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Recap: Jayhawks make the average teams go bad

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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.

Let's start this blog by explaining a little bit more about the advanced stats that come up often in this blog. I think a lot of times, people (myself included) get turned off to nerdy statistics because they don't understand what they mean.

Three items that get brought up a lot here are offensive rating (or individual points produced per possession), usage percentage and effective field-goal percentage.

Let's go through each one by one.

Kansas University students Kaylan Conner, Shawnee sophomore, left of center, Armand Heyns, Topeka senior, and Carmeron Bernard, Topeka junior erupt with confetti in the student section as the Jayhawks' starting lineup is announced before tipoff against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. These three joined the boisterous Fieldhouse crowd to help cheer the Jayhawks to their record-setting, 63rd-consecutive home victory.

Kansas University students Kaylan Conner, Shawnee sophomore, left of center, Armand Heyns, Topeka senior, and Carmeron Bernard, Topeka junior erupt with confetti in the student section as the Jayhawks' starting lineup is announced before tipoff against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. These three joined the boisterous Fieldhouse crowd to help cheer the Jayhawks to their record-setting, 63rd-consecutive home victory. by Nick Krug

Offensive rating — Though the formula is complicated, this simply lets us know how many points a player produces per possession used (we'll get to possessions used in a second). This stat takes into account a player's shooting percentage, assists, offensive rebounding and turnover percentage and lumps it into one stat.

Offensive rating tells us a lot, but not everything. For example, many times spot shooters have sky-high offensive ratings because they don't turn the ball over much and make a lot of threes, which helps produce a lot of points per possession.

Offensive rating tells us the most, though, when it is looked at along with usage percentage.

Usage percentage (or possession percentage) — Again, the formula is complicated, but this is simply the percentage of possessions a player "ends" when he is on the floor. A player can "end" one of his team's possessions by attempting a free throw or a field goal, making an assist or committing a turnover.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets at his defense during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets at his defense during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

So what is a good combination of offensive rating and usage percentage? Basketball Reference provides some good rules of thumb in its definition section:

Players who have both a high ORtg (>110) and a high %Poss (>23) are offensive stars; players with a high ORtg and a low %Poss (<17) are good role players who may be able to take on more possessions and still maintain a reasonable efficiency level; players who have a low ORtg (<104) and a high %Poss are probably not suited well for their role and need to shoot less; finally, players with low marks in both categories are either defensive specialists or scrubs.

Effective field-goal percentage — This statistic simply gives players 50-percent more credit for hitting a three-pointer. This makes sense, as three-pointers are worth 50-percent more than two-pointers. This gives us a better stat to compare inside and outside players who take different types of shots. So far this year, the Div. I average for eFG% is 48.5 percent, according to Kenpom.com.

Hopefully, that helps explain a bit more about the stats used in this blog.

Kansas-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi recap

The trendy thing to do with this year's KU men's basketball team seems to be talking about how the Jayhawks are taking advantage of an easy early-season schedule.

That, by itself, wouldn't be giving the Jayhawks enough credit.

Is Texas A&M-Corpus Christi a great team? Absolutely not. The Islanders are ranked 244th by KenPom, meaning about two-thirds of the Div. I teams in America are better than them.

Still, the Jayhawks aren't just beating these sorts of teams in the first four games — they are demolishing them.

The Kansas bench erupts after a dunk by Jayhawk guard Travis Releford against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas bench erupts after a dunk by Jayhawk guard Travis Releford against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Holding true to its pattern, KU followed a superb offensive effort (North Texas) with a stellar defensive effort.

The Jayhawks held the Islanders to 0.61 points per possession, which was TAMU-CC's second-worst offensive effort in the last 15 years.

The Islanders' 34.5 eFG% was seventh-worst over the last 15 years.

Six-foot-7 forward Demond Watt had the seventh-best eFG% in the nation last year (65.8 percent) and KU held him to 33.3 eFG% (3-for-9 shooting). Watt also had six turnovers.

The one statistic that the Islanders thrived in offensively coming in was getting to the free-throw line, and KU didn't even let that happen. The Islanders shot just six free throws, which also tied for the lowest number in the last 15 years.

