The Newell Post
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Texas looked good against Iowa State on Wednesday night. Having Myck Kabongo back makes a difference for Texas from a speed standpoint. Texas performed a lot better offensively. The Longhorns can play faster with Kabongo back. It gives UT another primary ballhandler.
• ESPN GameDay is great. It's an infomercial for your school. KU's fans do a great job of showing up for that. They get excited for this event.
• Self was worried about his team's confidence before Monday night. The Oklahoma State shouldn't have shook KU, but it did a little bit. Usually when confidence is shaken, it's on the offensive end. Self saw his team's confidence was low when it couldn't get the lid off the basket in the first half against TCU. Against OU, KU played above average offensively, which was good for Self to see. The coach said he thinks KU fully got its confidence back against Kansas State.
• Self says KU gets its leadership by committee this year. That's kind of like the 2007-08 team.
• Elijah Johnson hasn't played the way he knows he can play. A lot of that is making shots. If you make shots, a lot of things change. Johnson is a far superior shooter than what his stats show. Self thinks at the end of the year, his stats will be at a comparable level to last year. Self has confidence that will happen.
• When asked if Naadir Tharpe's role will be increased, Self said Tharpe has a pretty big role already. Whether his minutes are 18 or 24 in a game ... that depends on situation. Tharpe has been inconsistent. He's been good one game and not as good the next. He needs to stay aggressive and drive it and let that set up everything else. He's become a good defender. He did a great job guarding KSU's Rodney McGruder in the first half.
• Self hopes Mario Chalmers gets to meet with the team. He's not sure of Chalmers' exact plans yet. A lot of guys are coming back. Chalmers is scheduled to get to Lawrence on Friday.
• Ben McLemore has been pretty good the entire year. Self would like him to get more looks, but teams are going to do things to try to limit his shots. Self thought McLemore looked terrific on Monday.
• There's a reason why little quick guys have so many assists. It's because they force help. KU has to do a better job of doing that. Tharpe was great at it against KSU. Johnson has shown the ability to do that.
• When KU recruited Chalmers, the coaching staff thought he was going to be great. That was a really special recruiting class. It took Chalmers a while to get on track and get used to Self. After Chalmers got comfortable, he was great.
• Perry Ellis needs to see the ball to go in. He's trying hard, and his attitude is great. If he keeps going like he's going, he'll start making shots.
• Self isn't putting pressure on his guys to win the league. He's putting the pressure on the guys to get better.
This has been a tough season for Kansas senior guard Elijah Johnson, who is trying to make the transition from off-guard a year ago to full-time point guard this season. Not helping him is the fact that he still appears to be hampered by a knee injury (though to his credit, he didn't use it as an excuse Monday and even described his knee as "100 percent.").
For most of the season, Johnson has held back the Jayhawks offense. The offensive rating statistic (using a long but trusted formula) tells us how many points a player produces per 100 possessions on his own. This number is used with usage percentage, which tells what percentage of a team's possessions a player ends (average is 20 percent).
The following chart shows the top six KU players' offensive ratings compared to their usage percentages. Players toward the right are the most efficient, while the players toward the top are taking the biggest offensive roles for KU.
The graph shows that Johnson has been KU's most inefficient player by a wide margin. Compounding the problem is that he has the second-highest usage percentage, meaning lots of KU's possessions are ending in the hands of its worst offensive player.
Johnson's numbers also don't compare well to other starting point guards under KU coach Bill Self*.
* — I picked Sherron Collins as KU's point guard in 2009-10 over Tyshawn Taylor, though you could make an argument either way.
In the last nine seasons, no starting point guard at KU has produced less than a point per possession. Right now, Johnson is at 0.94 PPP.
So what issues is Johnson having offensively? Let's start by looking at his shooting breakdown, with information coming from Hoop-Math.com.
Yes, Johnson is shooting a few more two-point jumpers this year, which will bring down his efficiency some. And while shooting fewer three-pointers, his accuracy from long range is still below the NCAA average.
But the glaring number here is Johnson's field-goal percentage on close shots. While shooting a similar percentage of dunks, tipins and layups, Johnson's shooting percentage is down 19 percentage points from a year ago.
What's the reason for this?
It could go back to the position he's playing. Because he's the point guard and not a shooting guard, he's on the delivering end of fast breaks instead of the receiving end.
