Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”
You may have noticed that our sites look a bit different this morning. That's because our content management system has been updated to allow for new and improved features.
I'll talk a bit about those in a moment, but first you should know that, as with any major change, we're experiencing some bugs. So we've been troubleshooting, identifying problem areas and compiling issues so that our Web development team can fix them.
Some of the issues we've experienced so far are: - missing comments; - inaccurate comment counts; - problems with the mobile site of ljworld.com; - email editions are not going out; - problems reading private messages
We apologize for these issues, and we're working to fix them.
Now, for the good news. Our upgraded system has a number of new features that we're excited about.
You can now sign into LJWorld.com, KUsports.com and Lawrence.com. using your Twitter, Google or OpenID accounts.
- Users can now edit posts; you have a several-minute window to make changes;
- An updated "reply" function that makes threaded comments easier to follow;
- A thumbs-up button that lets users like a comment, as you might on Facebook.
- Links to photos and videos will now show in the comments section, and users can upload photos with a caption; remember, with great power comes great responsibility
If you're tired of trying to navigate our sites on your phone, you'll be pleased to know that the sites now automatically redirect to stripped-down mobile versions, which are easier to read. We're still working out some kinks, but we're especially excited about this. If you liked reading the regular site on your mobile device, there's a "view full site" button at the bottom of the page, which loads the normal site. This feature is not yet available for the mobile versions of KUsports.com and Lawrence.com.
We anticipate more features rolling out in the near future. If you're experiencing any of our growing pains, please be patient as we work out the kinks.
More links: Audio from Missouri representative who is really opposed to KU license plates; T-Rob labeled ‘jackpot’ player
A few more links in case you missed them ...
• I heard this audio on the radio Wednesday and it's too crazy not to share.
I would try to describe the speech, but whatever I say won't do it justice. Just give the link a click and be sure to sit down for the whole 3 1/2 minutes.
• ESPN's Jason King posted three KU-related pieces Wednesday.
The first was a well-written feature on KU strength coach Andrea Hudy with lots of cool anecdotes from her life.
• This is an ESPN Insider story, so a subscription is required, but ESPN Recruiting Nation gives KU's 2012 men's basketball recruiting class an "A," saying KU coach Bill Self's five signings "should be able to keep Kansas near the top of the Big 12."
• SI.com's Sam Amick rates former KU forward Thomas Robinson as one of the four "jackpot" picks in this year's NBA Draft.
Amick labels a "jackpot" player as one whose "talent is immense and the upside is as trustworthy as there is in the draft."
The other three Jackpot players, according to Amick, are Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Florida's Bradley Beal.
• And finally, the NCAA sent out a release Wednesday regarding the sites of the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament, and Kansas City is included as a second-/third-round site.
The Missouri Valley Conference will serve as the host for the games, meaning all Big 12 schools are eligible to play at Sprint Center.
The closest Sweet 16/Elite Eight regional to KU, if you were wondering, is in Arlington, Texas. The Final Four will be played in Atlanta.
Daily links: Notre Dame still making significant payments to Charlie Weis; KU to be featured on ESPN’s 30 for 30
A few links in case you missed them ...
• The Chicago Tribune examined some federal tax documents and found that, during the 2010-11 school year, Notre Dame paid former coach and current Kansas coach Charlie Weis $2,054,744.
Weis was fired by Notre Dame in November 2009.
Perhaps the most startling part about that number is how high it was in comparison to other Notre Dame coaches. Current football coach Brian Kelly made $2,424,301 during the 2010-11 school year, while men's basketball coach Mike Brey earned $1,311,843 — just over half of what Weis made while he wasn't even with the school.
According to the article, Weis' is scheduled to receive buyout payments from Notre Dame through December 2015, though the amounts could be reduced in the future.
• Speaking of Weis, he talked last week to the Hutchinson News' Lucas Fahrer about learning from two mistakes he made at Notre Dame.
I also enjoyed this quote in the article, as Weis was talking about his evaluation of KU before accepting the head-coaching position: "I didn't spend any time before I took this job looking at their players. I looked at who they were but when you're 2-10, what're you going to look for? A bunch of silver linings?"
• It looks like KU becoming home for James Naismith's original rules of basketball will be featured on ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series this year, as a trailer for the new season was released on ESPN.
Josh Swade has been working on this project for a couple years now. Here's a video preview of the project from his vimeo site.
• A really good read for college basketball fans here by SI.com's Luke Winn, who examined the different ways that teams are guarding three-point shots.
Winn explains it well in the article, but recent analysis by Ken Pomeroy could change the way the game is coached and played in the future. Though teams find success many different ways defending three-pointers, Pomeroy has found evidence that he defense has little control on whether three-point shots go in. What the defense can control more certainly is the number of three-pointers an opposing team attempts.
This becomes especially important for teams that are favorites in the NCAA Tournament. For favorites to maximize their chances of winning, they should want to minimize the opponents' three-point attempts, which basically are a high-risk, high-reward strategy.
The perfect example of this was the 2010-11 VCU team, which didn't apologize for jacking up tons of three-pointers while riding the hot-shooting wave to the Final Four.
If you look back, KU probably received a favorable draw on its way to the championship game this year. KU, which allowed an average number of three-point attempts to opponents, faced only one team in the tournament that shot an above-average number of three-pointers.
That team was Purdue. And for more than a half, it sure looked like a three-point shooting underdog was going to send the Jayhawks to an early exit.
• Our own Matt Tait tweeted this a couple days ago, but in case you missed it, former KU linebacker Steven Johnson received the Denver Broncos' highest signing bonus for an undrafted rookie, as he picked up a $12,000 signing bonus, according to the Denver Post.
That doesn't guarantee Johnson will make the team, but the fact that Denver gave him that much probably doesn't hurt his chances of making the roster, either.
If he does latch on with the Broncos and get an official paycheck, I can't help but wonder if some of the money will go back to Steven Sr. and Suburban Hair Company in Upper Darby, Pa.
• And finally, this video has been floating around the Internet for the last day or so, but if you haven't seen it, comedian Rob Riggle, who will host the upcoming ESPY awards, shows KU a lot of love in this video.
There's also a funny moment toward the end where Riggle — who was raised in Overland Park and graduated from KU — blames his assistant for the Jayhawks' loss to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game. Definitely worth a look.
Last week, we looked at how potential transfer and former Xavier point guard Mark Lyons could help Kansas statistically if he chose the Jayhawks over Arizona and Kentucky.
Now, with news breaking that South Carolina forward/center Damontre Harris is visiting KU this week and will choose between the Jayhawks and Florida Gators, I wanted to take a look at what the statistics can tell us about the 6-foot-9 sophomore, who was Rivals.com's No. 64 player in the class of 2010.
(All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com. Keep in mind that South Carolina played the NCAA's 47th-toughest schedule according to KenPom, which is something to consider when looking at these statistics.)
Let's first look at Harris' basic offensive numbers from his sophomore year at South Carolina, where he averaged 25.9 minutes per game.
Here's a quick reminder on the stats above: Offensive rating is simply a measure of a player's individual efficiency, or the points per 100 possessions he creates himself. An offensive rating of 100 is considered average.
Offensive rating is used hand in hand with possession percentage, which is a measure of what percentage of a team's possessions a player ends while he's on the floor. Basically, this measures how involved in the offense a player is. Average possession percentage is 20 percent.
Shot percentage is the percentage of shots taken when a player is on the floor. Again, average is 20 percent.
From those numbers, we can see that Harris did not assert himself offensively, as he was only a minor part of the Gamecocks' offense when he was on the floor. To give you some context, his possession percentage was about that of KU guard Conner Teahan (14.1 percent possessions percentage) and his shot percentage was close to that of KU small forward Travis Releford (14.3 percent shot percentage). Neither of those players were a focal point in KU's offense.
The positive sign here is that when Harris did play a part in South Carolina's offense, he was extremely efficient. His offensive rating of 112.4 was tops on his team, and he was one of only four players on the Gamecocks to have an offensive rating of over 100.
So what made him so efficient? Let's look at some other numbers.
While his turnover rate (which shows what percentage of a players' possessions were used on turnovers) was a little bit higher than you'd want, Harris made up for it with great shooting.
