The Newell Post
Get ready to see more of Kansas coach Bill Self with his stool perched on the sidelines of an NCAA Tournament game.
I just checked out the court arrangement here at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and was disappointed by what I saw: A setup nearly identical to the setup of Ford Field last year.
By placing the basketball court on a platform in the middle of a football field, I have three major issues:
1. The safety of the players. This is my biggest gripe. Hey, these are the biggest games of these kids' lives. They're going to go diving for a loose ball every once in a while.
The problem is, when they do, they risk diving off the platform onto a floor that is a few feet below them. Davidson's Stephen Curry went into a dangerous area during one of his hustle plays last year, and the raised floor just doesn't seem like an ideal option for basketball.
2. The bench players are below the court floor. Isn't one of the best parts about college basketball the emotion of the game? That's killed by this setup, as when teammates jump up off the bench, we can still barely see their necks over the raised floor. CBS's jubilation shots just aren't the same when teammates are pounding the court floor while standing. This also makes for the awkward, Bill Self sitting on a stool by himself with no one around him on the sideline scenario we saw last year.
3. The fans are far, far away. Even if your tickets look good online, it still might not be a bad idea to bring your binoculars. Though I wasn't in Detroit last year, I can't imagine this setup wouldn't kill the atmosphere. Fans can have good seats at mid-court, but they still will be a long way from the actual court. Some upper-deck sections have been curtained off, but from those sections, binoculars probably wouldn't have even helped you.
OK, rant over. KU fans can't be too upset, I guess, as KU was 2-0 in the raised-court scenario a year ago.
What I'm about to show you is the inspirational video that helped lead the North Dakota State Bison to a 66-64 victory over Oakland in the Summit League championship game.
NDSU coach Saul Phillips told Dan Patrick this was the exact video he played for his players before the biggest game of their lives.
"I had read different motivational things and had talked to some other coaches about them playing clips of the guy that landed the plane in the Hudson and things like that that show how to handle pressure. I responded the opposite direction," Phillips told Patrick.
"I actually got a YouTube clip of funny cats and played that to them before the Oakland game. Even the tough guys on the team kind of were like, 'This is a little bit goofy.' But we had a good time with it.
"You know what, people take themselves pretty seriously in this profession, and we've got all the pressure in the world getting to the NCAA Tournament. We tried to lighten it up the most we could the whole way through."
The coach said he was pleased by his team's response.
"Even Ben Woodside, who's kind of a tougher guy, a man's man, I caught him kind of shaking his head laughing," Phillips said to Patrick.
Incidentally, Woodside hit the game-winning jumper with 6 seconds left to complete the Bison's 11-point comeback.
I'm guessing Woodside wasn't feeling any pressure. How could you with kittens still dancing in your head?
After the Kansas men's basketball team's loss Thursday to Baylor, KU coach Bill Self promised his team would practice as hard as it had all season this weekend, with two practices scheduled for today.
If I'm Self, I work on three things in practice: Defense, defense and defense.
The statistics don't lie: In the last three games, KU has had three of its worst defensive outings of the year*.
* — For this blog, I will be using offensive and defensive efficiencies. Though this sounds complicated, it's actually very simple. Offensive efficiency is the number of points a team scores per 100 offensive possessions. Defensive efficiency, then, is the number of points a team allows per 100 defensive possessions. All statistics come from KenPom.com.
After the Baylor loss, there was a lot of talk about the Jayhawks' inability to break a zone, or Sherron Collins' shooting woes or KU's struggles getting the ball inside.
Guess what? The Jayhawks were better offensively on Thursday against Baylor than they were in the teams' first matchup in Waco on Feb. 2. And in the first game, KU won, 75-65.
Here are the offensive efficiency numbers for KU in the two games:
Feb. 2 at Baylor: 101.1
March 12 vs. Baylor: 101.3*
KU scored more points per possession in the second game than the first game. So what was the difference in the two contests? Why did the Jayhawks win one by 10 and lose the other by seven?
To put it simply: defense.
* — I will point out, 101.3 is not a great offensive efficiency, but KU is 25-2 this year when its offensive efficiency is 100 or better.
Let's take a look at the defensive efficiency numbers for KU in the two games:
Feb. 2 at Baylor: 87.7
March 12 vs. Baylor: 112.3
It's pretty easy, then, to see that many have missed the true reason KU struggled Thursday. It's because the Jayhawks didn't guard worth a lick.
