Getting to know: Omaha basketball

Omaha guard KJ Robinson (5) attempts a layup past the defense of Louisville forward Anas Mahmoud (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, in Louisville, Ky.

Omaha guard KJ Robinson (5) attempts a layup past the defense of Louisville forward Anas Mahmoud (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, in Louisville, Ky.

Ranked sixth in the preseason Summit League poll, Omaha opened the season with seven games away from home. Playing one of the tougher schedules in the nation, the Mavericks (3-10) are winless when they aren’t playing in their home arena.

Fresh off a win against Cornell College on Sunday afternoon, the Mavericks will go back on the road to play Kansas at 6 p.m. Monday at Allen Fieldhouse (TV: ESPN2).

The Jayhawks (8-2) are the third Big 12 team hat Omaha will play this season, losing on the road to Oklahoma and TCU in November. As far as common opponents, the Mavericks lost by 13 on the road to Washington.

“Everybody’s a challenge,” senior forward Lamar Wofford-Humphrey said. “They just bring their ‘A’ game. I’m going to bring mine. I look at it as an opportunity to get better and play an NBA prospect. Maybe I can be on that type of level.”

Fun fact: Kansas is the highest-ranked opponent Omaha has ever played since it started competing at the Division I level.

Series history: It’ll be the first meeting between the two schools. The Jayhawks have a 14-5 record against Summit League opponents, including a win over South Dakota State earlier this year.

BREAKING DOWN OMAHA

TOP PLAYER

No. 21 — G Zach Jackson | 6-5, 185, jr.

Omaha's Zach Jackson (21) goes to the basket against Iowa's Brady Ellingson (24) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Omaha's Zach Jackson (21) goes to the basket against Iowa's Brady Ellingson (24) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa.

A former standout at Wichita East, Jackson is averaging 17.5 points and 6.2 rebounds on 53.4 percent shooting. He’s knocked down 44 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Jackson takes about half of his shot attempts at the rim, according to hoop-math.com, which has earned him 67 trips to the free-throw line. None of his teammates have attempted more than 30 free throws.

In games against Power Five teams this season, Jackson is averaging 20 points and 6.2 rebounds. He won a Kansas Class 6A state championship in 2015.

  • “It’ll be cool,” Jackson said of playing the Jayhawks. “I’ve never been to a KU game or even seen the arena or anything, so it’ll be cool and playing in front of my friends and family will be a good experience.”

SUPPORTING CAST

No. 5 — G KJ Robinson | 6-0, 190, so.

The Mavericks’ point guard is averaging 10.5 points with a 1.28 assist-to-turnover ratio. Mostly a 3-point shooter, he’s connected on 40.3 percent of his attempts, ranking ninth in the Summit League with 25 made triples. He set a career-high with 14 assists against Louisville this year.

Robinson, from Blue Springs, Mo., helped his high school to a state championship in 2015. He only averaged nine minutes per game last season.

No. 0— G JT Gibson | 6-3, 195, so.

A recent addition to the starting lineup, Gibson has scored in double figures in the team’s last four games. He’s averaging 10.8 points on 38 percent shooting from behind the 3-point arc.

The Brooklyn Park, Minn., native scored a career-high 21 points on Sunday vs. Cornell College. He ranks sixth in the Summit League with 16 steals. He received a medical redshirt in the 2015-16 season after suffering a season-ending elbow injury.

ONE THING OMAHA DOES WELL

Opting to play uptempo, Omaha has grabbed an average of seven steals per game. Five players have snagged at least 10 steals. The Mavericks rank around the Top 50 in the nation with a total of 90 steals through 13 games.

ONE AREA OMAHA STRUGGLES

The Mavericks speeding up and down the court in a quick-paced game, but they have trouble playing defense in transition. According to hoop-math.com, opposing teams are shooting 63 percent against Omaha when they are shooting quick in the shot clock. The Mavericks are allowing 85.2 points per game.

MEET THE COACH

Nebraska-Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen yells at the referees during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.

Nebraska-Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen yells at the referees during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.

In his 13th season at Omaha, Derrin Hansen earned his 200th career victory Sunday. He ranks second in school history for career wins, guiding the school through its transition from Div. II to Div. I.

Hansen led the Mavericks to the CBI postseason tournament in 2016 and CIT in 2014.

VEGAS SAYS…

Kansas by 33.5. After four straight non-conference games against Power Five opponents, the Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse for their first game since their loss to Arizona State. Facing a team that likes to push the tempo, it should only play to KU’s advantages like it did against Oakland or Texas Southern.

My prediction: Kansas 95, Omaha 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 5-4.

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