His 55-percent shooting from two-point range was significantly better than the NCAA average of 47.8 percent, and his free throw percentage also added to his value, as his 80.4-percent free-throw shooting was second on South Carolina and also would have ranked second out of KU's rotation last year behind only Teahan.
When analyzing Harris' statistics, one number stands out the most: his 10.7 percent block rate.
This means, when Harris was on the floor last year, he blocked 10.7 percent of his opponents' two-point shot attempts. That number was good for 19th nationally, behind premier shot-blockers like Jeff Withey (first nationally, 15.3 percent) and Kentucky's Anthony Davis (third, 13.8 percent) but still ahead of well-known swatters like UConn's Andre Drummond (24th, 9.9 percent) and North Carolina's John Henson (28th, 9.6 percent).
Let's look at Harris' other defensive/rebounding numbers.
The first statistic that sticks out here is Harris' high steal percentage, as he came away with a steal on 2.3 percent of South Carolina's defensive possessions last year.
That 2.3 percent might not seem like a lot, but it's the exact same steal percentage that Releford had for KU last year. Considering Harris plays inside and still was able to poke away that high a number tells us something about his athleticism.
His other strength appears to be his offensive rebounding percentage, as he grabbed 10.8 percent of his team's misses, which ranked 238th nationally. To compare, Harris' offensive rebounding percentage was between that of the 2012 numbers of KU's Thomas Robinson (11.2 percent) and Withey (10.2 percent).
His defensive rebounding percentage is probably a little lower than you'd want from a defensive stopper, though it still would have ranked third out of KU's rotation last year, behind Robinson and Withey and just in front of Kevin Young.
Harris also was a bit foul-prone at South Carolina, fouling out in two of his 31 games and picking up four fouls in 10 other contests.
Statistically, Harris appears to be a player that could help KU two seasons from now.
Most promising is his block percentage, and if Harris did come to KU and sit out a year because of transfer rules, he would be able to practice with the nation's best shot-blocker (Withey) before having the opportunity to step into Withey's role for the 2013-14 season.
Though Harris is not yet assertive offensively, his efficiency would seem to indicate that he will be a player that, at worst, should not hurt the offense when he's in the game (much like Withey in 2011-12). His strong shooting numbers also tell us he isn't a player that forces up too many bad shots while showing that he might be a player that can develop into having a larger role while still maintaining an above-average offensive rating.
The 2013 Value-Add ranking formula — an all-encompassing player-evaluation statistic (like WAR in baseball) developed by John Pudner and frequently used by SI.com's Luke Winn — also likes Harris, as it ranked him (assuming he stayed with South Carolina) as the 125th-best player in college basketball next year. Only one KU player on next year's roster ranks higher (Elijah Johnson, 99th).
We've seen how elite shot-blockers have thrived with KU's defense in three of the last four years, as Cole Aldrich (2008-09, 2009-10) and Withey (2011-12) posted top-30 block percentages in each of those seasons.
Self's defenses have also prospered with those swatters in the middle, as KU ranked fourth in defensive two-point percentage in 2008-09 (40.8 percent), first in defensive two-point percentage in 2009-10 (40.1 percent) and second in defensive two-point percentage in 2011-12 (39.8 percent).
If Self is looking for another defensive stopper to guard the rim after Withey graduates in 2013, it appears he'll have a tough time finding a better option than Harris.
Our own Gary Bedore reported Wednesday that Xavier point guard Mark Lyons will be transferring to either Kansas, Kentucky or Arizona, and because of the new NCAA rules, he will be eligible to play next season as a senior.
Because the 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard has already played three years at Xavier, this gives us a chance to break down his numbers to see what kind of impact he might have for KU if he picks the Jayhawks.
Before we get started, I think it's important to note that I'm only going to be looking at Lyons' stats in this blog. Obviously, the guard — who played prep school at Brewster Academy, the alma mater of both Thomas Robinson and Naadir Tharpe — will join a new school with some baggage.
The reason Lyons is leaving Xavier is because of a falling out with XU coach Chris Mack, as the story linked says "the guard repeatedly tried to take over games by driving into crowds of defenders or taking long shots."
Lyons also was suspended two games following the ugly Cincinnati-Xavier brawl on Dec. 10, 2011, and didn't help his cause with his postgame comments (He's No. 10 in the video and the second one to talk at the postgame press conference).
Obviously, KU coach Bill Self is aware of what's above and is willing to accept it if Lyons is planning on visiting campus, so let's look at some of the numbers.
Mark Lyons vs. Tyshawn Taylor
After looking at his profile, I couldn't help but notice how similar some of Lyons' numbers were to that of Tyshawn Taylor.
So instead of trying to conceptualize the type of player that Lyons is, I figured we'd compare his numbers last year to that of a player that KU fans know well*.
* — One thing to keep in mind with this exercise: These numbers don't take into account both teams' strength of schedule. According to KenPom.com, KU played the nation's No. 1 schedule last season. Xavier still faced a good slate on its own, finishing with the 30th-best schedule, according to KenPom. It's just something to be aware of when we compare the two players. All stats from KenPom.com.
OK, let's explain the statistics above. Offensive rating is simply a measure of a player's individual efficiency, or the points per possession he creates himself. One point per possession is considered average.
Offensive rating is used hand in hand with possession percentage, which is a measure of what percentage of a team's possessions a player ends while he's on the floor. Basically, this measures how involved in the offense a player is. Average possession percentage is 20 percent.
Shot percentage is the percentage of shots taken when a player is on the floor. Again, average is 20 percent.
From the numbers, we can see Taylor and Lyons played similar roles for their respective teams last year. Both were well-above-average offensive players that took on a huge offensive role for their teams.
The two players did this in different ways. Lyons shot more often than Taylor, but despite his reputation in the article above, this didn't stop him from being an efficient player while he was in.
Taylor, though he shot less, burned a higher number of possessions on turnovers.
Turnover rate (which shows what percentage of a players' possessions were used on turnovers) shows Lyons to be a much more secure ball-handler than Taylor.
So how did both players obtain their efficiency offensively? Let's take a look.
First off, the two players had nearly identical three-point numbers:
Both players helped their teams when shooting three-pointers, making them at a high percentage without taking too many (and yes, we're looking at the whole season and not just Taylor's NCAA Tournament shooting).
Let's look at a few more stats.
This is where Lyons lags behind Taylor just a bit.
Though Lyons took 56 fewer twos than Taylor last year, he was only a 44.4 percent shooter from two-point range (NCAA average last season was 47.8 percent).
Lyons also wasn't as good at getting to the free-throw line, though he was a significantly better shooter than Taylor when he got there.
Taylor also was easily the better passer last year, handing out assists on 29.7 percent of KU's field goals, while Lyons dished out less than a-fifth of his team's assists while he was on the floor.
Lyons' effective field-goal percentage (a number that gives 1 1/2 credit for three-pointers because they're worth 1 1/2 times the points) also is lower than Taylor's, though as we mentioned earlier, his efficiency is still about the same because of his much lower turnover number.
Defensively, with the statistics we have, the two appear to have about the same net impact, though they contribute in different ways.
Lyons helped his team much more on the glass, especially on the defensive end (a 10.3 percent defensive rebound percentage would have ranked fourth on KU last year, behind only Robinson, Jeff Withey and Kevin Young).
The two players' steal numbers are almost exactly the same, while Lyons also blocked one percent of the two-pointers taken against his team.
The one big advantage Taylor had over Lyons was his ability to avoid fouls. Though Lyons fouled out of just two games last season, he had four fouls in eight other contests.
Though Taylor had the better year last year against tougher competition, Lyons' production wasn't far off from KU's senior point guard.
In 2011-12, Lyons was a gifted three-point shooter who was able to play at a high level without turning it over often, though he shot far too many two-pointers considering his poor percentage from inside the arc.
Defensively, Lyons gave Xavier a boost on the boards but oftentimes found himself over-aggressive and in foul trouble.
If he came to KU, the senior would immediately provide experience and scoring on a team that could need it with the departures of Taylor and Robinson.
Though Lyons' high shot percentage will need to be toned down a bit, he could be a nice one-year stopgap for the Jayhawks if Self doesn't believe that Tharpe is ready for a starting role.