Here's a comparison of the close shots Johnson has been assisted on this season compared to last.
Johnson doesn't appear to be getting many of the easy baskets he did last year because of his change in roles. Because most assisted baskets come without a dribble, this might also hint that Johnson is more comfortable scoring without putting the ball on the floor.
The switch to point guard also has sapped another part of Johnson's offensive game from a year ago: alley-oops.
According to the KU Athletics game notes, Johnson had 15 dunks in 2011-12. This year, he has three.
Self likes to talk about how players get shooting confidence by making easy shots, and Johnson hasn't had many chances for those as the primary ballhandler. We did see the Jayhawks try to get Johnson an alley-oop on the first possession against Oklahoma State, but Jeff Withey's pass was knocked away for a turnover.
There might be another reason for Johnson struggling on close shots: He might be trying to avoid contact.
Johnson was just 2-for-6 on layup and dunk tries against OSU, and in this video and also this one, he appears to be shying away from contact* as he gets to the rim while also worrying too much about shot-blockers.
Compare those clips to the first 1 1/2 minutes of this video, which shows Johnson's confident drives from the NCAA Tournament last year.
* — I also can't help but think of the Oregon State game, when Johnson went aggressively to the basket before getting fouled and knocked on his tailbone. A play like that could (for good reason) make someone less likely to be aggressive at the rim.
Johnson's efficiency also has been negatively affected by turnovers.
We can see this best if we look at his turnover rate, which measures what percentage of his ended possessions that are used on turnovers.
Johnson appears to especially be struggling with turnovers since his switch back to point guard. Let's compare his turnover rate numbers to those of Tyshawn Taylor, who also was widely criticized for giving the ball away too often.
Taylor — a more gifted ballhandler — had his turnover numbers bounce up and then down again during his four-year career, with his second-best turnover rate coming in his final year.
Johnson, meanwhile, has struggled most during his freshman and senior seasons — the two years when he's been asked to play primarily on the ball instead of off it*.
* — Keep in mind we're dealing with a small sample size his freshman year, when he played just 151 minutes.
Playing off the ball last year, and serving primarily as a spot-up shooter, Johnson had the lowest turnover rate of his career.
This year, though, his mind-set has changed as point guard. You can see it in the final quote of this Kansas City Star story, when Johnson says, " ... as a point guard, you have to make sure that all five people are in order." Or in this quote from Bleacher Report, when he says, "I base my stats on how everybody else plays."
Johnson has made assists his primary focus this season. And while that sounds like the right thing for a senior leader to do, that way of playing seems to bring out the worst with his turnovers.
For comparison, here's a look at Taylor's assist rate (the percentage of his teammates' assists he contributes while he's on the floor) compared to his turnover percentage over his four-year career.
The two numbers don't appear to be related, as Taylor was able to raise his assist total without affecting his turnovers.
That has been more difficult for Johnson.
Johnson's assist rate has spiked this year (he's 136th nationally), but it has come at a steep price, as his turnover rate has soared as well.
Unfortunately for KU, there doesn't appear to be an easy solution.
Tharpe's efficiency numbers are better than Johnson's, but not by a lot. Playing Tharpe more often would result in better offense for KU now, but it also could result in dwindling confidence for Johnson, who was one of KU's best two players (along with Withey) during last year's run to the national championship game.
Self also could put Tharpe in at the 1 and move Johnson back to his natural position at the 2, but that would mean he would have to take one of his two best players off the floor (Ben McLemore or Travis Releford) or he'd have to play Releford out of position at the 4. Doing that would mean Releford — a talented on-ball defender — would have to guard a big man inside.
Because McLemore and Releford are not good ballhandlers — and because KU's ceiling remains highest with Johnson on the floor — Self appears to be ready to stick Johnson back in there with the hope he turns things around.
If he does, it'll most likely be because he increases his efficiency on close shots or limits his turnovers to the point that he once again becomes a valuable player for KU.
