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5 things to learn about the KU basketball team from Hoop-Math.com

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Kansas guard Elijah Johnson grabs a steal from Washburn guard Jared Henry during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson grabs a steal from Washburn guard Jared Henry during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A few months ago, I stumbled upon Jeff Haley's Hoop-Math website and was immediately interested by his analysis.

Basically, Haley breaks the shots of each team's possession using play-by-play data from box scores.

The data can be broken down by team and individually, giving us some insight into the patterns of players that we might not have had before.

Here are five interesting things about last year's KU basketball team I found from sifting through the Jayhawks' team page, followed some thoughts about what those numbers might mean for KU this year.

1. Elijah Johnson's wacky shooting splits

Haley's data breaks down each player's shots into three categories: shots that are at the rim (listed as layups in the box score), two-point jumpers and three-point jumpers.

Last year, the NCAA average for each was easy to remember: 34 percent of shots were at the rim, 33 percent were two-point jumpers and 33 percent were three-point jumpers.

Now, let's take a look at Elijah's splits.

%Close %2pt. jumpers %3pt. jumpers
23% 18% 59%

Ken Pomeroy had a similar finding about Johnson over the summer, as after sorting through shot-chart data, he discovered that Johnson took only 50 of his 330 shots from between six feet and the three-point line.

Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that so far that Johnson has looked a bit timid trying to get to the lane and create a shot off the dribble in the exhibition season.

In case you were wondering, Johnson took 19 shots in KU's two exhibition games. Fourteen of those (73.6 percent) were three-pointers, three of them (15.8 percent) were close shots and two of them (10.5 percent) were two-point jumpers.

It appears that Johnson has still has a ways to go if he's going to diversify his offensive game in 2012-13.

2. Jeff Withey's unassisted two-pointers

Jeff Withey earned the most praise because of defensive play last year, and deservedly so, as he was one of the nation's most feared shot-blockers.

He also averaged nine points per game, and without Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor on the team this year, I think quite a few people anticipated that those scoring numbers would go up significantly.

That perhaps isn't a realistic goal if you consider Withey's assisted layup splits from a year ago.

Withey %Close shots assisted Robinson %Close shots assisted
78% 60%

Out of the Final Four teams, there was no player with more than 25 field-goal attempts who had a higher percentage of layups that were assisted than Withey. Very few of his layups came from him making a move on his own; almost all came with the help of a pass from a teammate.

That's not to say that Withey can't improve his one-on-one game this season. And that's also doesn't mean that Withey couldn't increase his point production by making more two-point jumpers (though known as a good free-throw shooter, he made just 29 percent of his two-point jump shots last year, which is well below the 35-percent NCAA average).

It does mean, however, that last year he didn't necessarily display the skill set to create his own easy shots like Robinson did. That's a part of his game that will still need development if KU coach Bill Self continues to run the offense through him.

3. KU's best mid-range shooter

Any guesses as to which KU regular ended up as the Jayhawks' best two-point jump-shooter?

It actually was Travis Releford, who made 48 percent of his two-point jumpers (remember, 35 percent is NCAA average).

Releford wasn't getting too much help, either. Just 27 percent of those two-point jumpers were assisted, meaning the numbers would suggest that he is an effective scorer when pulling up off the dribble.

Kansas teammates Travis Releford (24) and Ben McLemore bump elbows after a bucket by McLemore against Emporia State during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas teammates Travis Releford (24) and Ben McLemore bump elbows after a bucket by McLemore against Emporia State during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

On a KU team that might struggle to score, Releford should at least consider being more aggressive in pull-up situations, where he was an effective player in 2012-13.

4. The importance of getting back

I touched earlier on Jeff Withey's defensive presence for KU, and that impact comes through pretty strong in these numbers.

Opponents shot just 54 percent on close two-point jumpers against KU last year, compared to the national average of 61 percent.

Kansas center Jeff Withey comes over the top to block a shot by Washburn forward Joseph Smith during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. Withey finished the game with seven blocks.

Kansas center Jeff Withey comes over the top to block a shot by Washburn forward Joseph Smith during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. Withey finished the game with seven blocks. by Nick Krug

One of the biggest problems for KU last year was allowing opponents to score against an unset defense — aka, when Withey hadn't made it back into the paint yet.

Let's take a look at some of the time splits for KU's defense last year on the opposition's layups (Note: For shot clock data, Haley only looks at the first shots of possessions).

Close FG%
After rebound
0-10 seconds into possession
Close FG%
After rebound
11-35 seconds into possession
77% 53%
Close FG%
After opp. score
0-10 seconds
Close FG%
After opp. score
11-35 seconds
71% 65%
Close FG%
After steal
0-10 seconds
Close FG%
After steal
11-35 seconds
67% 62%

Now you can see why Self goes so crazy on the sidelines urging his players to get back on defense after a missed shot.

The differences in the two percentages after a rebound are especially striking. If opponents grabbed the rebound, then raced down the court and were able to get a layup against KU in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, they made 77 percent of those shots (NCAA average is 64 percent).

If those teams waited 11 seconds or more for those layups, they made just 53 percent of them (NCAA average is 58 percent).

After every KU missed shot with Withey on the floor, you can be confident in knowing that, if the shot clock gets down to 25, the opponent already missed out on its best opportunity to score against KU.

5. The value of waiting for three-point attempts

We only have one year's worth of data on Haley's site, but KU's numbers are fascinating when it comes to three-point percentage based on time remaining on the shot clock.

Take a look at the chart below.

3pt.%
After rebound
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After rebound
11-35 seconds into possession
34% 32%
3pt.%
After opp. score
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After opp. score
11-35 seconds into possession
31% 37%
3pt.%
After steal
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After steal
11-35 seconds into possession
17% 42%
3pt.%
After deadball TO
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After deadball TO
11-35 seconds into possession
37% 45%

If last year is any indication, KU would be smart to wait on three-pointers — especially after opponent turnovers.

The most shocking of the numbers above are that KU shot just 17 percent from three in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock after a steal (NCAA average was 36 percent), but 42 percent from three from in the final 25 seconds of the shot clock (NCAA average was 34 percent).

The same sort of trend held true after a dead-ball rebound. KU made quick threes 37 percent of the time and delayed threes 45 percent of the time (NCAA average was 34 percent on both).

In Self's quick ball movement offense, there appears to be a definite benefit to being patient before putting up a three-point attempt.

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