Lyons would come with some off-the-court questions discussed earlier, but as far as immediate help goes, Self will have a hard time finding a bigger impact player at this stage in the basketball calendar.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis said you have to set a mentality that matches your philosophy on how things are going to be done. Weis told his players when he first came in that there would be a different way of running business. He also told his players that he was better at being a dad than a coach. The most important thing in college is growing up. But there comes a time when players have to determine when enough is enough. You can give players a couple of hiccups, but there comes a point when 1. things that happen are too severe, or 2. a player has had multiple things occur, and you give them an ultimatum that they start doing the right things, or they're off the team. Usually when a guy is dismissed from the team, it's because of the latter instead of the former. Usually, players are dismissed because of a few incidents instead of one incident. Weis isn't in the business of running guys out of here. But the players need to know that the team is most important.
• In addition to dismissing linebacker Collin Garrett and cornerback Chris Robinson Monday, he talked to them about leadership and tried to put the onus more on the team. Weis isn't going out looking for guys on Saturday nights in Lawrence. Weis believes in letting his players have the normal quality of life of typical college students during the spring when they are not fully in football season.
• The team voted for permanent team captains Monday. When the staff is gone throughout May while recruiting, there will be little guidance from the coaches. Also, the coaches cannot coach players in June because of NCAA rules. So Weis thinks it's important for a team in transition to have leadership. Weis will tell the team today who the captains are, and those captains will be made available to media members later this afternoon.
• Weis says he's excited about the spring game. He's fired up about it. As long as the team doesn't sustain any injuries in the next few practices, KU should have two teams (other than the defensive line, which will have one unit that will play for both teams) and should be able to have some fun.
• Weis says he needs the leadership from the team now. That's why he didn't wait until other players showed up on campus to vote for captains. Those guys coming in don't have the right to come in and be captains without practicing with the team thus far.
• Weis says you only have one opportunity to get it right at a school. He learned a long time ago that it's a lot easier to set that table in the beginning. It's always easier to loosen up on a team when it's been rigid than it is to tighten up on a team that's been loose. Weis is not trying to be a drill sergeant. He's just trying to make practical decisions based on what's happened on and off the field. When you deal with young men, there are going to be issues. But there comes a point when enough becomes enough.
• You want each kid to be successful. You don't want any of them to fail. But at some point, you put them in a situation where they have to decide to grow up.
• KU will actually play a game Saturday for its spring game. The team won't show everything, but it will come out and run it and throw it. If somebody wants to do enough study, the majority of things Weis has done offensively are already on tape somewhere. Offensively, you want to see if you can run and see if you can have good pass efficiency. Weis said he wouldn't call it a glorified scrimmage, because it's going to be more competitive than that.
• Weis will tell his players Thursday which of the two teams they will be on for the spring game.
• Weis believes the team has made great strides in the spring. There's still a bunch of questions, but there area a bunch of answers, too. Weis has a much better feel for his football team, but he said there's still a long road ahead.
• Right now, Weis is disappointed in KU's kicking game in general — not just the kickers, but the kicking game in general. Weis says he's watching the game a different way than reporters do. On kickoff coverage, he's looking for who the first guy down the field is. That guy's probably going to be playing on special teams.
• Weis would like to see his team defensively run around and have some fun during the spring game. At the end of the day, he also wants to see everyone walk off the field healthy.
• Weis has sat at Allen Fieldhouse, which he believes is the mecca of college basketball. He doesn't just watch the game ... he studies coach Self, because he thinks he's a great coach. He like the psychology involved. But Weis also likes the whole experience and how the fans interact with the team. Weis knows when KU is 2-10 and 0-9 in the Big 12, it's tougher for the students to buy in and show loyalty to the football team. Weis thinks the team needs to do something on the field to help with that. if you don't try to make that bond between the football team and students, fans and band, then it's not going to happen. Weis doesn't believe things happen by accident. Weis has made the decision that KU's players will sing the alma mater with the band and students at the end of each home football game. Weis says KU has to be willing to bite the bullet in case it doesn't work out, as it's not easy to sing the alma mater with students after a loss. KU's players will be there after every game, though. It takes effort for the KU students to stay there the whole game, so will they be there? If it all works out, Weis thinks the change will be a really good thing for KU.
• Weis sat down with all of KU's graduating seniors and told them about the NFL Draft process. He talked about the thought process of the teams and how it goes down. He also talked about what their thought process should be if they don't get drafted. Weis gets more questions from kids that he coached at previous schools than the ones at KU, just because he knows those kids better.
• From what Weis has heard about former KU linebacker Steven Johnson, he believes he has a good shot at being on someone's team in the NFL. As a player, that's all you ask for.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas defensive coordinator Dave Campo's comments at his press conference today.
• Turnovers have been a mainstay in almost every defense Dave Campo has been involved in. If you look at the statistics that mean the most, Campo would say that turnovers are at the top of the list. KU's coaches are stressing it. If you look at the year the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, their defense was probably middle of the pack, but they forced lots of turnovers.
• If KU has players that buy into the program and buy into the fact that the only way KU can make up ground is by playing hard ... if KU gets those types of guys on the field, then it's going to get turnovers. If KU can come out this spring knowing the guys it can count on, then it will come out ahead.
• Linebacker Michael Reynolds is the type of athlete that KU needs to get on the film if he's the right guy. He's athletic, can run and can play in space.
• Campo says his linebackers run OK. Part of that might be because they are a bit undersized compared to other linebackers in the Big 12.
• Campo says he's nervous about the guys being able to compete at this level against the guys they have to compete against. The coaches came in knowing this was a challenge. KU ranked around last in defense in Div. I last year. When Campo came in, he felt like the players KU was recruiting could compete in the Big 12. This is a spread offense league, so you've got to have the guys out there that can move in space.
• The first thing everyone told Campo when he moved from a job with the Miami Hurricanes to a job with the Dallas Cowboys was that his players were too small, because he had small 4-3 linebackers. Dallas was faster than everyone else, though. KU's defense will have to sacrifice some size for speed. As long as the players run to the ball, that's all KU's coaches can ask for.
• Campo felt like the offense won the scrimmage that KU had last week. But Campo felt like the defense won a 7-on-7 drill the team had last week.
• Campo has told his group that no one on campus should think that a freshman or junior-college guy is going to go to third-string just because he's new. If he's the best player, he's going to line up No. 1. A lot of places, the guys coming in are immediately third- or fourth-string. This is a different scenario. Campo likes a lot of the guys here, but this is a tryout situation for them right now.
• Campo feels good about KU's secondary as a whole. There are some players there. KU has three DBs coming in that can run, so it's going to be a competition still. Campo feels better about that position than the others on defense.
• Campo thinks the guys' enthusiasm is better now than at any time. The players realize they have to take the field with the attitude that they're going to be a four-quarter ballclub no matter what. The guys are excited about the newness and change and also about the philosophy of the people talking to them.
• When he first got here, Campo didn't think his team ran as well as it needed to. Some guys do. It's not all about running, though. Otherwise, you would only put track athletes on the field.
• No other players have switched from offense to defense in the last two weeks. There are some guys the coaches feel like could be two-way players. The coaches are going to try to get the best 11 guys on the field on offense and defense no matter who it is. The New England Patriots do some of that in the NFL, putting guys on both sides of the ball if it helps the team.
• Campo believes you learn more about your guys when they go live, so the Spring Game will mean something. It's an individual evaluating tool, rather than a group evaluating tool. KU's coaches will go back and see which players perform well instead of looking at which position groups do well. KU is playing more base defense this spring than it will all next year, just because the coaches want to make it easier to evaluate and see which players can perform.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas defensive coordinator Dave Campo's comments at his press conference today.
• Campo apologized for being a little late, saying he was a little discombobulated today. Joe Avezzano, whom Campo worked for at Oregon State and with at Pittsburgh and for about 14 years with the Dallas Cowboys, just passed away in Italy today of a heart attack. He was coaching an Italian football team. Campo conveyed his condolences to Joe and his family.
• Toben Opurum has a chance to be a really good football player. At this point, he's trying to figure out where he is. He started on offense, then moved to outside linebacker/defensive line, and that's a radical change. He had a good year last year, and the coaches feel like he's making good progress. He has a ways to go because it's a new position. Campo thinks Opurum should be on defense. Opurum's an aggressive guy. Campo can't see him having an opportunity past college football as a running back, but defense allows him to show his athleticism.
