Las Vegas Being better than the best on one night didn't make Kansas University the top team in college basketball, but it did cement what already was evident: The Jayhawks are better than they were a year ago.
The No. 1 reason for that isn't difficult to pinpoint. It starts with No. 00, Darrell Arthur, 6-foot-9, 230-pound freshman from Dallas.
Far more so than in baseball, offensive statistics can be misleading in basketball. They don't capture what a player is doing when he doesn't have the ball and don't tell how long a player has the ball, which if it's too long generally means he's bringing out the least in teammates. And they don't indicate to what extent teammates put the player in position to compile good numbers.
In the case of Arthur, his terrific numbers, such as a .655 field-goal percentage, aren't cheapened by the fact teammates hit him with passes for easy shots. First of all, he knows how to get open. And then there is the matter of his sure hands. You can't score if you can't catch the ball.
Instead of taking the approach that Arthur's scoring prowess is no big deal because of so-called garbage baskets, consider another angle. How frustrating is it watching so many tall players float on the perimeter, avoiding the mashing that goes on in the paint? Arthur has a soft touch from outside and doesn't often show it because he's smart enough to know it's easier, if more painful at times, to score underneath. That's called smart.
Arthur's talent never was an issue. How quickly he has shown he's ready for big-time competition and the high basketball IQ he has demonstrated are the most pleasing developments.
When not skying for a jam, Arthur scores quietly in such smooth, effortless fashion, he inevitably scores more points than most memories can recall. Even KU coach Bill Self was taken aback when he looked at the postgame boxscore.
"I didn't realize during the game he had 19 points," Self said. "He only played 16 minutes. Pretty good freshman."
Pretty humble freshman, too.
The prolonged recruiting battle for Arthur - he was set to hold a news conference to announce he was going to Baylor, slept on it a night, and said he had a dream in which he pictured himself playing for Kansas - created the perception that maybe he enjoyed the limelight of the recruitment so much he wanted to make it last as long as possible. The fact that he had an AAU coach named "Jazzy" added to the whole glitz factor.
In person, Arthur is soft-spoken and seemingly bashful, which makes the way he wants the ball so badly in pressure situations so early in his career all the more impressive.
"We noticed that their post players were in foul trouble like ours, so we were trying to see who was going to foul out first," Arthur said of his demanding the ball late. "We were just trying to attack the post and just be aggressive with them."
Foul trouble has kept Arthur on the bench too often, something he'll need to improve because his scoring is too important to the Jayhawks. Arthur (16.3 points per game) leads the team in scoring despite averaging just 22 minutes. His 29.6 points per 40 minutes leads the team by a wide margin. Brandon Rush is second with 18 points per 40, followed by Julian Wright (16.9), Darnell Jackson (16.5) and Mario Chalmers (16.1).