Before we get started, here's what Kansas coach Bill Self said about point guard Elijah Johnson during the Big 12 teleconference this morning:
You know what ... you get back and reevaluate it. You take a deep breath and everything. We are 19-2 and the players that have been playing the majority of minutes have performed at a reasonably high level for the most part. We've had some guys play unbelievably well in some situations. Some haven’t. We’ve found a way to kind of piece it together. We haven’t got consistent guard play. I have to do a better job of helping Naadir and Elijah; but Elijah is my guy. He is my guy; we have the best chance to win with Elijah in the game. ... That is the horse we are going to ride. I believe that will be best for our team.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart dominated the game physically. Not very often does a point guard score 25 points and make one shot outside of two feet, and that's what he did. He just whipped KU going after the ball. KU did a great job on the offensive glass in the first half against a really good Oklahoma State defensive rebounding team. That faded in the second half.
• It's too early to tell if Oklahoma State is the second-best team in the Big 12. It has a lot of talent. OSU has played the toughest schedule in the conference so far. Athletically, the Cowboys have got some guys that can play.
• Self has been on Johnson pretty good, because he hasn't played as well as he can play. Self is not pleased with how he's playing. Johnson's not pleased either. But most quarterbacks are judged by their record more than their stats. It should be that way with Johnson. Self says for KU to have any chance to compete at the highest level, it has to have its best players play the best. Johnson is one of KU's best players. Self is going to ride Johnson. But that's his guy.
• Self knows what gives KU the best chance to win is not being emotional about what happened in a certain situation. Doing that might not be the best thing for the long term prospects of his team.
• Self thinks when you worry about shooting, everything else goes haywire. When Johnson starts caring about, "I don't care about my shooting percentage. What can I do to get our team the best shot?" he'll be better off. Sometimes, Johnson puts too much pressure on himself to make shots. He needs to focus more on being a player and not just a shooter. Once he does that, he'll make more shots.
• Jeff Withey's stats are fine. Self says lots of players played under their ceilings against OSU. Withey has done pretty well. It's a long season, and it's a physical season for a guy that has a lot of guys leaning on him. He's done a great job, though.
• Withey has pleasantly surprised Self more than anybody he's had at KU. Withey is stronger, which brings confidence. The biggest thing with him is he's fallen in love with basketball. Self thinks that has as much to do with his progress as anything.
• Self joked there's a chance he might mention the word "toughness" in practice today. Self is upset because he thought his team stood there and took it. KU allowed OSU to take the game. When things were going bad, KU's body language wasn't good. It was almost a mind-set that you might take for granted that other teams can beat you. Self thought his team looked like a spoiled team on Saturday. It's not broken. It's not panic time. But it is a wake-up call to fix some things. The Baltimore Ravens lost a lot of games this year, but they didn't bench quarterback Joe Flacco. Losses are OK if you get better from them. Self says losing at home was good for his team. He would take a home loss over a road loss at this point, because it humbled his team more.
• TCU will be competitive. Coach Trent Johnson is just in his first year. He's building for the future. Johnson knows what he's doing. It's just a matter of time. Self thinks TCU is good for the league, as having a Big 12 team in Dallas is good for recruiting. Self hopes for a good KU turnout in Dallas. The Jayhawks will be happy to play again.
• Does Andrew White III deserve to play more with his talent? Absolutely. But the need of the team is ballhandling and passing, and he doesn't fit that need. Self said truthfully, if KU had better ballhandlers and passers, White would be playing more. KU has always played with multiple guards. It's not doing that as much this year because the team needs Travis Releford and Ben McLemore on the floor at the same time.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Self says he thinks there are lower scores in college basketball this year partly because of greater physicality in college basketball. The officials are calling it just fine, but there's more contact than there used to be. Self thinks across America there are more good defensive teams than offensive teams. National scoring averages being down a point per game is a pretty big number, but Self isn't as concerned with that number being down as some others are.
• Self believes Travis Releford might do as much as anyone in the country as far as helping a team win. He's great with intangibles. Releford is shooting well in Big 12 play, and part of that is because he shoots a lot of layups. Self wants him to be aggressive offensively, though that doesn't always means shoot more.
• Self thinks Ben McLemore and Releford ... those wings go from defense to offense better than any other wings in the country.
• Releford is smart defensively. He's a bright kid and knows how to play the scouting report well. Self gets upset when Releford makes a mental mistake, because he doesn't think that should happen with him.
• Self believed before the year that his team had the potential to be great defensively. Self thinks his team can still improve in some areas. Not many teams have Releford- and Jeff Withey-type defensive players. Self says this team is good defensively, but the 2007-08 team was his best defensively. That team had a lot of pieces. It didn't help the helper defensively; it helped the helper's helper. Self hopes this year's defense can get to that level.
• Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart has good size. What Self likes most is how he has changed OSU's personality as a program. He's going to be a pro.
• Oklahoma State made a lot of plays late to beat Iowa State on Wednesday. Self also saw that OSU scored easy late. That doesn't normally happen in late-game situations, where it's usually tougher to get easy shots.
• Self says OSU has four guys that can "go off" on any night offensively: Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash, Phil Forte and Smart. Self picked OSU second in the league. From a talent standpoint, OSU might be the best team in the league. It also probably is the most athletic team in the league.
• Ballhandling is a concern for Self. He even joked later, saying, "Hell yes," it was a concern. Self thinks his team sometimes is just careless and lazy. KU has to handle trapping situations better. KU has always been a team that has wanted teams to press it, because it had good guards in the past that loved to break that to get numbers on the other end. To be fair, Self said KU doesn't have the number of ballhandlers this year as it's had in the past. KU needs to a better job of relieving pressure with its bigs. Everyone also needs to be less careless moving forward.
• Self hasn't mentioned the 18-game win streak to the guys. He mentioned the team's national ranking to the guys the other day, telling them to not try to go into protect mode because of it.
• Self is believing that Jeff Withey is starting to get the national attention he deserves. KU has two players at their respective positions (Withey and McLemore) that are playing as well as any players in the country at their positions. One reason Withey's block numbers are going down is because teams aren't attacking him. Teams are taking longer shots, which is fine with Self.
• Self said you have to respect what Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder has done. He's happy that Snyder picked up a five-year contract extension. Snyder's getting stronger as he goes. He's better now than he ever has been.
• The Big Ten is great this year. Self says that league has five of the top 15 teams or so. Self thinks Michigan has been the most impressive team to date. Indiana has had great stretches as well. You're going to lose games in that league because of the competition in that conference. Self thinks there are a lot more really good teams overall in college basketball than maybe we thought a month ago.
• Self doesn't buy into the Big 12 being down. He thinks the league had some bad non-conference losses. Conference RPI ranking is determined only in non-conference play. In Big 12 play, it's hard to win on the road. Self thinks the Big 12 does a great job of preparing its teams for postseason play.
• Self doesn't keep track of his team's win streak. He says he would love for KU to get to a 23-game win streak, which would break the school record. But he wants that because it would mean that his team has improved to 12-0 in the league.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.
Full audio of Self and also of Mario Chalmers talking about his jersey retirement next month also is available.
• The Texas Tech-Iowa State result surprised Self (Tech beat ISU on Wednesday). Texas Tech played well. Iowa State didn't make some shots, from what Self saw when he watched the last five minutes of the game. That's life on the road in the league. Any win on the road is a big deal. It was a pretty shocking night when it came to favorites on the road last night.
• Brandon Rush is stronger than Ben McLemore, but they compare to each other athletically. McLemore is probably more athletic. They're both very similar. Rush was the better defender. Both Rush and McLemore are unselfish people. They want to fit in. They want to be liked. With that mindset, sometimes they lose aggressiveness. McLemore's getting better at it. KU just has to do a better job of plugging him in. That's the coaches' responsibility, but KU's players have to set better screens, too. Self said if he was a great scorer growing up, he'd defer as well to prove he was a team player. Danny Manning was the same way. If KU was winning by 20, he'd let other guys get their points. That way, guys would get him the ball when the game was on the line. Self wishes both Rush and McLemore were different with their aggressiveness. Self still isn't trying to change McLemore's game. He's the leading freshman scorer — at this point in the season — in KU history. Self would like him to average 25 points per game, but he's not that type of player. Self says we're splitting hairs with McLemore. He's doing just fine.
• Last year's team would have been a better team if McLemore and Jamari Traylor were able to play. But Self isn't sure if the end result — KU making it to the national title game — could have been much better. The chemistry was so good last year, it's hard to think that team could have been much better that it was last year. That's like saying KU could have been better in 2008 with Julian Wright. It's hard to say, because the chemistry would have been different.
• On the bus after Louisville lost, one KU player said, "Why aren't we going to be No. 1?" Travis Releford — a senior — spoke up and said, "We're right where we need to be." Self doesn't run from the No. 1 ranking, but it's not a primary goal of his during the regular season, either.
• Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger left Self's staff some good players when Kruger left Illinois and Self took over. Self never said one negative word about inheriting that situation at Illinois, because there were a lot of positives when he went there.
• Oklahoma has recruited well. Three guys that started last year are coming off the bench now. The Sooners are sound defensively.
• Naadir Tharpe is not afraid to shoot. Self thinks Tharpe's aggressiveness with his shot is a good offensive threat for KU. He hit a couple big shots against K-State.
• You can run great offense and score less because of length of possessions. KU is very opportunistic in transition, but it needs to be able to run more. Against K-State, Jeff Withey didn't block any shots, and KSU didn't turn it over. KU has to do a better job of scoring off its defense and creating some things. Self would love to play fast, but he thinks sometimes that's not the most successful strategy on the road.
• The most fun locker rooms are the ones away from home. Winning on the road is a great feeling.
• Self is fired up for Mario Chalmers, who is getting his jersey retired next month against Texas. The Chalmers family has meant a lot to the program. Mario is so loved at KU. Self has seen "The Shot" a lot, and it still gives him goose bumps. Mario was ornery. He was the perfect guy to coach, because he loved the moment and he loved the competition, but he'd smile the whole time while he loved it. Self would guess that one of the thrills of Chalmers' career was coming back and hitting the three-pointer to tie it up in the Legends of the Phog game in an exhibition that didn't mean anything, because Chalmers knows how much that meant to so many people around here. With a laugh, Self said Chalmers wasn't the best defender he had; he was the best stealer of the ball. Chalmers was the most clutch player Self has coached at KU. Sherron Collins would probably be second on that list.
• KU's four-guard lineup allows Travis Releford to guard the 4 if other teams play small. It helps KU in some situations because it allows the team to get another shooter and ball-handler on the floor. The hope is that stretches the defense and maybe allows KU to isolate Withey in the post more often.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.
We'll work to get this fixed, but we had some major audio problems today with skipping. The audio is still available here now that you've been warned.
• Self says Ben McLemore is fine. He'll practice Thursday. He's a little tender and sore. The injury scared him more than anything, because he thought he heard something pop. He's going to be close to 100 percent Saturday against Texas.
• To improve offensively, KU can shoot it better. Self thinks the ball is sticking a little bit. Sometimes, when other teams don't guard a certain position or player, the ball sticks, because that player feels like he needs to go make a play on his own. Self thinks the ball isn't moving as crisply as it was earlier in the year.
• Texas has missed Myck Kabongo for sure, but Javan Felix has had a good year. He can score, and he can shoot. He's a strong kid, especially in the upper body. Any time you lose a quality player, it hurts a team. His replacement has had a good year, though. Texas has one of the youngest teams in the nation. The Longhorns showed they could play against North Carolina.
• All Big 12 road wins are tough. KU went to Lubbock and was only up two at half. If you can go through this league with a good road record, you'll be battle-tested.
• KU recruited Texas forward Ioannis Papapetrou, and he chose Texas. He's had a good year.
• Forward Perry Ellis looked good the other night against Baylor, Self said. He just didn't make shots. It was good to see. He rebounded the ball rim-high. He's a terrific athlete. He can run like the wind. KU has three great sprinters at the 4-spot in Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Kevin Young. Those guys could run track. They're fast.
• Self would prefer for KU to play at a fast tempo all the time. Every KU team in the last six years or so has played better when it has played fast. No one would accuse KU of playing slow this year. Self is a big believer that if you can't score fast, though, you need to work it side to side to wear down the defense.
• Self thinks it's more important that Ellis becomes a better scorer than a better talker. Whether he talks much doesn't have any bearing on if KU wins. Self just wants him to be more aggressive. Self says Ellis is the best player KU has at the 4-spot to stretch the floor. Baylor was daring him to shoot, and if Ellis is on, he can make two of those three jumpers. That will open up room for Jeff Withey if Ellis can do that. Ellis came in with a lot of expectations coming in because he's local. It takes everybody a little bit of time. Ellis didn't come in with more accolades than Cole Aldrich, and it took Aldrich some time. Ellis is just going through the process. He's not going to be a good player; he's going to be a great player. There's a natural maturation process. Everyone goes through that. Ellis is right on schedule with where he needs to be. Now that he's playing to his skill set, he just needs to see the ball go in the basket.