• Being at KU has been great for Campo. He had known Charlie Weis for a long time, as an admirer more than anything else. When Weis called, Campo took a look at it. Campo wanted a challenge. That's why he's here. Campo feels good about the move and is happy with his decision.
• What makes college exciting is that Campo thinks his strength is teaching, and you can do more of that at the college level. The guys he liked most at the NFL level where the new guys coming in who still wanted to learn more.
• Campo told his players they should know one thing: This is a tryout. It's about running to the football. It's about guys the coaches can rely on in the fall. The tryout isn't just about how they play but also their mentality.
• Campo says right now, the coaches are trying to evaluate who the players are. Scheme is the least of his concerns. Campo wants to know which guys he can rely on.
• There has been a drastic improvement from first spring practice to now as far as guys understanding what the coaches want from the snap of the football to the end of the play.
• Campo says he's going to make sure guys are accountable and make sure those guys on the field are the ones that coaches are going to rely upon to play for four quarters of football.
• The depth chart is fluid. Different guys can move to the top each day. Campo is excited that the guys are starting to realize what the coaches want.
• Campo says three defensive backs were in the facility on their day off to watch film. That's a good sign.
• Campo told his defensive players this is a two-way street. Campo has to prove to them that he can help them get better and that KU is doing things the right way on defense. But at the same time, it's the players' responsibility to prove to him that they can do what he asks them to do. But the only way KU can be successful is if both sides have to buy into each other.
• Campo says his team's speed is not the best. He says he has some guys that can run. But KU doesn't need 30 players on defense that can run. Campo needs 11 guys that can run. KU's 30 best speed guys aren't as good as the top 30 at Oklahoma, but maybe the top six at KU are as good as anybody at OU. KU has to fill in from there. Then you have to find guys that do what you want them to do and do it at full speed.
• Some guys are being evaluated that might move from offense to defense or defense to offense. Campo said he wouldn't mention names as of yet, though.
• Campo thinks KU needs to get better at defensive line. KU also doesn't have a lot of guys there. After coming in, the coaches immediately identified that as an area of need.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of April 2.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 1
Much like Ohio State, Kentucky enters as one of the most balanced teams in college basketball.
The Wildcats rank second in adjusted offensive efficiency and 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Ohio State and UK are the only two teams nationally to rank in the top 11 in both.
Offensively, Kentucky has few weaknesses. The Wildcats are especially strong inside, where they make 53 percent of their twos (19th nationally) and grab 38 percent of the available offensive rebounds (20th nationally). UK almost never turns it over, giving it away on just 17 percent of its possessions (21st nationally).
The Wildcats don't shoot many threes, but they are accurate when they do, making 38 percent (43rd nationally).
And, yes, this is a pretty good free-throw shooting team for coach John Calipari, making 72 percent of its tries (67th nationally).
Defensively, Kentucky has the best effective field-goal defense in the nation (42 eFG%) while also limiting opponents to a 40-percent two-point percentage (second nationally). Most of the reason for this is blocked shots, as UK leads the nation by swatting 20 percent on the opposition's two-point field goals.
Even with the high block numbers, the Wildcats have done an outstanding job avoiding fouls. Opponents average just 15 free throws per game against UK compared to 59 field-goal attempts.
Defensively, Kentucky's greatest weakness is that is doesn't force the action.
The Wildcats create turnovers on just 18 percent of their defensive possessions, which ranks 297th nationally.
Kentucky also isn't the best defensive rebounding team, as the Wildcats grab 69 percent of the available defensive rebounds (121st nationally). Louisville took advantage of this Saturday, when it pulled down 41 percent of the available offensive rebounds (19 of 46) against UK in a 68-61 loss.
Kentucky's bench is even thinner than Kansas', as the Wildcats get just 22 percent of their minutes from reserves (323rd nationally).
Though UK is immensely talented, it doesn't have many veterans on the roster; KenPom's "experience" measure ranks Kentucky as the sixth-youngest team in the NCAA.
Players to Watch
Six-foot-10 forward Anthony Davis has won almost every national-player-of-the-year award thanks to his disruptive defense and efficient offense.
The freshman blocks 14 percent of opponents' two-pointers (third nationally) while also grabbing 24 percent of the available defensive rebounds (49th nationally). Davis also has been able to avoid foul trouble, averaging just 2.4 fouls per 40 minutes (373rd nationally).
Offensively, almost all of Davis' shots come from point-blank range. He's made an eye-popping 67 percent of his twos this year (206 of 307) and also is a good free-throw shooter, making 71 percent of his tries there.
Davis also the best offensive rebounder in Kentucky's rotation, grabbing 11 percent of his team's misses while he's in (184th nationally).
Six-foot-7 wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and 6-9 forward Terrence Jones are similar players, as both rank in the top 300 nationally in offensive rebound percentage and in the top 500 nationally in block percentage while posting identical defensive rebounding percentages (16.3 percent) and two-point field-goal percentages (53 percent). Kidd-Gilchrist is more turnover-prone than Jones, but he's also a better free-throw shooter, making 75 percent of his tries compared to 63 percent for his teammate.
Sophomore guard Doron Lamb and senior guard Darius Miller both enter as accomplished shooters. Lamb has made 47 percent of his threes (73 of 157) while averaging just 1.1 turnovers per game.
Miller, meanwhile, has been efficient inside and out, making 57 percent of his twos (86 of 150) and 37 percent of his threes (55 of 147).
If UK's lineup has a weak link offensively, it's point guard Marquis Teague. He makes just 44 percent of his twos and 31 percent of his threes while turning it over at a high rate.
The national championship game will feature the nation's two best two-point defenses, as both KU and UK have allowed opponents to shoot just 40 percent from inside the arc this year.
The good news for KU is that it won't have to change how it plays. The Jayhawks will be able to play big-for-big against Kentucky — a team that boasts the second-tallest team in the nation in terms of average height according to KenPom.
I think the two biggest keys for KU will be rebounding and the play of Tyshawn Taylor.
The Wildcats are stingy on first shots, but they haven't always been the best at limiting second chances. Though KU has spent most of the tournament shooting like my college intramural team, the Jayhawks have been really good at giving extra energy to track down loose balls and gain extra possessions on the offensive glass.
Also, if you're looking for KU's most favorable matchup, it's Taylor against Teague.
UK's freshman doesn't come away with many steals and also is prone to turnovers himself.
Though Taylor has had some rough offensive games this tournament, this is a game where KU needs him to take advantage of his matchup.
KenPom gives KU a 40-percent chance of winning while predicting a 71-68 UK win.
That score seems a tad high to me, as I'd expect a slow-paced, defensive struggle, especially when you consider it's a tough shooting gym with an officiating crew that shouldn't call many fouls.
Still, this is no David-Goliath. The stats say KU has a legitimate chance at a national title, especially considering the fact that the Jayhawks only have to win a one-game series.
Back by popular demand, here's Kansas senior walk-on Jordan Juenemann's scouting report of KU's next opponent, Ohio State, from a conversation we had Friday.
Jesse Newell: What is your overall impression of Ohio State?
Jordan Juenemann: One through five, they’re really solid. It starts with Aaron Craft and the pride he takes in defense. They play good defense. On offense, they control the tempo. Jared Sullinger’s a beast down there and really talented. Just one through five, they’re a solid team, and they’re hot right now, just like what Coach said. They pride themselves on the defensive end.
JN: What are some of the things they do defensively that make them tough to go against?
JJ: I just think how solid they are. With Aaron Craft, he pressures the ball and tries to keep people outside the paint. With their bigs, they’re really big, and Sullinger can guard about anybody down on the block. They just really contain dribble drive and are just solid with that. They’re long and athletic.
JN: Is Deshaun Thomas a similar guy to some of the other “stretch 4s” you’ve seen?
JJ: Yeah, he is. And it’s nice that we played them in December. It makes them hard with the stretch 4 that you talk about, where Thomas can pick and pop, and he can knock in a three.
He is relatable to (Purdue’s Robbie) Hummel. He can slash and do that. He’s probably a little bit more athletic. But, that is scary to do that. Coach has our defense set up for that. Thomas, he is a good weapon for them.
