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Recap: If Bill Self believes in plus-minus, then one Jayhawk deserves more minutes
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.
Kansas coach Bill Self made an interesting statement last week when talking about which players earn the most minutes.
He said that most bench players believe they have to make a great play to get additional minutes, though often that's not the best way.
"When they're in the game, the (score) differential either goes up or down," Self said. "That's what determines if they stay in or not."
In essence, it sounds like Self is using a basic form of the statistic known as "plus/minus" to help determine which players stay in the game.
"Plus/minus" is simply the point differential for a team when a certain player is in the game.
It has its limitations and also outspoken critics, which include Ken Pomeroy himself.
Still, if this is something that Self uses for his evaluation, I think it's something that's at least worth exploring.
The reason I bring it up today is because KU's 82-70 victory over Oklahoma had some crazy plus-minus splits.
Obviously, KU's biggest storyline right now is its point guard play, as Elijah Johnson has started the last two games, with previous starter Tyshawn Taylor likely to return from suspension in the next week.
So should Johnson remain as the starter?
If Self is looking at all at the plus-minus numbers — especially from the OU game — he might be tempted to give Johnson another start.
From the advanced box score, here are the plus-minus numbers from the KU guards in Saturday's Oklahoma game.
Elijah Johnson +23 (16 minutes)
Brady Morningstar +12 (36 minutes)
Tyrel Reed +12 (32 minutes)
Josh Selby -10 (27 minutes)
Again, I want to warn again against making any grand conclusions about these numbers. Pomeroy is even quoted in the blog above saying single-game plus-minus numbers are "useless."
Still, if Self is looking for whether the differential is going up or down when Johnson is in the game, his answer was pretty clear Saturday: KU's differential was going way, way up.
If we break it down further, KU's offense was most remarkable during Johnson's 16 minutes, scoring 46 points (2.9 points per minute). For comparison, in Selby's 27 minutes, KU only scored 40 points (1.5 points per minute).
Again, this isn't to say Johnson is KU's best offensive player or Selby is terrible or anything like that.
I think it could indicate, though, that KU's offense was probably running pretty well with Johnson in against OU, but with both Taylor and Johnson out, KU's offense wasn't as effective without a true point guard in the game.
In case you were wondering, Johnson's plus-minus was good against OSU as well (+20 in 30 minutes). Again, KU's offense appeared to be effective with him in, as KU scored 72 points in his 30 minutes (2.4 points per minute).
The bottom line? If Self does indeed take score differential into account when making decisions on playing time, Johnson has made a strong case to remain as KU's starting point guard.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Though their final lines were almost identical, Marcus Morris edges out his brother, Markieff, for M.O.J. honors.
Marcus continued his string of remarkable efficiency, posting 1.61 points per possession used while ending 23.8 percent of KU's possessions. On 85.6 percent of the possessions he ended, KU scored at least one point.
For comparison purposes, Markieff posted 1.47 points per possession used while ending 26.7 percent of KU's possessions. KU scored at least one point on 79.6 percent of the possessions Markieff ended.
Marcus also was steady on the boards, grabbing 21 percent of the available offensive rebounds and 21.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
His final line also was helped by free throws, as he attempted the same number of free throws as field goals (10) and also made 8 of his 10 attempts from the stripe.
After Texas guard Jordan Hamilton's rough game against Colorado (7-for-24 shooting), Marcus could be sneaking into position to make a run for Big 12 player of the year.
Room for Improvement
It's time to be a bit concerned about KU's inability to force turnovers defensively.
Oklahoma turned it over on just 9.8 percent of its possessions against KU on Saturday — the lowest turnover percentage for the Sooners in any game this year. It also was the Jayhawks' second-lowest defensive turnover percentage of the season.
KU's defensive turnover numbers have dropped significantly in the last few games. The Jayhawks' defensive turnover percentage this year is 20.9 percent, and KU's opponents have finished under that percentage in seven of the last eight games.
According to KenPom, KU has a 18.3 percent defensive turnover percentage in Big 12 play, which ranks ninth in the conference.
Part of Self's excitement for this season was the belief that his fast and athletic team could put more defensive pressure on opponents. Lately, the Jayhawks haven't been doing much to force opponents into mistakes, though, and that's been just part of the problem for a KU defense that isn't as strong as it was earlier in the season.
Thomas Robinson picks up the "Tough-Luck Line" after a high-turnover game.
Robinson was the only Jayhawk that scored who posted less than one point per possession used (0.49) while consuming a team-high 39.3 percent of his team's possessions while he was in.
When Robinson struggles, it's usually because of turnovers, and Saturday was no exception. The 6-foot-9 forward had a team-high four turnovers in just 10 minutes, including one stretch where he had three giveaways in a stretch of four possessions.
Though Robinson had a tough day overall, he should be commended for his rebounding. He came away with 34.7 percent of the available offensive rebounds and 42.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds, providing value on the glass even when he was careless on the offensive end.
Saturday's game, like a few others in the past month, was one where KU's offense played at such a high level that is made up for a poor defensive effort.
The Jayhawks, who posted 1.50 points per possession in the first half, ended the game with 1.34 PPP — their second-best offensive effort in their last 11 games (and their last 11 games have been filled with good offensive efforts).
KU was especially good on the offensive glass, as when the Jayhawks missed a shot, they actually grabbed a higher percentage of the rebounds (52.2 percent) than the Sooners. OU's 47.8 percent defensive rebounding percentage was its lowest number of the year.
Playing in a low-possession game, though (61 possessions), KU's defense was subpar. OU put up 1.15 PPP — the Sooners' best offensive game in Big 12 play. In fact, in each of the Sooners' previous five games, they'd failed to score 1 PPP; their best game in that stretch was 0.98 PPP effort at home against Nebraska.
OU put up the impressive offensive showing without getting many second-chance opportunities. The Sooners grabbed just 17.9 percent of the available offensive rebounds (six in all), but still was able to get good production by limiting turnovers, making shots and getting to the free-throw line.
After holding its previous two opponents to 0.88 PPP at home, KU's wasn't as good on the road against Oklahoma.
The Jayhawks played more than half the game without a true point guard in, though, so we'll see if Johnson and perhaps Taylor give a boost to the defense when KU plays Texas A&M on Wednesday.