• KU has more guys challenging and being more aggressive on the defensive end with shot blocks. KU has some naturally gifted athletes. Traylor had a great block pinning the ball against the glass against Baylor.
• KU and Texas' defenses are about the same on field-goal percentage defense. Texas is kicking KU's butt in three-point field-goal percentage, though. The Longhorns have done a better job of guarding the arc.
• Self would have said on Jan. 1 that his team was ahead of schedule. Now, he'd say that the team is about where he thought it would be. Self doesn't think his team has done anything in January to make him think it is way ahead of schedule. Self thinks he has a nice team that tries pretty hard and is learning how to win ugly when it's not making shots. Those are all very positive things. KU is right where Self hoped the team would be but definitely not ahead of schedule.
• To Self, there's only one stat that matters with point guards, and that's wins and losses. Self thinks Elijah Johnson has done a really good job there. Johnson hasn't made shots yet. Take that away, and he's been pretty sound. When he's been matched up against other great guards, he's done a nice job in those matchups.
• Self thinks the "muddier the track," the better off his team is. He thinks that sometimes the games that have rhythm are not best for his teams, because his teams never have the mindset to outscore folks; his teams instead take pride in keeping other people from scoring. Self is a believer that, especially away from home, you don't want the other team to get rhythm. If you look at last year's NCAA Tournament, most of KU's games had no rhythm. Self likes games when he thinks his team is not playing that well and he looks up, and the Jayhawks are up five.
• KU has high-tech equipment that shows if players are fatigued when they are working out. KU strength and conditioning coordinator Andrea Hudy can tell fatigue factors based on exercises. Self thinks having a couple extras days between games has helped his team. KU took Tuesday off, and on Wednesday, it had a 35-minute shooting practice. KU will get back to business today.
The Kansas men's basketball team ranks 17th in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency — a measure that takes into account a team's points per possession while adjusting for schedule strength. A year ago, the Jayhawks finished 19th nationally in the stat.
So the Jayhawks are following the same offensive formula for success, right?
Actually, what's interesting is that this year's team varies greatly from last year's in the way it produces offense.
Let's take a look. The following chart takes a look at 10 advanced statistical measures: adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field-goal percentage (shooting), turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, free throw rate (the frequency a team gets to the free throw line), two-point percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, three-point attempt percentage (the percentage of field goals shot that are three-pointers) and assist percentage.
The red line is the 2011-12 season (final stats), while the blue is 2012-13. The higher up the dot, the better the team's national rank in that category.
All statsitics from KenPom.com.
Let's start with the positives for KU: The Jayhawks are a much better shooting team this year, which makes some sense considering they are more balanced offensively compared to a year ago.
What is surprising — especially after I watched passes sail into the stands more than once while covering the team during its August exhibition trip in Europe — is how well the Jayhawks have taken care of the ball. KU has only turned it over on 18.8 percent of its possessions so far, and if that number holds up, it would tie the best mark for a Bill Self team at KU (2007-08 also turned it over on 18.8 percent of its possessions).
Though the Jayhawks' shooting is better — especially on three-pointers and free throws — that hasn't made as much impact as it could because of the team's struggles with offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line.
KU has grabbed just 32.5 percent of its missed shots this year. If that number stands, it'll be the lowest percentage by a Self team at KU (last year's team was second-lowest at 34.6 percent).
The Jayhawks' free throw rate (37.0) also is on pace to be the lowest in the last five seasons.
Two numbers that remain mostly unchanged from a year ago are three-point attempt percentage and assist percentage. KU once again does not rely a lot on three-point shots, and that's a good strategy to have as an elite team in the NCAA Tournament, as two-point shooting is much more consistent game to game compared to three-point shooting.
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks continue to be a team that shares the ball well, though part of that high assist percentage this year might speak to the fact that the Jayhawks don't have many players that can create for themselves off the dribble.
In the end, KU is having similar offensive success this season compared to last while producing those points in an entirely different fashion.
Though this team doesn't get offensive rebounds or to the free throw line like a typical Self team, it has made up for it by shooting a high percentage while taking care of the basketball better than any Jayhawks team in the past decade.
• Self said there wasn't any pressure when he talked to a TV reporter during a timeout against Temple. He just thinks it didn't do anything to help his team. It was fine. It lasted 30 seconds. But he doesn't think it's something any coach would enjoy doing.