JN: Thomas Robinson will be key defensively, though, in this game, wouldn’t you say?
JJ: Yeah, because he’ll be starting on Thomas, and Craft will come through the lane and screen him, and Thomas will pop out and have a three, or Thomas will come out and set a ball screen, and then pop down to the corner for a three, like we’ve seen.
He’s on fire now with the points he’s put up. Thomas Robinson is a very key factor, being tuned in defensively to guard Thomas.
JN: We talk about Craft a lot defensively. What does he do better than other people do?
JJ: Yeah, I tried to relate myself to Craft a little bit. Tyshawn (Taylor) came to me at the beginning of the week and said, ‘You’re Aaron Craft for the whole week.’ Craft talked last night that he prides himself in defense. You can tell how defense wins games, and he’s really taken that in. I really like him as a player. I told him in the Lawrence when he came up, I said, ‘I really respect how you play. I love how you play,’ and just what he stands for, too. He prides himself in the defensive end. It’s so important and vital, and you can see where they got now.
JN: A big matchup is he and Tyshawn, but he gets a lot of steals away from the ball too, right?
JJ: He does. He digs into the posts. He’s the best — and Coach said that — he’s the best in the country from digging in the post and stealing it, so you’ve got to be aware of that. And he’s a good screener, too. Just like what I said, when he’s cutting through the lane, he’ll cut up on top of Thomas’ man and screen the big, and so the big can pop like that. So he’s a very smart player and tuned in. He pressures the ball, too. He gets a lot of steals on the ball and got some turnovers from Tyshawn when they played earlier. You can see how important that is.
JN: What are the keys for you guys?
JJ: Just go out and play tough and do what we do and get it inside to Thomas, because they can’t guard him. And play fast and get out and run, and just rebound. That’ll be the key, along with playing tough.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 30.
Team: Ohio State
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 2
In terms of balance offensively and defensively, there's been no NCAA team better this year than Ohio State.
The Buckeyes rank second in adjusted defensive efficiency and seventh in offensive adjusted efficiency — the only team in the nation to be ranked in the top 10 in both.
Defensively, Ohio State is one of the best in the country at limiting second-chance points. The Buckeyes grab 75 of the available defensive rebounds (second nationally) while also thriving in almost every other statistic.
Ohio State forces lots of turnovers (22 percent of possessions, 60th nationally) and also makes it tough inside, where opponents shoot just 45 percent (63rd nationally). Coach Thad Matta also stresses playing defense without fouling, and that shows up in the stats, as the Buckeyes allow just 15.4 free throws per game while playing the nation's 69th-fastest pace.
Offensively, Ohio State's strength also is inside. The Buckeyes make 53 percent of their twos (11th nationally) while also grabbing 36 percent of the available offensive rebounds (33rd nationally). Ohio State rarely turns it over giving it away on just 18 percent of its possessions (30th nationally).
Ohio State's biggest weakness is three-point shooting ... but even that is deceptive.
The Buckeyes have made just 33 percent of their three-pointers this year (223rd nationally), yet each of their five starters are shooting at least 34 percent from three.
This statistic is only possible because Ohio State's bench has been awful from three-point range. If you combine the Buckeyes' eight bench players, they've made just 18 of 92 threes this year (20 percent).
So if you see someone at the scorer's table for the Buckeyes, odds are he's not a threat to hit a three.
Defensively, Ohio State also isn't as strong at defending the three as it is in other areas. Opponents have made 33 percent of their threes this year (87th nationally), but perhaps the more frightening number for the Buckeyes are the high number of three-point attempts they allow.
Exactly 35.4 percent of opponents' field-goal attempts have been threes, while 31 percent of opponents' points have come from behind the three-point line (65th-highest split nationally).
KU isn't a great three-point shooting team, but the numbers suggest that the Jayhawks should have opportunities for open shots from the outside if they want to try their luck.
Like KU, Ohio State also has a very limited bench. Just 24 percent of the Buckeyes' minutes come from their bench (303rd nationally), which is only slightly higher than KU's numbers (23 percent, 309th nationally).
Players to Watch
Six-foot-9 forward Jared Sullinger is one of the best players in the country, ranking third in KenPom's player-of-the-year ranking (behind only Michigan State's Draymond Green and Kansas' Thomas Robinson).
The sophomore Sullinger shoots it well from everywhere, making 54 percent of his twos (207 of 382), 42 percent of his threes (16 of 38) and 77 percent of his free throws (172 of 224). He also draws 6.2 whistles per 40 minutes (52nd nationally), meaning those guarding him have to be wary of foul trouble.
Sullinger is Ohio State's best rebounder on both ends, grabbing 24 percent of the available defensive rebounds (38th nationally) and 12 percent of the available offensive rebounds (113th nationally).
He's no slouch as an on-ball defender, either, blocking 4 percent of opponents' two-point attempts (296th nationally).
Deshaun Thomas is Ohio State's next-best offensive weapon and shoots it nearly as much as Sullinger (taking 26.5 percent of his team's shots when he's in compared to Sullinger's 27.3 percent). The 6-7 forward Thomas can stretch the defense and is a great shooter, making 61 percent of his twos (191 of 315), 36 percent of his threes (49 of 138) and 74 percent of his free throws (81 of 109). He also has an extremely low turnover rate, giving it away on just 10 percent of the possessions he ends (37th nationally). He likes to get to the offensive glass as well, grabbing 10 percent of the available caroms on that end (348th nationally). In this year's NCAA Tournament, Thomas has averaged 22 points and nine rebounds per game.
Six-foot-6 sophomore William Buford also shoots a lot of shots (26.2 percent of team's attempts), but he's much less efficient than Sullinger and Thomas. Part of that is because he's more turnover-prone, and part of it is that his two-point percentage — at 45 percent (140 of 311) — is about three percent lower than the NCAA average. Buford can shoot well elsewhere, making 35 percent of his threes (59 of 168) and 83 percent of his free throws (90 of 109).
Point guard Aaron Craft isn't a huge contributor offensively, but he might be the best defensive player in the nation.
KU coach Bill Self has said the 6-2 guard has the best hands defensively in college basketball, and that shows up statistically, as he grabs a steal on five percent of the defensive possessions he's in (12th nationally). His defensive impact is probably even greater than that, as his pesky nature oftentimes forces illegal screen calls or creates steals that he isn't given credit for in the box score. Offensively, Craft is a distributor, dishing out 25 percent of his team's assists while he's in the game (235 nationally). Though he only shoots 13 percent of his team's shots while he's in, that doesn't mean teams can go without guarding him, as he's made 57 percent of his twos (90 of 158) and 34 percent of his threes (21 of 61) this year.
Much like the North Carolina game, KU will face a team in Ohio State that gets almost all its scoring from two-pointers (59 percent, 18th nationally). This would normally be an advantage for KU, which boasts the nation's best two-point percentage defense (40 percent).
The problem for KU is this is the matchup that has given it the most troubles defensively this year, as Ohio State plays a "stretch 4" in Thomas — the same type of player that Thomas Robinson has struggled guarding all year.
If Robinson can't handle Thomas (and he couldn't in the teams' first game in Lawrence in December; Kevin Young was switched to him in the second half), the whole lineup for KU starts to disintegrate.
Robinson is not quick enough to guard Buford, and leaving defensive specialist Jeff Withey on Sullinger seems like the best matchup, leaving KU few options.
Playing a Triangle-and-2 will be difficult when Ohio State has its starters on the floor, as the defense requires one awful outside shooter to be out there, and each of the Buckeyes' starting five can hit a three if left open.
It should all make for an interesting chess match between Self and Ohio State coach Thad Matta. Basically, though, everything becomes much easier for KU if Robinson is somehow able to stay on Thomas to allow KU to keep the rest of its defensive matchups.
Beyond that, it will be important for Withey to stay out of foul trouble, as KU has no other great options for Sullinger should Withey be forced to the bench.
Defensive rebounding will also be key for KU.
If Robinson is guarding Thomas, he most likely will be pulled away from the basket, meaning players like Withey and Travis Releford need to pick up the slack on the defensive glass against one of the best offensive rebounding teams in America.