Like I said earlier, this has been a troubling trend for KU in the last three games.
Statistically, the Jayhawks have been solid defensively all season. KU ranks 16th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (a figure adjusted to take into account the competition a team plays) with 89.6. The national average is 101.2.
Let's take a look at the Jayhawks' worst defensive efficiency numbers this season:
Nov. 25 vs. Syracuse: 106.5 (L 89-81)
Jan. 10 at Michigan State: 107.2 (L 75-62)
March 7 vs. Texas: 108.7 (W 83-73)
Jan. 3 vs. Tennessee: 109.0 (W 92-85)
March 12 vs. Baylor: 112.3 (L 71-64)
Jan. 6 vs. Siena: 114.0 (W 91-84)
March 4 at Texas Tech: 118.6 (L 84-65)
Dec. 23 at Arizona: 126.5 (L 84-67)
Two things should stand out right away.
Three of the Jayhawks' worst six defensive performances have come in the last three games. Before the Texas Tech game, KU hadn't had a defensive efficiency of 108 or higher since playing Siena. Now the Jayhawks have allowed at least 1.08 points per possession in three straight games. That's not a good trend to have entering the NCAA Tournament.
KU isn't very successful when its defensive efficiency is poor. Though this may seem somewhat obvious, it should discredit the belief that KU can simply outscore other teams when it is not playing well defensively.
Just for reference, the Jayhawks were No. 1 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2007-08 (82.8) and 2006-07 (82.2) and No. 2 nationally in 2005-06 (84.7).
The Jayhawks need a quick fix in defensive efficiency this year, but the good news is, the statistic has been one of Self's strengths as a coach.
Let's hope he uses two practices today — and maybe a few more next week — to work on his team's biggest flaw and not its biggest perceived one.
Oh, and by the way, at one point, Singletary scored 29 straight points for Tech. Amazing.
Here's a safe prediction: He's on the All-Tournament team no matter what happens the rest of the weekend.
Solid coaching by Pat Knight, as with his team down one, he told his players to get the ball to Singletary and get out of the way.
They did, and Singletary rattled a shot in for his 41st point. After an A&M miss, Voskuil was fouled and hit two free throws.
Down three with under 5 seconds left, the Aggies threw the ball away on an inbounds pass.
Two more free throws from Singletary, and we have the first major upset of the tournament. Texas A&M, which entered with six straight wins, has lost in the first round to Texas Tech, 88-83.
Singletary scored 43 points — a new Big 12 Tournament record.
Where did this come from with Texas Tech's Mike Singletary?
He didn't even start this game, and he's single-handedly brought the Red Raiders back.
He hit a three from the corner to tie it with 1:35 left, then made a layup with 1:06 remaining to knot the score again.
He has 39 points — breaking Marcus Fizer's Big 12 Tournament record of 38 points. Singletary averaged 11.1 points coming into this game.
Somehow, Tech has scratched its way back into this game. Though the Red Raiders trailed by 21 in the second half, they have used a 27-11 run to pull to within two.
Mostly, though, it's been A&M that has played tentatively. I've seen them do that with a big lead more than once under Mark Turgeon (and especially in the NCAA Tournament last year with a big lead against UCLA).
The crowd has emptied out quite a bit here. The Cowboy fans must be saving their energy for tomorrow.
Here's another reason to like KU in tomorrow's matchup against Baylor: The Bears are 16-0 when they shoot a better field-goal percentage than their opponent, and 2-13 when they don't.
More specifically, Baylor is 12-0 when shooting better than 50 percent against its opponents.
This just doesn't happen against Bill Self-coached defensive teams.
In fact, the 2007-08 season opener was the last time an opponent shot better than 50 percent against the Jayhawks.
It hasn't happened in a while, and I don't expect it to happen tomorrow.
How's this for a stat, too: Baylor's Henry Dugat has missed his last 20 three-point attempts.
His last three-pointer came against — you guessed it — KU on Feb. 2. He went 2-for-3 from behind the arc that day.
The mind is starting to wander while watching this Texas A&M-Texas Tech game. We're not learning anything we don't know. The Aggies are playing well as of late. Alan Voskuil can hit open threes. For the most part, the Red Raiders look disorganized and uninspired.
