because of the pandemic, teams face each other twice in consecutive days. The Roos will travel to Tulsa, OK to take on Oral Roberts on Jan. 23 and 24. Kansas City will play an Oral Roberts team that possesses high scoring ability and is 4-1 within the conference. The Golden Eagles are averaging 82.8 points per game, accompanied with a strong 38.3% from beyond the arc.

The Golden Eagles are led by two lethal scorers in sophomore guard Max Abmas and junior forward Kevin Obanor.  Abmas is averaging 22.3 points on 48.4% shooting, while Obanor averages a double-double with 19.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. It will be vital for Kansas City to chase Oral Roberts off the three point line and force the Golden Eagles to shoot contested mid-range shots. The Roos have a more balanced attack with four players averaging 10-15 points per game. Kansas City will also need to make other players beat them and force the ball out of Abmas’ and Obanor’s hands.

Unfortunately for the Roos, their schedule does not lighten up when they go up against North Dakota State on Jan 29-30. Kansas City will come back home to host North Dakota State, who sits at second place in the Summit league with a 5-0 record in conference play. North Dakota State is not a team that will blow opponents out of the water with scoring, averaging only 66.7 points per game, but they will make life difficult for opposing offenses. 

The Bison traveled to Lawrence earlier in the year to play Kansas and pushed the Jayhawks to the final whistle, only losing 65-61 against a top 10 team in the country. Although North Dakota State is not known for their three-point shooting, their top four scores shoot 37% or higher from downtown. Kansas City cannot take offensive possessions for granted because they will be challenged to not force low-percentage shots and turnover-worthy passes.

The team’s February schedule is a breeze compared to their January schedule. They open up the month on Feb. 12-13 at home against Omaha. The Mavericks are 0-4 in conference, and 2-12 overall on the season. Omaha is absolutely dreadful on offense this season, averaging 65 points per game on 40.5 field goal percentage. Kansas City will not need to worry about the threat of shooting from behind the arc because the Mavericks average a mere 28.8% from three-point land. The Roos should have an opportunity to grab two wins that could be monumental late in the season.  

Next on the schedule for the Roos will be Denver on Feb. 19-20. The Pioneers are winless in conference play with a 0-3 record in Summit League competitions and are 1-9 overall. Kansas City will not have to worry about much, other than Pioneers guard Jase Townsend who can score when need be. The junior is averaging 18.4 points on the season and has been the bulk of the Pioneers’ offense this season. Kansas City will have another great opportunity to grab two wins that could move them up in the Summit League standings.

To close the regular season, the Roos will travel to Brookings, SD to take on South Dakota State on Feb. 26-27. These will not be easy contests for Kansas City. The Jackrabbits sit atop the Summit League standings with a 2-0 conference record and 8-3 record overall. South Dakota State will pose many problems for Kansas City, especially on the defensive side of the ball. South Dakota State averages 79 points per game while shooting 48.2% from the field. To make matters worse, the Jackrabbits are absolutely lights out from downtown, shooting 39.4%. The Jackrabbits are led by guards Noah Freidel, Baylor Scheierman, Alex Arians and forward Douglas Wilson. These four players shoot between 45.6%-52.9% from the field. Kansas City will have their hands full dealing with this highly-prolific offense.

The Summit League tournament will take place in Sioux Falls, SD on March 6-9.

Women’s Basketball

The Kansas City women’s basketball team has been a team that has flashed a promising upside, but has also shown some inconsistencies throughout the season. The Roos sit in fifth place in the Summit League and have an opportunity to make a jump up the standings in the final stretch of their season. Kansas City possesses a 2-2 record in conference play and are 5-5 overall.  

The Roos will travel to Tulsa, Okla. when they face Oral Roberts on Jan. 23-24.  This should be a very enticing matchup for both teams because of how close they are in the standings. Oral Roberts sits one place ahead of Kansas City, but these two games could flip that if the Roos are able to win both contests. Oral Roberts is a team that is not threatening on offense, and it shows in their shooting percentages. The Golden Eagles shoot an abysmal 33% from the field and 30.2% from beyond the arc. 

Kansas City’s defense should pile up the stat sheet with steals as the Golden Eagles cough up the ball about 18 times a game, which ranks 267th in the country. As long as Kansas City runs their offense and takes care of the ball, the Roos should have a legitimate chance of winning these two games against Oral Roberts.

Things get a little tougher when Kansas City hosts North Dakota State on Jan. 29-30 at Swinney Center. North Dakota State currently sits in third place in the Summit League and are a team that can finish in the top two in the league. The Bisons are 5-1 conference competitions and possess an impressive 9-2 record on the season. The clear strength for North Dakota State is their prolific three-point shooting. The Bisons shoot 39% from downtown, ranking 14th in the country. 

North Dakota State is arguably one of the deepest, if not the deepest, rosters in the Summit League. The team has meaningful contributions from at least nine players. This allows them to receive rest, and therefore keep fresh legs down the stretch in games. North Dakota State’s sophomore guard Heaven Hamling is the key to this team and she leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. Kansas City will have to keep tabs on her and force others to beat them. However, if the Bisons are able to hit threes consistently, it will be a long couple of games for the Roos.

Kansas City will be relieved when Omaha comes up to Swinney Center on Feb. 12-13. Omaha is second to last in the Summit League this season and Kansas City will be facing a team that ranks 325th in scoring. The Mavericks shoot 23.5% from three this season, so it will be important for the Roos to control the paint and force the Mavericks to shoot from beyond the arc. With the season in the final stretch, it is important for Kansas City to win as many games as possible before the conference tournament in March.

Another opportunity presents itself when the Roos host Denver at Swinney Center on Feb. 19-20.  Denver is another team that struggles, but mostly on the defensive side. The Pioneers have consistently given up more than 80 points per game in six of their last eight games. Kansas City should have plenty of opportunities to exploit Denver’s under average defense. The Roos’ will have to take advantage of the game on the offensive side of the ball if they want to win these games.

The Roos will close out their season when they travel to South Dakota State on Feb. 26-27.  South Dakota State finds themselves in first place of the Summit League with 3-0 conference record and 10-2 overall. The Jackrabbits are not the best three-point shooting team, only connecting on 30.5% of their attempts outside, but they are led by senior forward Myah Selland.  

Selland offers an abundance of skills on the court and lights it from the field. This season, Selland is averaging 19.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. The all-around forward has not scored less than 16 in any game this season. Rebounding will be vital in these games as the Roos cannot afford to give this South Dakota State extra possessions and opportunities to connect on easy baskets.

The Summit League tournament will take place in Sioux Falls, SD on March 6-9.

laldpy@mail.umkc.edu

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