Offensively, KU will need to try its best to limit turnovers. Craft is the only Ohio State player who ranks in the top 500 in steal percentage, meaning if a turnover is forced, most likely he's the one creating it. Craft will be matched up on Tyshawn Taylor, though the Ohio State guard has been outstanding this season at forcing turnovers while playing help defense as well. Because the Buckeyes do such a great job of limiting opponents' second-chance points, the Jayhawks' ability (or inability) to avoid turnovers should be magnified in this game.
Finally, because KU is a slight underdog against a team that doesn't foul often, shooting a few extra three-pointers might not be a bad way to go. KU has made just 24 percent of their threes in the NCAA Tournament, but Ohio State's defense appears to be prone to giving up the outside shot. In the teams' first matchup, KU was 9-for-17 from three (53 percent), which included a 5-for-7 performance from Johnson.
Putting up a three-point shot would at least give KU the chance for a high reward (three points) while also presenting a small opportunity for an offensive rebound if the shot is missed.
Against one of the nation's top defenses — and one that forces a lot of turnovers — KU certainly could do much worse than getting an opportunity at three points each possession.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.
• The team always hopes and dreams at the beginning of the season that it can make the Final Four. When KU started this year, the reality was that KU hoped it would be good enough to get in the NCAA Tournament. The players have developed this year, which had to happen for KU to be good.
• Self left out of the road Missouri game thinking KU was pretty good. Then, KU played really well at Baylor that same week. Self realized then this team could play at an elite level.
• Self didn't change his team's approach this NCAA Tournament. It was the same routine as the regular season.
• Self says people should talk more about Kevin Young. The last three weeks, he's pursuing the ball as well as anyone in the program. He's been terrific. Self has total confidence in going to him off the bench. There's no problem going to him in any situation. When he came to KU, the coaches thought he potentially might be the best loose ball guy that the team had. And he's become that. He's active. He's almost like a kamikaze guy, as when he comes in, he's going to make an impact, whether it's positive or negative. Young played great against Ohio State in the teams' first game.
• Ohio State's team has gotten better since the teams' first game. People should talk about Jared Sullinger. He's an All-American. But OSU's other players are pretty good, too. They're not a one-man band by any stretch.
• More than likely, Robinson will not guard Sullinger. Jeff Withey will. But Robinson and Sullinger will match up at times on Saturday.
• OSU's Deshaun Thomas is more of an inside-outside post, while Purdue's Robbie Hummel was more of a fixture on the perimeter.
• Self is happy for Frank Martin. He spoke to him after KSU's run in the NCAA Tournament. Martin told Self that the South Carolina opening was a possibility. It must be a great situation if Martin left. KU has been down there, and South Carolina has a great location and facility. The Big 12 will miss Martin. He's been great for the league.
• Jeff Withey is a guy that coaches constantly have to challenge. He's a great kid, but he's laid-back. Self doesn't think he realizes sometimes how important he is to KU.
• The '08 KU Final Four team would be favored over the '12 KU Final Four team. But the '12 Final Four team wouldn't buy into that. It's amazing to Self how much this team likes competing. This is a close team. Self has had close teams in the past, but he doesn't know if he's had a team this close. There's something about this team, how they ride each other and get on each other. Unless you love the brother you're next to, you're not going to jump his butt. If you don't love the guy, you might be more likely to just go with the flow.
• Thomas Robinson is a guy that's handled all the situations remarkably well, considering the situation he's in. He's been an absolute treat, though he and Self still sometimes have their moments.
• A huge play in the North Carolina game was when Elijah Johnson stole the ball from Harrison Barnes to get a layup at the end of the first half. Guys this year just have a timing to make plays. Withey had a block and tap late. The timing has just been right for this team to make good plays at opportune times.
• This Final Four is a heavyweight group. It's a great field — one KU is proud to be a part of.
• Self wasn't surprised that Robinson was a unanimous first-team All-American. Self thought it was just as cool that Tyshawn Taylor made third-team All-American. That's like first team for him.
• Self isn't sure that losing in the Big 12 tournament was a bad thing for KU. At the time, the loss stunk, but it might have been the best thing for KU.
• To Self, a lot of times the challenging coaching jobs are when you have to manage egos and playing time. In that way, this has been one of Self's easiest coaching jobs, because all the guys have bought in. It might have been harder to get wins, but it was easier to get players to do what Self wants them to do.
• The KU coaches have learned over time that Taylor is one of those kids he wants all the responsibility, and at times earlier in his career, he couldn't handle that. Taylor wanted for this to be his team, and he relishes in that role. That gives him unbelievable confidence. Self is going to live with Taylor's decisions no matter what.
• OSU guard Aaron Craft can slide well defensively, but he's unbelievable at raking the ball from bigs. He's unbelievably bright, knowing angles and positioning. His hands are what make him great defensively.
• Self hasn't been back to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Bourbon Street is fun. Self can't imagine a better site for these four teams in the Final Four. Self could envision the Superdome filling up, no matter how many people it seats.
• This is the best shape the KU athletic department has been since 2008, and it's only going to get better. Self was a fan of Lew Perkins, but Self understands sometimes changes need to be made for whatever reasons. Athletic director Sheahon Zenger has been great since arriving at KU.
On Saturday, I consulted Kansas senior walk-on Jordan Juenemann for a scouting report of KU's next opponent, North Carolina.
The following is a transcript from our conversation.
Jesse Newell: First off, what do you know about North Carolina?
Jordan Juenemann: You talked about last time what sticks out the most. To me, it's their front line with (Tyler) Zeller, a big 7-footer, and (John) Henson, as long and athletic as he is. Then also Harrison (Barnes) at the 3, and just their size. They're also the top rebounding team in the country. I think they're averaging about 42 per game, and that's with 14 offensive rebounds. So that's just really key for them. In transition, they do a lot of stuff in the early offense. It's tough. You really have to stop the ball and get back in transition. They're just so big, and they've had a really good season with only five losses. It's going to come down to a toughness game, for sure ... just willpower.
JN: Defensively, what do they do best?
JJ: They play good defense. Roy (Williams) gets them to play good defense. They really pressure high up the floor, and their bigs are so good that they can just match up one-on-one with any other bigs they face. But they really don't want to play defense that much. They want to get out and run and be on the offensive. You look at their scores ... they're a high-scoring team. They're trying really hard early in the defensive possessions. They just really pressure.
JN: You talked about how they don't have to help off on bigs. How big of an advantage is that?
JJ: That's a good question. We saw that (Friday) night with Jeff (Withey), how he played. We didn't trap the post on C.J. Leslie or any of those guys. We just played straight up. Jeff helped over on T-Rob a little bit with Leslie, and Jeff ended up coming up with some big blocks. It's nice that you don't have to trap out of the post and then the guards don't have to rotate to guard the backside. So that helps out big-time, just knowing that you have confidence like that. Carolina surely does have that with Zeller — he's just such a big body — and Henson. They're blocking a lot and rebounding a lot.
JN: We hear a lot about transition defense. What is the key to that?
JJ: The key is our bigs getting back and being in strong help. You don't think about it all the time. With our bigs and Jeff, they have to run however many feet it is — 86, 90 feet — every time, from baseline to baseline pretty much. And if they get back fast, then that stops the guard from having a wide-open floor. Because when (the bigs) are running back at the top of the key, they can be in strong help and bluff at them and slow them down a little bit. It takes going to the glass on the offensive rebound, then just getting back and finding our man, because they have some shooters, too. Harrison can shoot it, and their 2 man (Reggie Bullock) can shoot pretty well. So that's the key, is just getting back.
JN: That's interesting. Usually we think of guards stopping transition, but really, it's the bigs that are the key, because they clog things up.
JJ: Coach preaches on that a lot, because you see Thomas kind of lag back a little bit and poke at the opposing team when they get the rebound. (Coach) is always like, 'Thomas get back! Thomas get back!' Because it stops a transition layup, too. If you're back at the goal, they can't get that. It's also with guards getting in motion early, picking up and engaging at half-court. It really is on the bigs to do that.
JN: You guys have such limited practice time between these two games. How much can you even pick apart another team in one day?