How exactly did the Jayhawks lose by 19 to Tech again?
Anyways, let's look toward tomorrow's game between KU and Baylor. The early lines have the Jayhawks as nine-point favorites.
Who do you have in that one? Baylor is such a tough team to predict, because the talent is there, but the focus sometimes isn't.
Personally, I think Baylor is a better matchup for KU than Nebraska would have been. The Huskers proved in one game they could slow the Jayhawks down and take them out of their up-tempo game.
Tomorrow, the Bears will try to run with the Jayhawks and outscore them, and they weren't able to do that in Waco a month ago.
I would take the Jayhawks and the points, but again, nothing would surprise me with Baylor at this point.
Kudos to the Texas Tech band for the first-ever pep-band version I've heard of the Goo Goo Dolls' Long Way Down. Very nice.
A few notes from OSU's 81-67 victory over Iowa State:
• The Cowboys are 7-0 in Big 12 Tournament first-round games. To me, that's an astounding stat.
•OSU committed just five turnovers, which tied for the lowest mark in Big 12 Tournament history. The Cowboys also had five turnovers against KU on March 12, 2005.
• The Cowboys are fifth nationally in three-pointers made per game (9.5 per game). Isn't that a scary type of team to face come March?
• Even though OSU started four guards, it outscored ISU, 34-8, in the paint.
• ISU sophomore Craig Brackins scored his 1,000th career point. He now has 1,011 points in his two years. Will he be back next year to increase that total, or will he bolt to the NBA? Though he needs more muscle, my guess is that this will be the last time we see Brackins as a collegian. This year's draft class is short on talent (and big men), and ISU, at least now, doesn't look like it will be much better next year.
I was reading the quotes from games earlier in the day, and thought this would be of interest to Kansas fans.
Baylor's Kevin Rogers (who out-rebounded Nebraska today by himself, 20-18) was asked his thoughts on playing KU.
Here's his response:
"You know, obviously Kansas is a great team. Everybody said that they were young and inexperienced. But they have two veteran leaders in Sherron and Cole. That's the heart and soul of the team. So we definitely have to come in with a different level of focus.
"When we played them at our place, we played them very close. They came out and got some stops and made some buckets. But like Curtis (Jerrells) said, this is a new thing. We are just going to come out and get a victory."
Welcome back to the Newell Post Live, coming to you from the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla., site of the 2009 Big 12 men's basketball tournament.
We just arrived in OKC a couple hours ago, so I've been able to see most of the Iowa State-Oklahoma State game. Here are some observations:
• Isn't wearing a mohawk supposed to make you unique? For most of the game, four of the 10 players on the court have had mohawks. I don't think the hairstyle is serving its purpose when it's the most popular fashion choice of both teams.
• If the Big 12 had a most-improved player award for the season, Marshall Moses might win it. Despite being only 6-foot-6, he dominated inside with 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting with six rebounds. The sophomore, who did not play in three of OSU's first nine games this season, came into the tournament averaging 11.1 rebounds in his last seven games. He also averaged 9.5 points per game in his last 10 games, including an 18-point performance against KU.
• Obi Muonelo, with his quick release from three-point range, had a great night as well. Eighteen points on 4-for-6 shooting from deep. I had forgotten how tough his shot was to defend.
• Oklahoma State's fans had a good showing, as the arena was at least 75 percent orange. The Cowboys will advance now to take on the Oklahoma Sooners, a topic Big 12 Spotlight editor Eric Sorrentino and I discussed on our Big 12 Soundoff.
With the number of Cowboys fans I saw here tonight, I'm not going to back off my prediction of a 2-to-1 ratio of Cowboys fans to Sooners fans in Thursday night's game between OU and OSU.
It’s hard for me to sit down and list off the five guys that should be on the All-Big 12 team.
That’s because, most of the time, I don’t get to see all the Big 12 games. Like many of you, I watch the KU game, then get to see whatever highlights are shown of the other games on TV later in the night.
But what if I came up with an All-Big 12 list that I could justify?
This will be the “How’d they do against KU” All-Big 12 team. The rules are simple: My squad will consist of the five best players I saw while watching them play against the Jayhawks. For this exercise, KU’s players are ineligible (Sorry Sherron and Cole). Also, Texas and Texas Tech’s players aren’t going to make the list, as KU has yet to play those two teams, and Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin’s concussion keeps him from picking up the coveted HTDAKU honor.