• Self said the way Travis Releford is shooting is outrageous. He's taking great shots. Self thinks he can become more aggressive driving the ball because he's good at it. But the hoop looks huge to him right now. He has a great follow-through on his shot, even though it's a little different than some guys. His release and follow-through is soft, though, which is the most important thing. Releford has become more consistent with his outside shot. Releford is a guy that KU needs to play well all the time, though, whether he makes shots or not.
• Iowa State scores easier than any team in the league. They make a lot of threes and are great at rebounding. The thing that is concerning against the Cyclones is that their top seven guys have attempted at least 20 threes each. They turn the floor inside-out. They'll put their post players outside and their guards inside. After watching tape, Self said ISU is probably the best offensive team in the league.
• ISU is going to try to get Jeff Withey away from the basket defensively. The Cyclones are not going to change the way they play to do that, either.
• Self thinks KU's three-point defense is getting better. Anything below 30 percent from three for the opponent is excellent. KU isn't there yet, but it's close.
• Self wishes Elijah Johnson was aggressive more of the time, and Johnson knows that. The senior wants to get others involved, though. He can help KU out by getting paint touches off the bounce. It's always better to play in attack mode.
• KU's players were excited and focused in at film session when they started talking about Iowa State and the second season starting. Self thinks they're ready for Big 12 play.
• KU is proud of its eight straight league titles. Self says if you want to talk impressive, though, what Alabama is doing in football is impressive. Seeing a team win a title three out of four years humbles you. It's harder to have that type of sustained success in basketball, though, because there's more turnover. In football, usually a good freshman running back turns into a good sophomore running back. That type of thing doesn't always translate in basketball.
• Everybody out there respects what Alabama coach Nick Saban does. The thing that impresses Self about guys like Saban or coach John Wooden or coach K is that they're never satisfied. It's hard to not take the foot off the gas a little bit. That's natural. Repeating titles doesn't happen often. When you win a title, your focus can go to a lot of things with your players and your staff that have nothing to do with the program. What's impressive is that Alabama is even more hungry after it wins a title. Saban doesn't let his players relax.
• KU's Big 12 title run is not like Alabama's title run. KU's is from a local standpoint. The Big 12 title important, and KU puts a lot of emphasis on it. It's a little different with KU, though. Self doesn't believe KU's players are satisfied or over-relaxed after they win the league.
• Self says the team probably sees the league title as more of a responsibility to continue the tradition than an opportunity to add another league championship.
• Self saw about the last six minutes of SMU against Tulsa when Larry Brown coached against Danny Manning. Self joked that the low-scoring game was one coach Henry Iba would have been proud of.
• Temple will do well in its league. It played with great poise. KU couldn't crack the Owls. Self thought the close-game experience was good for his team. KU showed good leadership down the stretch. It had late-game situations it hadn't had yet in practice. Self wants to play well every game, but he thought that was about as good of a game for his team as there could be because of the experience it gave the guys.
• Self wants to see Ben McLemore score more and drive more and plug himself in more. He scored a lot of points early then went quiet for about 33 minutes. He's got to be able to do more than make easy baskets, which is what he did late.
• Withey had a couple good fouls in the last game to prevent easy baskets. KU doesn't foul hard enough. It barely touches guys when it does foul. Coaches will tell you fouling hard at times is important, and Self said it was good to see Withey do that.
With his 5-for-5 shooting effort against Temple on Sunday, Kansas guard Travis Releford moved to the top spot nationally in the two best advanced shooting statistics.
The first is effective field goal percentage, which appropriately gives a player 1.5 times the credit for three-pointers (because they are worth 1.5 times the points compared to twos).
|4||T.J. Warren||FR||2012-13||F||North Carolina State||.714|
|5||Kristijan Krajina||JR||2012-13||F||Mount St. Mary's||.712|
The second is true shooting percentage, which weighs free throw shooting into the equation along with twos and threes.
It's quite a leap for the senior, who ranked 244th in eFG% and 306th in TS% a year ago.
So what has changed for Releford?
Let's take a closer look at the numbers to see where he's most improved from a year ago.
The following statistics are from Hoop-Math.com. Releford's data was missing the KU-Towson game from 2011, so I added those shots into the final total.