It's amazing that every game the Jayhawks have played this year has sent me to the record books to look up the worst performances ever for KU's opponent.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor brings the Fieldhouse to its feet after a dunk by teammate Travis Releford against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor brings the Fieldhouse to its feet after a dunk by teammate Travis Releford against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. by Nick Krug

Though KU hasn't faced a top-100 KenPom team as of yet, the Jayhawks deserve a lot of credit for the poor play of their opponents. TAMU-CC only lost by 10 to Oklahoma State, yet KU doubled the Islanders up in a game that was played at a slower pace than the national average.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

It's close between Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, but this time, the nod goes to Robinson.

Oftentimes, Robinson's greatest strength (being active) also is his greatest weakness. Whenever he comes in, he always seems to be involved in plays, whether it's pulling down rebounds, shooting or turning it over.

The trick for KU coach Bill Self is to keep Robinson active where he's really good (on the glass) while a bit less active where he's not so good (turnovers, forced shots).

Robinson played his role brilliantly Tuesday.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson catches a pass in the paint over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi forward Demond Watt during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson catches a pass in the paint over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi forward Demond Watt during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The sophomore produced 1.63 points per possession used, the highest output of his career in a game where he played more than 10 minutes (he played 16 on Tuesday).

Though Robinson had a high shot percentage (putting up 34.4 percent of KU's shots while he was on the floor), most of the time, he only triggered at the basket when he had extremely high-percentage shots. He made 7 of 8 field-goal attempts for 15 points, pulled down 20 percent of available offensive rebounds, and perhaps most importantly, didn't have a turnover for the first time this year.

Robinson doesn't have to be a go-to player for this KU offensively this year. KU will benefit immensely if the big man continues to play to his strengths like he did Tuesday.

Room for Improvement

This seems to get tougher every game.

If we're really looking deep into the stats, KU didn't have a great game on the offensive glass.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris stuffs a shot by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi forward Demond Watt during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris stuffs a shot by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi forward Demond Watt during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

TAMU-CC came in as one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country, as opponents had picked up almost 40 percent of the available offensive rebounds.

On Tuesday, KU grabbed just 23.8 percent of the available offensive rebounds. That resulted in just six offensive boards for the Jayhawks, after the Islanders had allowed an average of 16 offensive rebounds in their previous two games.

Tough-Luck Line

Tyrel Reed simply didn't have a typical Tyrel Reed night.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed moves his feet as he defends North Texas guard Dominique Johnson during the first half Friday, Nov 19, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed moves his feet as he defends North Texas guard Dominique Johnson during the first half Friday, Nov 19, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Though his shooting numbers were good (2-for-4 from three-point range), the senior guard did little else to help the Jayhawks statistically.

In 20 minutes, Reed posted no assists, no steals, a block and two turnovers while providing just 0.96 points per possession used.

Reed's best-known quality is his outside shooting, but he provides much more for the Jayhawks by simply being steady. Coming into the game, he'd had just one turnover in 82 minutes. Last year, he was one of the best in the country with a 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He'd also averaged 1.3 steals per game before Tuesday.

Though Reed wasn't terrible against TAMU-CC, he didn't give KU all the extra intangibles he normally does by being in the game.

KU can survive Reed having a bad shooting night. Those are going to happen. But to secure extended playing time when Josh Selby becomes eligible on Dec. 18, Reed will need to continue to do the little things that make KU better when he's in there.

Bottom Line

This KU team is ready for a step up in competition.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson gets up for a tomahawk jam over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi forward Jawan Nelson during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson gets up for a tomahawk jam over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi forward Jawan Nelson during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Though the Jayhawks haven't played a super-tough schedule yet, they've blown out every opponent by a wider margin than expected.

KU managed a 41-point win against TAMU-CC despite the fact the Islanders slowed the game down. And the Jayhawks defense was so good, I barely even mentioned the offense in this blog, which at one point made 17 of 19 shots in the first half.

It's time to see what KU can do away from home, as the Jayhawks will play their toughest two opponents of the season to date (Ohio and Arizona) on Friday and Saturday of this week in Las Vegas.

The Jayhawks have proven they can make decent opponents look bad. Now, will they be good enough to make good opponents look average?

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