Let’s get to it:
Jesse Newell’s "How’d they do against KU" All-Big 12 Team
MVP — Craig Brackins, Iowa State. No surprise here, huh? Brackins was the best player KU faced this season, and it wasn’t close. His 42-point, 14-rebound performance in Ames, Iowa, just seemed like an open workout for the NBA scouts there. He can hit the face-up jumper, use his quickness to get by you and also shoot in the occasional three. He also added a respectable 20 points and 11 rebounds at Allen Fieldhouse. Though he needs to add some muscle to his frame, isn’t that the same thing we were saying about Texas’ Kevin Durant a few years ago?
Willie Warren, Oklahoma. The second slam-dunk, no-doubt selection on this list. With OU’s best player Griffin out, Warren stepped up when his team needed him most against KU. What I’ll remember was his second-half “Anything you can do, I can do better” competition with KU’s Sherron Collins. Warren hit a three, then Collins would come back and hit a deeper three, then Warren took the ball and hoisted one barely past half court (If I remember right, didn’t he make one of his threes from the “O” in “OU” logo on the center of the court?). Though Collins won the battle and the game, Warren’s performance makes him an easy choice on this list.
DeMarre Carroll, Missouri. Say what you want about whether he deserves to be on the actual All-Big 12 team (I’d probably give him the nod if I was voting), but Carroll didn’t disappoint in his two games against KU. He was the leader and the driving force behind the Tigers’ comeback in Columbia, Mo., scoring 22 points with seven rebounds. I was most impressed by his willingness to take big shots for MU. When the Jayhawks sagged in their defense, daring the Tigers to shoot it from the outside, Carroll was the guy who didn’t hesitate and hit 18-footer after 18-footer to get his team back in the game. His bounced-in three also was a momentum-changer. He followed that performance up with a 16-point, 11-rebound effort in Lawrence.
Cory Higgins, Colorado. It seems like Colorado always has one really good player surrounded by an untalented cast (See David Harrison, Richard Roby, etc.). That was no different this year, as Higgins stood out as easily the best Buffalo. I like Higgins a lot, but because his team is/was so bad, he won’t be picking up many postseason honors. If you look at both games against KU, though, he was the only reason the Buffaloes were able to hang around. Higgins scored 20 points and made 12 of 12 free throws in the first game against KU — a game that CU actually led, 22-17, with 6:24 left in the first half. In the second game, Higgins helped an 8-0, second-half run by recording two straight steals. He helped the Buffaloes trim a 21-point deficit all the way down to two with his 15-point, four-steal performance.
Ade Dagunduro, Nebraska. The final spot was close between Dagunduro and Oklahoma State’s Obi Muonelo, but the nod goes to Dagunduro. On a team that can play some defense but desperately needs scoring, Dagunduro was the Cornhuskers’ second-half go-to-guy as NU battled KU to the final minutes in Lincoln, Neb. Dagunduro scored 24 points, which is made more impressive considering that was 38.7 percent of his team’s total output (62 points). Dagunduro added 13 points (of NU’s 53) in his return trip to the Fieldhouse, giving him an average of 18.5 points against KU.
Just missed the cut
Obi Muonelo, Oklahoma State. He was the only Cowboy who could score in the first half. Finished with 19 points on 5-for-9 three-point shooting to go with six rebounds.
Leo Lyons, Missouri. After a poor shooting effort in his first game against KU (4-for-15), he bounced back with 20 points and six rebounds against the Jayhawks in Lawrence. Still not consistent enough for my taste.
Jacob Pullen, Kansas State. Scored 35 combined points in the two games, but needed 26 field-goal attempts to do it (10-for-26 combined shooting, 38.4 percent).
Denis Clemente, Kansas State. Was dominant at times during his 26-point performance at Bramlage Coliseum, but also lost his cool and let his team down with a technical that gave the Jayhawks momentum. Also only scored nine points in his trip to Allen Fieldhouse.
Cade Davis, Oklahoma. This might be the only time he’ll be involved in an All-Big 12 discussion, but he nearly single-handedly brought the Sooners back against KU. Made four of six threes with all of those treys coming late in the second half.
