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Recap: KU's numbers this year strikingly similar to another recent season

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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.

While surfing KenPom.com (doesn't everyone do that in their free time?), I went back and tried to look to see if this year's team, statistically, was starting to shape up like any other in Kansas coach Bill Self's tenure.

And I was shocked by just how much this team — so far — has resembled Self's 2008-09 KU squad.

Kansas guard Sherron Collins puts up a jumper over North Dakota State guard Mike Nelson during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Kansas guard Sherron Collins puts up a jumper over North Dakota State guard Mike Nelson during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. by Nick Krug

It starts with the most fundamental stats for Pomeroy: his adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies (AOE and ADE).

Here's how KU ranked nationally in each of the statistics in 2008-09:

2008-09 AOE: 113.8 (26th)
2008-09 ADE: 88.0 (7th)

And here's where KU is ranked in both of those categories as of Dec. 23 for this season:

2011-12 AOE: 111.2 (26th)
2011-12 ADE: 86.4 (6th)

Kind of spooky, huh?

Those aren't the only stats that look remarkably similar for the two teams. Notice how close many of the offensive stats are this year compared to the 2008-09 team (national ranks are in parentheses):

So here's a question: If this team performs to the same level offensively as the 2008-09 team did, would KU fans be happy or disappointed?

Something to think about as we look further into KU's 63-47 victory over USC on Thursday.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Elijah Johnson edges out Jeff Withey for M.O.J. against USC.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson moves the ball up the court between USC players Maurice Jones (10) and Alexis Moore (3) after a steal during the first half Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson moves the ball up the court between USC players Maurice Jones (10) and Alexis Moore (3) after a steal during the first half Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif. by Nick Krug

The junior guard posted 1.08 points per possession used while ending a healthy 19.8 percent of KU's possessions while he was in. He also posted the second-highest effective field-goal percentage on the team (63.6 percent).

Johnson's defense is what sealed his selection here, though. The Las Vegas native collected steals on 7.9 percent of his defensive possessions, which is the third-best mark for a KU guard this season (not counting walk-ons).

Before Thursday's game, Johnson had recorded just one steal in his previous four games.

The 6-foot-4 Johnson showed great anticipation against USC to come away with steals, which also led to some easy points in transition.

Room for Improvement

KU's offense struggled against USC's tough defense, especially on the interior.

Kansas guard Travis Releford is fouled on the shot as he splits USC defenders Byron Wesley, left, and Aaron Fuller during the first half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

Kansas guard Travis Releford is fouled on the shot as he splits USC defenders Byron Wesley, left, and Aaron Fuller during the first half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks posted just 0.97 points per possession, their third-lowest total this season.

Part of the problem was turnovers. KU gave it away on 24.6 percent of its possessions, which is even above the team's season average of 21.9 percent.

KU also struggled with two-pointers and free throws. The Jayhawks made just 42.8 percent of their twos, which was nearly 10 percentage points below their season average (52.1 percent).

KU also had its worst free throw shooting night of the year (12-for-21, 57.1 percent). After ranking in the top 50 nationally in free throw percentage through eight games, the Jayhawks have made just 30 of 52 free throws (57.7 percent) in their last two games to drop out of the top 100.

Tough-Luck Line

It was a rough night for Thomas Robinson.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson fights inside for a shot against USC defenders Byron Wesley (25) and James Blasczyk (31) during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson fights inside for a shot against USC defenders Byron Wesley (25) and James Blasczyk (31) during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center. by Nick Krug

The 6-foot-10 forward posted just 0.63 points per possession used while leading the team by consuming 26.6 percent of the possessions he was in.

Though Robinson did some nice things defensively — including on the defensive glass (36.3 percent defensive rebounding percentage) and with steals (4.1 percent steal percentage) — he still was one of the biggest reasons KU's offense struggled against USC.

The junior's five turnovers matched a season high, as he gave it away on 38.4 percent of the possessions he used. His 41.6 eFG% was third-worst on the team, and when he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point just 31 percent of the time.

With poor offensive games against Davidson and USC, Robinson's offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) has dropped from 111.5 down to 104.7, according to StatSheet.com.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill said afterwards that the team's goal against Robinson defensively was to "make him play in a crowd."

On those nights — and there are sure to be more of them — Robinson will need to do a better job of avoiding turnovers and creating open shots for his teammates.

Bottom Line

KU won because of an impressive defensive performance, holding USC to 0.72 points per possession — the lowest total for a KU opponent this season. During the 31-possession first half, KU held USC to 0.42 PPP.

The Jayhawks' defense was especially strong on the perimeter. USC's three starting guards combined to make just 5 of 22 shots (22.7 percent) with 10 assists and 10 turnovers.

The Kansas defense hovers around USC guard Maurice Jones on a shot during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

The Kansas defense hovers around USC guard Maurice Jones on a shot during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

So far, KU's profile is stacking up much like Self's team in 2008-09.

The ninth-year coach has his squad playing at an elite defensive level with the offense lagging a bit behind with fewer weapons than in years past.

That 2008-09 team finished 27-8 with a Big 12 regular-season championship and a Sweet 16 appearance.

Through 11 games, that squad was 8-3, with a loss to a perennial power, a loss in the championship game of a early-season tournament and a loss to a mid-major underdog at Sprint Center.

Nope, that doesn't sound familiar at all.

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