Releford has always been good at finishing close shots (dunks, layups and tipins), but this year, he's been on another level. Not only is he shooting more close shots this year, he's making a lot more of them, shooting a remarkable 77 percent on those tries. The senior has a knack for avoiding blocks when shooting layups in transition, and it appears he's only gotten better with that skill over time.
Being a high-percentage shooter isn't just about making shots; it's also about avoiding bad shots. Two-point jumpshots are statistically the worst shot a player can take, and Releford has basically eliminated this shot from his game, putting up only nine two-point jumpers this season. He's actually been well above the NCAA average on two-point Js the last two years but still hasn't felt the need to force them.
Releford has significantly increased his three-point percentage while also increasing the percentage of threes he's taken this year. Remember also that the senior started the season 0-for-11 from three, meaning he's made up ground quickly to get to 47 percent. In his last five games, Releford is 11-for-13 from three-point range (84.6 percent).
It's hard to remember this now, but Releford actually was a poor free throw shooter his first two years, making 17 of 32 free throws his freshman year (53.1 percent) and 16 of 25 his sophomore year (64 percent). Releford hasn't gotten to the line as frequently this year (as evidenced by his lower free throw rate, which compares a player's free throw attempts to his field goal attempts), but going from 65 percent to 88 percent is still a significant jump.
I wanted to end by giving Releford's shooting some historical perspective, showing KU's top eFG and TS percentages since 1998-99 — the start of Basketball-Reference's records.
With better shot selection, an elite ability to finish at the rim and improvements behind the line and arc, Releford has taken his shooting efficiency to a new level — one that is unmatched in recent KU history.
• Ben McLemore has been very consistent. He's been more aggressive too. He hasn't hit a "freshman wall" yet, but it's still early to be hitting a wall. It's not even to the conference season yet. He's been more than KU expected from a consistency standpoint.
• Temple's win over Syracuse was a great win on a neutral court. It will get KU's guys' attention. From a selfish standpoint, this game gives KU a better strength of schedule. Temple attacked Syracuse's zone well. It flooded the high post against the Orange. Temple played very well that game.
• Self has learned you can't compare scores or say, "Let's attack Temple the way Canisius did." Coaches change and alter their teams and adjust week to week. Self focuses on how his team can attack an opponent.
• Self says the one true road game it had against Ohio State was great for the team because it played with the lead and played from behind and didn't panic in certain situations. That gives Self the best feel for his team even though it was only one game
• Self has never told a kid that he thinks he has to red-shirt. He tells a player where they are in the rotation. He then tells them what guys they'd have to beat out to play the minutes they think they deserve. Red-shirts also help guarantee graduation. Self thinks if you're not an elite player, a red-shirt can definitely be a positive.
• Elijah Johnson is still growing into a leadership role. Self thinks he's done well. You can have a great leader that's a big guy. But if you ask coaches, they will always want their point guards to be their leaders. They're the quarterbacks of the team. If a guy cares, he'll force himself out of his comfort zone and become vocal. He's a bright kid. Johnson has become an extension of Self with his message to teammtes.
• Most of Self's talks with his players come in groups. He doesn't meet with guys individually very often to go over their games. He wants everyone to know how the other players can improve. It's not done to embarrass; it's done partly so other guys can help police each other and help each other improve.
• There have been times where Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis have been the best bigs in practice. There also have been times that Jeff Withey and Kevin Young have been best. Withey is going to play. Self sees this as a competition of three guys for two spots. Self has been impressed with Young, who coaches the other two young guys up, even knowing that might cut into his own playing time.
• Self thinks replay is fine in college basketball. He'd rather get the calls right. In the Arizona-Colorado game Thursday night, Arizona didn't have a high-definition monitor on the scorer's table. There was an official that was in the national title game last year, so he's a great official. Self doesn't want to say it's unfortunate, because he doesn't have a dog in the fight. If the officials don't have the best look at courtside, though, that's something that probably needs to be corrected. That would have been a tough overtime for any team to play. Self doesn't know if KU has HD TVs at courtside at Allen Fieldhouse for its officials. That's something he hopes to look into.
• Self hasn't seen Tulsa or SMU play this year. Self can tell you that Larry Brown isn't concerned about beating Danny Manning, and Danny isn't concerned about beating Larry. Both are concerned about their teams. Self says it'll be pretty cool to see those guys go at it.