Coach of the Year — Mike Anderson, Missouri. Without Self in the running, this is an easy pick. Anderson was the only Big 12 coach (so far) to beat KU, and it took good coaching for that to happen. After a miserable first half by is team against KU — one in which the Tigers looked like they were playing nervous because of their sellout home crowd — Anderson could have laid into his team at halftime. He had every right to. MU had scored just 16 first-half points and was blowing a huge opportunity on national television. Anderson tried a different method than yelling, though: He went into the halftime locker room laughing. He reminded his players that they were at home, and that they should be the loose ones. His team responded in the second half, playing much more relaxed before coming away with the two-point victory. Had Anderson entered the locker room and pulled a Bobby Knight, I don’t think the comeback would have happened.
If No. 15 Kansas can defeat No. 8 Missouri on Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse, it will be in place for a huge jump in the rankings.
Assuming the Jayhawks beat the Tigers, half of the teams in front of the Jayhawks in the ESPN/USA Today rankings will have lost this week. Take a look:
No. 1 Pittsburgh — Loss at Providence.
No. 3 Oklahoma — Loss vs. No. 15 Kansas.
No. 8 Missouri — Potential loss at No. 15 Kansas.
No. 10 Marquette — Loss vs. No. 2 UConn.
No. 11 Arizona State — Loss at No. 21 Washington.
No. 12 Villanova — Loss vs. Georgetown.
No. 13 Clemson — Losses vs. Virginia Tech, at No. 25 Florida State.
— Again, we're assuming a KU victory over Missouri on Sunday.
Some ranked teams still have to play later tonight or on Sunday.
Also keep in mind that, if KU beats MU, it will come off a week in which it beat two top-eight opponents, including No. 3 Oklahoma on the road. That might be enough to boost KU even higher in the rankings.
So how high will the Jayhawks jump if they can beat the Tigers? I'd say even a conservative prediction would have KU as next week's No. 10.
Note: No Kansas players were talked to or jinxed by the creation of this blog post.
One of the most maddening things to see as a basketball fan is missed free throws.
Just think about Christian Moody against Missouri, or Kansas against Syracuse in 2003.
Nothing makes fans want to rip their hair out any more than a team that misses lots of free throws.
Having said that, KU fans should have most of their hair still in place this season.
This year’s Jayhawks on pace to have the best free-throw shooting percentage of any Bill Self-coached Kansas team.
KU has made 72.5 percent of its shots at the line this year. That ranks third in the Big 12 (behind Oklahoma State and Colorado).
But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
If KU keeps this pace up, it will have the best free-throw shooting percentage since 1982-83. That would be 26 years ago. That also would be before I was born.
Let’s take a quick trip down Memory Lane. For illustration purposes, here’s a college basketball photo from the 1981-82 season.
And here’s one from the 1982-83 season. (Be sure to check out the clothes and hairstyles.)
The 1982-83 Jayhawks, who hit 72.9 percent of their free throws, had players like Jeff Dishman (left), Carl Henry (center) and Mark Ewing (right).
Anyways, back to the topic at hand. KU is shooting free throws well this year. Really well. The list below shows KU’s all-time best free-throw shooting percentages for a season. (Free-throw statistics have been kept since the 1947-48 season.)
KU's best free-throw percentages
1. 1948-49 — .733
2. 1979-80 — .731
3. 1982-83 — .729
4. 2008-09 — .725
5. 1983-84 — .723
— Through 28 games
So what is the reason for the success? KU coach Bill Self answered the question at his press conference Thursday.
“We don’t practice them any differently, anything like that,” Self said. “The thing about it with this team, the two guys that get fouled the majority of the time are maybe our two best free-throw shooters. If the guys that get fouled the majority of the time are your two worst free-throw shooters, obviously, your free throws would look poor. But Cole’s the best big man free-throw shooter we’ve had here since Wayne (Simien). Sherron obviously is shooting about 83, 85 percent. Those are the guys that are getting fouled the most.”
Let’s examine some of Self’s assertions.
KU has made 465 of 641 free throws this season. Of the 641 free throws, Collins and Aldrich have shot 258 (40.2 percent of the team’s free throws).
The chart below shows Collins’ and Aldrich’s free-throw makes, attempts and percentages.
