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Recap: KU's defense even better at second glance

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Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.

These are the types of games that don't receive enough fanfare.

Kansas players Tyshawn Taylor, front, and Marcus Morris have a laugh in the closing minutes of Monday's 79-44 win over Valparaiso at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas players Tyshawn Taylor, front, and Marcus Morris have a laugh in the closing minutes of Monday's 79-44 win over Valparaiso at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas' 79-44 victory over Valparaiso won't be one that is remembered much when talking about the 2010-11 season. In fact, I'll bet in two months, fans will struggle to remember much about the game at all.

Here's the reality, though: Valpo was talented enough offensively to come in and put a scare into the KU, much like Cornell did last season.

Only it didn't happen.

After struggling a bit defensively in its opener against Longwood, KU overwhelmed a strong Valpo offense with its defense Monday.

Consider this: After posting 1.44 points per possession in its first game against Indiana Northwest, Valpo notched just 0.64 points per possession against KU.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed looks to strip the ball from Valparaiso guard Matt Kenney during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed looks to strip the ball from Valparaiso guard Matt Kenney during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It was the worst offensive performance by a Homer Drew-coached team in nearly four years, as the Crusaders put up only 0.60 points per possession against Ball State on Dec. 16, 2006.

What's encouraging for KU is that it turned a weakness into a strength in just three days.

Longwood's 54.0 eFG% in the first game was a number only three KU opponents achieved last year — and two of them beat KU.

The Jayhawks responded Monday by holding Valpo to 29.0 eFG%, the lowest mark by the Crusaders have posted in Statsheet.com's database, which goes all the way back to the 1996-97 season.

It's hard to fully appreciate that kind of defense when the box score simply says Valpo scored 44.

After relying on turnovers defensively in the first game (Longwood had turnovers on 30 percent of its possessions), KU shut down a better offensive team in Valpo without forcing many turnovers (17.4 percent, which is well below the NCAA average).

Kansas guard Travis Releford jumps in to defend against a shot by Valparaiso guard Matt Kenney during the second half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured is Kansas center Jeff Withey.

Kansas guard Travis Releford jumps in to defend against a shot by Valparaiso guard Matt Kenney during the second half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured is Kansas center Jeff Withey. by Nick Krug

Though Valpo did miss some easy shots inside, KU's defense deserves the most credit for turning a talented Crusaders offense into one that roughly resembled my scholarship hall intramural team.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

I'm not going to lie: After taking over this blog, I was worried that it might be difficult early on to single out the Jayhawks' best player each night by their advanced statistics.

Marcus Morris made it easy for me on Monday.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris comes down form a dunk against Valparaiso during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Valpo guard Howard Little.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris comes down form a dunk against Valparaiso during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Valpo guard Howard Little. by Nick Krug

The 6-foot-9 forward was ridiculously efficient offensively. He made 10 of 12 shots and also posted four assists to go with just one turnover.

Marcus created an off-the-charts 1.71 points per possession while still using 19.3 percent of KU's possessions.

Normally, you'd like go-to players like Marcus to be using at least 23 percent of their team's possessions; Marcus was at 22.8 percent last season, and he had to share the ball with Sherron Collins (23.3 percent) and Xavier Henry (21.9 percent).

So far, Marcus hasn't had high usage numbers because he simply isn't turning the ball over at all.

Marcus attempted 27.5 percent of his team's shots against Valpo, meaning he still was able to get a decent number of shots up.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris gets physical as he clears out Valparaiso guard Jay Harris, left, while going for a loose ball during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured are Valpo defenders Kevin Van Wijk (55), Cory Johnson (4) and Ryan Broekhoff (45).

Kansas forward Marcus Morris gets physical as he clears out Valparaiso guard Jay Harris, left, while going for a loose ball during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured are Valpo defenders Kevin Van Wijk (55), Cory Johnson (4) and Ryan Broekhoff (45). by Nick Krug

Naturally, when a player's usage goes up, his points per possession used will come down, as he is attempting more difficult shots.

If anything, Marcus' numbers indicate that he still isn't involved enough in the offense. With a tad more assertiveness, Marcus would do more than help his own numbers: He'd also help the Jayhawks' offensive numbers as a whole.

Room for Improvement

Does it seem like turnovers hurt KU a lot more than other teams?

That might actually be true. College Baskeball Prospectus (great read, by the way) did a study in the offseason regarding turnovers and found that KU was second in the nation last year in points per effective possession (1.42).

So what is an effective possession? It's one in which the team does not turn the ball over.

The Jayhawks can take pride that KU coach Bill Self's offense is one of the most efficient in the nation ... as long as they don't turn it over first.

The Jayhawks talk strategy during a timeout against Valparaiso during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks talk strategy during a timeout against Valparaiso during the first half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

KU turned it over on 21.7 percent of its possessions against Valpo. While that's not a horrible number (it would have been KU's 11th-worst turnover performance last season), it was the lowlight of an otherwise solid effort for KU offensively.

And now I have cursed you, as every time KU turns it over, you will think about the 1.42 points the Jayhawks just gave away.

Tough-Luck Line

Though he was fourth on the team in minutes, KU senior guard Brady Morningstar didn't have much to show for it in his stat line.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar elevates to the bucket over Valparaiso forward Cory Johnson during the second half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar elevates to the bucket over Valparaiso forward Cory Johnson during the second half, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

He wasn't a huge factor in KU's offense (9.2 percent possessions used), but his 1-for-4 shooting to go with two turnovers kept him at 0.75 points per possession used.

The Jayhawks could certainly use another reliable shooter, and Morningstar's underlying statistics from last year indicated that he was a player that could take a greater role in the offense without having his efficiency decrease significantly.

It's way, way, way too early to say that Morningstar's offensive struggles are anything more than an early-season shooting slump, but he seems to be the Jayhawk most out of sync at the moment.

Bottom Line

KU fans witnessed an amazing defensive performance Monday night, whether they realized it or not. The Jayhawks shut down an experienced, powerful Crusaders' offense, and did so without relying on a high number of turnovers. Self will always say his defense is a work in progress (he did again Monday night), but KU proved against Valpo that it has the potential to be just as dangerous defensively as many of Self's earlier Jayhawk teams, even without center Cole Aldrich manning the middle.

KU fans couldn't have asked for much better out of game No. 2.

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