JJ: That is true, and especially the late night we had (Friday) night. But, they kind of run the same stuff we've seen all year with sets and actions. The big thing would just be keying on what they do in transition early. They do little actions out of that. Just how we're going to guard ball screens, stuff like that. We'll have a practice (Saturday) and get focused in and go through the things that we're going to need to do. But you're right, we don't have much time. We'll mostly just be watching film on them and doing that.
JN: What will be the keys for you guys?
JJ: I've just got to say, it's Carolina, so it's not only going to be about execution or anything about that. It's going to be about making plays, because this is the big-time and the big stage. Like I said, willpower and toughness are going to win this game, not execution or anything. Getting 50-50 balls that are up in the air ... everything.
Rebounding is a big key with them, getting so many rebounds. In the Ohio game, I heard they out-rebounded them by over 30 (63-30). That's just really going to be key. Also, guarding our man and sticking to the gameplan Coach has for us.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 24.
Team: North Carolina
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 7
This might be a surprise, but this year's North Carolina team is actually better defensively than it is offensively (though it ranks in the top 20 nationally in both categories).
The Tar Heels are ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency, mostly because they excel in a few key areas.
For one, UNC almost never gives up free throws. The Tar Heels are No. 1 in the nation in defensive free-throw rate — a statistic that measures how many free throws a team gives up compared to the number of opponent field goals it allows. UNC's opponents have averaged just 13.6 free throws per game, which is even more impressive considering the Tar Heels play at the ninth-fastest pace in the country.
North Carolina's defense also has been able to limit good shots because of its size; UNC comes in as the tallest team in the nation, according to average height per position.
Opponents have made just 32 percent of their threes (67th nationally) and 43 percent of their twos (23rd nationally) against UNC, while the Tar Heels have blocked 14 percent of the two-pointers against them (16th nationally). UNC also doesn't allow many second chances, grabbing 73 percent of the available defensive rebounds (25th nationally).
UNC ranks 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks to two main factors: turnovers and offensive rebounding. The Tar Heels turn it over on just 17 percent of their possessions (10th nationally) and also grab 40 percent of their missed shots (ninth nationally).
North Carolina actually isn't a great shooting team, especially from deep.
The Tar Heels have made 34 percent of their three-pointers (169th nationally) and 50 percent of their twos (108th nationally). They also struggle at the free-throw line, where they shoot just 68 percent as a team (220th nationally).
Defensively, UNC is not a turnover-forcing team, creating giveaways on just 19 percent of its possessions (259th nationally).
The Tar Heels also tend to allow a lot of three-pointers. This season, 36 percent of opponents' shots against UNC have been threes (273rd nationally) and 33 percent of the opposition's points have come from behind the arc (24th-highest split nationally). This trend was evident Friday, when 45 percent of Ohio's shots (32 of 71) and 55 percent of its points (36 of 65) came from three-pointers.
Players to Watch
Let's start with the player that nearly everyone has been asking about this week: point guard Kendall Marshall.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore fractured his wrist last week, and the decision on whether he'll play will be a gametime decision.
Marshall is one of the best passers in the nation, contributing 44 percent of his team's assists while he's on the floor (third nationally). Earlier this week, UNC coach Roy Williams said Marshall was the best guard he'd ever had at attacking teams after they score and pitching ahead to teammates.
Marshall barely shoots, attempting only 12 percent of his team's shots when he's in, but that doesn't mean teams can lay off him. The sophomore has made 53 percent of his twos this year (77 of 146) and 35 percent of his threes (28 of 79).
UNC's best player this year statistically has been 7-foot center Tyler Zeller.
The senior has kept his two-point percentage high (55 percent) despite having to take on a huge offensive role for his team. He also draws 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes (34th nationally) and makes 82 percent of his free throws.
Zeller also has been great on the glass, pulling down 14.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds (33rd nationally) and 19.9 percent of the available defensive rebounds (186th nationally).
Six-foot-10 forward John Henson's role is more that of a defensive stopper. The junior blocks 10 percent of the opponents' two-pointers while he's in the game (24th nationally) while also pulling down 26 percent of the available defensive rebounds (21st nationally). He's actually shot more two-pointers than Zeller this year but has only made 50 percent of his shots from there (194 of 386). Henson also has struggled at the line, where he's just a 52-percent shooter.
UNC small forward Harrison Barnes takes the highest percentage of his team's shots (29.1 percent of them when he's out there), and though he's not as efficient as Zeller, he's still solid.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore has made just 47 percent of his twos (174 of 368) but has countered that by putting in 38 percent of his threes (47 of 123) and 73 percent of his free throws (134 of 184).
Reggie Bullock — a 6-7 guard — is UNC's other main three-point threat.
The sophomore has made 38 percent of his threes this year (65 of 171) while keeping his turnovers down.
Bullock suffered a knee injury during Friday's game against Ohio, but he's expected to play against Kansas.
Sunday's game sets up to be a terrific matchup between two of the best frontcourts in the nation.
There will be a few storylines to watch:
1. UNC gets 60 percent of its points from two-pointers (14th-highest split nationally), while KU is the No. 1 team in the nation in two-point defense (40 percent). Which team will be better at its strength Sunday?
2. Though KU is also reliant on two-pointers (55 percent of its points come from twos), there's a strong possibility that UNC's strong interior defense and ability to avoid fouls will make it tough for KU in the paint. Will the Jayhawks be able to create and make open threes?
That appeared to be a weakness for UNC's defense on Friday, when Ohio made 12 of 32 threes (38 percent). So far this tournament, though, KU has made only 12 of 54 long-range shots (22 percent).
3. Will KU be able to get back in transition? UNC thrives on getting easy points, and Zeller is one of the best big men in the nation at beating his opponent down the floor for easy looks. KU's Thomas Robinson also has been poke-happy lately, trying to knock away defensive rebounds from opponents instead of immediately running to get back on D.
If KU's defense is able to get set, it should be able to get stops against UNC, provided that the Jayhawks are able to get the defensive rebound.
With a limited rotation, KU coach Bill Self might have to use most of his screaming to urge his team to sprint back defensively.
UNC's quick pace also should force Self to go to his reserves a bit more than he might in other games. Self has critiqued himself all year, saying that he's needed to sub more.
He'll have to be extremely disciplined to follow his own advice in KU's biggest game of the year.
I was impressed with Kansas walk-on Jordan Juenemann's ability to break down a matchup from talking to him during this video last week. (Be sure to check it out if you haven't seen it yet.)
So Thursday, I figured I'd get his thoughts about the KU-N.C. State matchup set for 9:17 p.m. Friday.
The following is a transcript from our conversation. I've added links to give you more information about some of the technical basketball terms he discusses in case you'd like to learn more about them.
Jesse Newell: What do you see from N.C. State? What challenges do the Wolfpack bring?
Jordan Juenemann: I see they’re very athletic. That sticks out the most, just with their guards being 6-5, 6-5. A shooter in (Scott Wood) in 6-6 that, 75 percent of his shots are threes. Then you also have their posts, 6-8 and 6-8 with C.J. Leslie and (Richard) Howell. You just see they’re really athletic, and they’re a really good defensive team on the first side, because they get out and pressure. And their bigs are playing well. They’re on a roll, and their athleticism sticks out, and that helps them out.
JN: As a practice squad, what do you guys do to try to prepare your team to get ready for NC State?
JJ: We learned their whole offense, most all their sets and what they do — their regular offense that they fall back into out of everything. Really, they just kind of go out and play. With Lorenzo Brown the point guard, he’s very talented. But we learned their whole sets, and we made sure we went over it live with the first team. And all the guys guarded us in all their actions. And we got it down pretty well.
So it was nice doing that against the first team, so they could practice guarding all those things, because they do some stuff with their bigs. They duck-in a lot with their posts, and they really post hard. And it’s like a Triangle-kind of offense that they get into ...
... where it’s a down screen ...
and duck-ins with their two posts and a guard in it the whole time. So, we were doing that with them.
JN: You said you learned their offense. What do you guys do to learn that?
JJ: Coach (Kurtis) Townsend’s got the scout, so we would meet 20, 25 minutes before practice — the red squad — and Ben (McLemore) and Jamari (Traylor) really helped us out big time. It took us a little bit. It took us longer than it should have. We were expecting 20, 25 minutes. It took us about 30 or 40 minutes with coach Townsend, just because we were doing it each side and really getting it down.