Sherron Collins free-throw shooting
2008-09 — 109-134, 81.3 percent
2007-08 — 45-58, 77.6 percent
2006-07 — 49-64, 76.6 percent
Cole Aldrich free-throw shooting
2008-09 — 96-124, 77.4 percent
2007-08 — 26-38, 68.4 percent
Let’s not take for granted these guys’ improvement at the line either, as both obviously worked hard on their shot in the off-season, and the numbers show it.
In case you were wondering, Collins is sixth this year in the Big 12 in free-throw percentage, while Aldrich is 12th (Players must average 2.5 made free throws to get on the list; Texas A&M’s Josh Carter leads the league with an 84.5 percent free-throw percentage). KU’s accuracy obviously has been helped tremendously by Collins and Aldrich, but it also hasn’t hurt that Tyrel Reed (82.2 percent) and Brady Morningstar (79.3 percent) have been stellar from the line as well.
The other advantage for these Jayhawks is that no one is dragging the high average down.
On every team, you can usually count on one or two big guys that brick free throws like Shaq in his heyday. Typically, there’s at least one guy who shoots a lot of free throws that is a liability because he hangs in the 50-percent range.
KU doesn’t have anyone like that — at least not anyone that is shooting a lot of free throws.
Of the six Jayhawk players that have more than 30 free-throw attempts, only two are shooting worse than 72 percent from the line: Markieff Morris (62.3 percent) and Marcus Morris (62.1 percent). And while those numbers could stand to be higher, they aren’t low enough to sink KU’s average too far.
As for Self’s claim that Aldrich is the best big-man free-throw shooter since Simien, let’s take a look.
The box below shows the top big-man free-throw shooters for KU (with at least 50 attempts), going back to the 2003-04 season. (For this exercise, I’m considering “big men” to be guys that played primarily power forward or center. Sorry, Brandon Rush, you’re not a “big guy” on my list.)
KU’s best “big-man" free-throw shooters
2008-09 — Cole Aldrich: 96-124, 77.4 percent
2007-08 — Darrell Arthur: 80-114, 70.2 percent
2006-07 — Darnell Jackson: 67-102, 65.7 percent
2005-06 — Darnell Jackson: 40-52, 76.9 percent
2004-05 — Wayne Simien: 142-174, 81.6 percent
2003-04 — Wayne Simien: 167-206, 81.1 percent
As we can see from the list, Self’s statement holds true, though Darnell Jackson gave it a nice run during his sophomore season.
What does it all mean? KU fans should appreciate this young team not only for its quick development, but also for its ability to hit free throws to make it a more enjoyable viewing experience.
Nebraska guard Cookie Miller says he's ready to take the ribbing he's sure to get from Kansas fans in Saturday's game at Allen Fieldhouse.If you remember, in the teams' first matchup, Miller had to be separated from KU's Mario Little after the two battled for a loose ball.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli...“I know it’s going to be something. I’m just looking forward to it," Miller told Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal-Star. "It doesn’t matter what it is. When I go wherever on the road, I always hear, ‘The Cookie’s gonna crumble,' or something funny toward me. I look forward to that.”Miller also addressed the earlier incident with Little."We really weren’t getting nothing done," Miller told the Journal-Star. "I was just trying to get some emotion out of the team, get the team fired up.”
What would the perfect bracket for Kansas look like?
It’s a question I pondered while looking at the latest Bracketology on ESPN.
As you may or may not know, the Jayhawks were projected as a No. 3 seed in the West regional. If all the seeds held correctly (and KU continued winning), the Jayhawks would face 14th-seeded Weber State, sixth-seeded Gonzaga, second-seeded Michigan State and top-seeded Pittsburgh.
But what teams should KU want to have in its bracket? In other words, what teams would KU match up best against?
To answer this question, I started by trying to figure out what type of teams KU has struggled against this season.
If the Jayhawks could avoid the teams that take away their strengths, in theory, they would have the best chance of advancing in the tournament.
I came up with two types of teams that KU has struggled against this season: teams that defend three-pointers well and teams that force a lot of turnovers.
Here’s some statistical backup: KU, which has made 38.0 percent of its three-pointers this season, has shot 33.3 percent or worse in seven games. In those games (UMKC, Washington, Syracuse, UMass, Michigan State, home vs. Colorado, Missouri), the Jayhawks are 3-4.
