Each week in this space, KUSports.com online editor Jesse Newell will take a statistical look at one of the 10 teams that has the best chance of taking this year’s NCAA title.
AP/Coaches Ranking: 1st/1st
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 2nd
The Jayhawks are one of the most balanced teams in the country, ranking in the top five in both adjusted offensive efficiency (second) and adjusted defensive efficiency (fifth).
Offensively, the Jayhawks are a great shooting team. KU has made 40.9 percent of its threes (fifth nationally) and 52.3 percent of its twos (24th nationally). KU also gets lots of shots up, turning it over just 13 times per game while grabbing offensive rebounds on 37.4 percent of its misses (32nd nationally). The Jayhawks are unselfish as well, distributing assists on 60 percent of their made shots (39th nationally).
Defensively, KU is extremely stingy inside. Opponents make just 40 percent of their twos against the Jayhawks (second nationally); the national average two-point percentage is 47.7 percent. KU also blocks 15.8 percent of opponents’ two-point attempts (11th nationally) and comes away with steals on 11.9 percent of its opponents’ possessions (36th nationally).
Though KU gets 8.4 steals per game, it doesn’t force many turnovers otherwise. Opponents turn it over on 20.2 percent of their possessions against the Jayhawks, which is slightly lower than the national average (20.4 percent). KU also struggled at guarding three during Big 12 play, as opponents made 37.8 percent of their long-range shots against the Jayhawks (ninth in the Big 12). KU has defended the arc much better in the last five games, though, allowing opponents to make just 26 of their last 97 shots from beyond the three-point line (26.8 percent).
Players to watch
Obviously, 5-foot-11 point guard Sherron Collins is the glue that keeps KU together, but statistically, 6-foot-11 center Cole Aldrich and 6-foot-8 forward Marcus Morris are the standouts.
Aldrich blocks 12.9 percent of opponents’ two-pointers when he’s in the game, which is the fifth-best mark nationally and the top mark of any player in the NCAA Tournament. He also grabs 25.8 percent of the possible defensive rebounds when he’s in the game (20th nationally) and 13.4 percent of the possible offensive rebounds (68th nationally).
Marcus Morris is KU's most efficient player offensively. Not only does he make 58.3 percent of his twos, he also does so while taking 23.3 percent of his team’s shots when he’s in the game (20 percent is average). The sophomore almost never turns it over, as he’s averaging just 2.0 turnovers per 40 minutes played (after averaging 3.5 turnovers per 40 minutes last year). He’s also a force on the offensive boards, grabbing 12.5 percent of his team’s missed shots when he’s in (115th nationally).
Not only are the Jayhawks balanced, they are also deep and have shown the ability to win games in different ways. KU doesn’t have many weaknesses, and one of those weaknesses (three-point defense) has been improved lately.
With Aldrich anchoring the defense and Marcus Morris’ efficient play helping the offense, the numbers say that KU should still be a favorite to win it all even after receiving a tough draw in the NCAA Tournament.