Though KU doesn’t shoot a lot of threes, it does struggle when it can’t get outside shots to go down.KU also has had problems with turnovers, especially as of late. In the Jayhawks’ last four games, they have averaged 18.8 turnovers per outing.
Perhaps the most damaging part of the turnovers is what happens on the other end.There have been 10 games this season when the opposition has scored 15 points or more off KU’s turnovers. In those games (Syracuse, New Mexico State, UMass, Arizona, Tennessee, Nebraska, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Missouri, at Kansas State), the Jayhawks are 6-4.
Thus, at least statistically, KU seems to be more likely to lose against teams that defend the three-pointer well and also force a lot of turnovers.
Using statistics from Kenpom.com, I set out to figure out which teams would be best for KU to play in the tournament, based on their three-point percentage defense and also their turnover-percentage defense (the percentage of defensive possessions that the team forces turnovers). I gave each statistic equal weight when evaluating.
I also used the seeds in the latest Bracketology for this illustration and assumed there were no upsets in KU’s bracket.
Let’s start with the first round.
First round Potential No. 14 seeds — Weber State, Vermont, American, North Dakota State.
The best matchup for KU: North Dakota State (264th turnover-percentage defense, 256th three-point percentage defense). Though the Bison have won 11 of their last 12 and are up to 60th in the KenPom rankings, they struggle in the aforementioned statistics.*
* — I do want to make a note that Buffalo is looming around as a No. 13 seed. Not only would the Bulls fit into the dreaded, B-school, B-mascot, mid-major conference, first-round opponent category (See Bison, Bucknell and Braves, Bradley), they also could provide a tough matchup, ranking 105th in turnover percentage and 139th in three-point percentage defense. Just something to keep in mind.
The worst matchup for KU: Vermont (56th turnover-percentage defense, 196th three-point percentage defense). The Catamounts force 16.5 turnovers per game.
Second round Potential No. 6 seeds — Gonzaga, Syracuse, Tennessee, California.
The best matchup for KU: California (235th turnover-percentage defense, 187th three-point percentage defense). The Bears average only 4.9 steals per game, which is next-to-last in the Pac 10.
The worst matchup for KU: Tennessee (155th turnover-percentage defense, 121st three-point percentage defense). The Volunteers forced 17 turnovers and scored 27 points off those turnovers in their first matchup with the Jayhawks. KU still prevailed, 92-85, with a strong effort by Sherron Collins and help from the home crowd.Interestingly, Syracuse is not good at forcing turnovers (309th) but great at defending the three (10th, 29.9 percent). The Jayhawks were 8-for-24 from three (33.3 percent) in the first game against the Orange.
Sweet 16 Potential No. 2 seeds — Memphis, Michigan State, Louisville, Wake Forest.
The best matchup for KU: Michigan State (191st turnover-percentage defense, 85th three-point percentage defense). MSU’s opponents average 13.9 turnovers per game; KU had 12 turnovers in the first half of an 75-62 loss against the Spartans in East Lansing, Mich., on Jan. 10.
The worst matchup for KU: Memphis (46th turnover-percentage defense, 24th three-point percentage defense). This would be one of the worst matchups for KU in the tournament field, according to our formula.
Elite Eight Potential No. 1 seeds — Oklahoma, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pittsburgh.
The best matchup for KU: Oklahoma (268th turnover-percentage defense, 172nd three-point percentage defense). OU does a lot of things well offensively, but the Sooners don’t force many turnovers. In fact, OU’s opponents average just 13.3 turnovers per game, which is third-worst in the Big 12.
The worst matchup for KU: North Carolina (141st turnover-percentage defense, 129th three-point percentage defense). Not only would this be a nightmare of a chore defensively for KU, the numbers show that KU wouldn’t match up well offensively against the Tar Heels, either.
In case you were wondering, here are the most dangerous potential tournament teams I could find that could go up against KU, according to the formula:
• West Virginia (13th turnover-percentage defense, second three-point percentage defense)
• Missouri (seventh turnover-percentage defense, 13th three-point percentage defense)
• Akron* (second turnover-percentage defense, 37th three-point percentage defense)
• Duke (25th turnover-percentage defense, 67th three-point percentage defense)
• Illinois (90th turnover-percentage defense, sixth three-point percentage defense)
* — Akron is not listed in the latest Bracketology tournament field.
Missouri’s Keith Ramsey hit three of four free throws against Kansas.That might not sound like an earth-shattering revelation, but it’s probably the reason the Tigers defeated the Jayhawks on Monday.Coming into the game, Ramsey was 8-for-29 from the free-throw line, which comes out to an embarrassing 27.6 percent. He was even worse in Big 12 play, making three of 14 (21.4 percent).KU coach Bill Self should have high-fived Tyshawn Taylor for fouling Ramsey with the Jayhawks up 44-33 with 12:15 to go. The stats would tell you that Ramsey would miss not just one, but two.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli..., against the odds, Ramsey swished both, and suddenly KU’s lead was back under double digits.MU went on to win by two. Ramsey’s two points might have made all the difference.Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, seeing teams hit free throws they aren’t supposed to hasn't been a rare occurrence this season.KU’s opponents are hitting 71.6 percent of their free throws, which is three full percentage points above the national average (68.6 percent). The Jayhawks rank 301st out of 344 teams in free-throw defense.And that should be the frustrating part for KU fans: There is no such thing as free-throw defense. It’s one stat KU’s players have no control over.Perhaps it would be better to say that the Jayhawks have run into a long string of bad luck. KU’s free-throw defense is worst in the Big 12. Nebraska is second-worst in the league, as its opponents have made 70.6 percent of their free-throw tries.Maybe you’re thinking that KU’s poor free-throw defense numbers are a result of the Big 12 shooting free throws better than other conferences.Texas would prove that theory wrong. The Longhorns’ opponents have only shot 60.8 percent from the line this year — nearly 8 percent lower than the national average and almost 11 percent lower than KU’s opponents have shot.The problem for the Jayhawks is that, over the course of the season, their opponents have shot even better from the free-throw line.In fact, after doing some research, I found that 10 of KU’s last 12 opponents have shot higher than their season average from the line against KU. The only two teams that haven’t were Nebraska (50.0 percent against KU, 68.0 percent season) and Colorado (at Allen Fieldhouse), which was only percentage points under its season average (72.7 percent against KU, 72.9 percent season).In the last 12 games, KU’s opponents have made 200 of 268 free throws (74.6 percent).http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... we all agree that Mario Chalmers was a good free-throw shooter for KU? Well, last year, he went 97-for-130 from the free-throw line. That comes out to 74.6 percent.For illustration purposes, whenever KU has sent anyone to the line in the last 12 games, it has been the equivalent of giving 2007-08 Mario Chalmers two free throws.If I was the opponent, I’d feel pretty good about my chances of getting two points.So how much of a difference has KU’s unluckiness made? The Jayhawks’ opponents have made 365 of 510 free throws this year. If KU’s foes would have made the standard 68.6 percent, they would have made 350 free throws. If the Jayhawks were simply not unlucky or lucky, they would have saved 15 points.If the Jayhawks, however, were as lucky as the Longhorns (whose opponents only make 60.8 percent of their free throws), KU would have only given up 310 points from the free-throw line.The Jayhawks would have given up 55 fewer points by doing absolutely nothing differently.In four of KU’s five losses, the opponent has shot a better free-throw percentage than its season average.Even with the bad luck, free-throw defense probably has only potentially cost KU two games. And even those are debatable.If Syracuse would have shot its season average from the line (64.1 percent instead of 66.7 percent), the Orange would have made one less free throw. Because the game went to overtime, the one point could have made the difference in a win and loss for KU.Though Missouri shot close to its season average (65.7 percent season, 66.7 percent against KU), Ramsey’s 3-for-4 performance were all points that MU needed for its comeback.UMass, if you were wondering, shot below its season average against KU (69.6 percent season, 62.5 percent against KU).The strange thing, to me, is that with the students behind each basket, Allen Fieldhouse is typically one of the toughest places for opponents to shoot free throws.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... my vantage point, the students have been just as organized with their distractions as they have been in years past.Still, opponents have made 184 of 259 free throws (71.0 percent) at KU’s home gym.Perhaps these stats make KU’s 19-5 record and 11-1 mark in its last 12 games even more impressive.Not only are the Jayhawks winning, they’re also playing well enough to overcome their own unluckiness.