Coach Townsend had all the sets and the names. We correlate the names to what the action is, so that helps out a lot. Just with our experience, we just try to get that down the best we could, because we talk about the national championship year, and coach Townsend said that our red team ran the offense better than the actual team that we played. It really helps out our guys, because you know what’s coming even before the games happen. So to have that asset ... I find it important for us to do that.
JN: How early in the week do you do that?
JJ: We started Tuesday. They guarded us live Tuesday a little bit. Then (Wednesday) quite a bit. Then (Thursday) they guarded us. And we’ll break it down, like that Triangle action with the guard and the two posts. We’ll break it down with just guard and that for a drill in practice.
It’s nothing too advanced or anything. It’s conventional, which is a good thing. They have two post guys and three guards like us, and we’re used to that, unlike the Purdue matchups or Iowa State where your 5-man is bringing it up. ...
JN: So what is a big key for you guys on Friday?
JJ: With their athleticism, they get out and pressure on the first side. We really need to get the ball side to side, because they’ll break down. With them just being so athletic, rebounding is key. Just to keep those guys off the glass, because I think they’re averaging 10 offensive rebounds a game (This season, NCSU is averaging 12.1 offensive rebounds per game).
Then in transition, stopping them, because they just get out and run. Their bigs ... C.J. Leslie, Coach said he’s like Tyshawn (Taylor) but faster — as fast as Tyshawn if not faster. And that’s such a big thing is transition and getting out and going. And Wood will spot up on the three in transition, and we don’t want him to get going. So just like what Coach says is rebounding and transition ... stop that, and that’ll be a big key for us.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 22.
Team: NC State
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35
NC State is best on the offensive end, where it ranks 30th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
The Wolfpack's greatest strength is offensive rebounding, as it pulls down 36 percent of the available caroms (51st nationally). Not only are NCSU's players athletic, they're also tall: Six of the players in the Wolfpack's seven-man rotation are 6 foot 5 or taller.
NC State limits turnovers — giving it away on just 19 percent of its possessions (79th nationally) — and also is a balanced shooting team. The Wolfpack makes 50 percent of its twos (93rd nationally) and 36 percent of its threes (99th nationally).
Having said that, NCSU gets almost all its points inside. Fifty-eight percent of the Wolfpack's scoring comes from two-pointers, which is the 33rd-highest split nationally.
Defensively, NC State is strongest in the paint as well. The Wolfpack allows opponents to shoot just 46 percent from two-point range (81st nationally) while blocking 10 percent of the opposition's two-point shots (93rd nationally).
NCSU also is a strong defensive rebounding team, grabbing 70 percent of the available defensive boards (99th nationally).
NC State does not force teams into many mistakes, creating turnovers on just 19 percent of its defensive possessions (259th nationally) while playing mostly man and 2-3 zone.
The Wolfpack also allows an above-average number of three-pointers, with opponents shooting 34 percent from three against them (141st nationally).
Though NCSU gets most of its shots inside and plays at a fast tempo, it doesn't get to the line much, averaging just 21 free-throw attempts per game.
The Wolfpack also has one of the thinnest benches in the country. NCSU's reserves play just 20.9 percent of the team's minutes, ranking 332nd nationally. That's an even lower percentage than KU (23.5 percent, 309th nationally).
Players to Watch
Statistically, two of NC State's best players are sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown and junior forward Richard Howell.
Though he will turn it over, Brown is great at penetrating and also is one of the nation's best passers, contributing assists on 35 percent of his team's field goals while he's in (29th nationally).
The 6-5 Brown has made 49 percent of his twos (137 of 282) but isn't much of a three-point shooter, making just just 25 of 73 tries from deep (34 percent). Brown is a strong defender, creating steals on 3.1 percent of his defensive possessions (213th nationally) while averaging just 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes (86th nationally).
The 6-8 Howell is an outstanding rebounder on both ends of the floor. He's best on the offensive glass, where he grabs 16 percent of the Wolfpack's misses (17th nationally), but he also leads the team by pulling down 23 percent of the available defensive rebounds (73rd nationally).
Howell is efficient from two-point range, making 50 percent of his shots there (156 of 310). He also draws 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes but isn't a great free throw shooter, knocking down just 64 percent of his shots at the line.
Six-foot-8 forward C.J. Leslie was selected as a second-team All-ACC pick this year but appears to be overrated a bit simply because of a high scoring average (14.6 points per game).
The sophomore, who was Rivals.com's 14th-best player in the class of 2010, takes a team-high 26 percent of his team's shots when he's in the game. He's a good shooter inside, making 54 percent of his twos (181 of 337), and he also provides a presence defensively, pulling down 20 percent of the available defensive rebounds (179th nationally) and blocking 6 percent of opponents' two-point tries (137th nationally).
Some of his other numbers, though, have hurt his overall production. Leslie turns it over at a high clip for a big man, as he's had six games where he's turned it over five times or more. He's also averaged 3.3 turnovers over his last six games and doesn't balance that out with many assists (36 assists in his 33 games this year).
Leslie also draws 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes but has struggled at the line, where he's made just 59 percent (108 of 182).
Junior forward Scott Wood is NCSU's only true three-point threat. The 6-foot-6 Wood is a high-volume, high-accuracy three-point shooter (think in the mold of Baylor's Brady Heslip or Purdue's Ryne Smith), making 42 percent of his treys this year (93 of 223) while keeping his turnovers low.
NCSU's final starter C.J. Williams is someone who probably isn't as assertive as he should be. He's made a team-high 57 percent of his twos this year (122 of 213) but only shoots 19 percent of his team's shots when he's in.
Remember all those characteristics that Purdue had that teams should want to have as an underdog (slow tempo, high risk-high reward offense)?
NC State does not match that profile at all.
The Wolfpack likes to get out in transition and plays at a fast pace, ranking 84th nationally in tempo. If that holds up Friday, KU will have plenty of possessions to prove it's the better team, which is an advantage for the Jayhawks.
As mentioned above, NCSU also rarely shoots threes. Because three-point shooting is highly variable, it's much more unpredictable than two-point shooting. Defenses also can have more of an effect on two-pointers than three-pointers.
In short, a lucky stretch of three-pointers shouldn't sink KU in this game, which is another positive for the Jayhawks.
KU also shouldn't have a problem playing its best lineup. NCSU will play a more traditional starting five with two big men, meaning Jeff Withey should receive huge minutes if he's able to stay out of foul trouble.
The comfort of this game for KU should be that, if NCSU wins, it will have won beating KU at its own game.
The Wolfpack, which scores almost all its points inside, will have to score those points against the second-best two-point defense in the nation (40 percent). It'll also have to try to snatch offensive rebounds away from the nation's top defensive rebounder, Thomas Robinson.
Meanwhile, NCSU's stingy interior defense will have to limit KU's strong front line, which has led the Jayhawks to a 54-percent two-point percentage this year (12th nationally).
KenPom predicts a nine-point victory, giving the Jayhawks a 79-percent chance of winning.
The difference between this game and the Purdue game is that it will be much tougher for NC State to make up those nine points because it doesn't play a risky style.
That isn't to say NC State can't win. But the odds are definitely stacked against the Wolfpack to beat a more talented team in a style, pace and fashion that the Jayhawks are most comfortable playing.
Normally this would be the time to look ahead to Kansas' next opponent, but with such a dramatic finish in KU's 63-60 victory over Purdue on Sunday, I wanted to go back to take a deeper look at the Jayhawks' critical defensive possession in the final minute.
Let's set up the situation. KU led, 61-60, with 23.3 seconds left. Purdue had the basketball after a KU timeout. Here's the cued-up video if you want to follow along.
After the game, Purdue's Robbie Hummel said the plan was for him to come off a screen to receive a pass. We can see from the video that Hummel is supposed to curl around Terone Johnson, who sets a ball screen for teammate Lewis Jackson first.
Something very important happens here: Notice that Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson switch on the original ball screen.
When Purdue had gone to a small lineup this season, most teams put their big man on Johnson, who was easier to guard from the perimeter (31-percent three-point shooter, 22 of 71) than the taller Hummel (38-percent three-point shooter, 72 of 188).
When KU switched in the second half to put Travis Releford on Hummel, Robinson was forced to guard the 6-2 Johnson.
This change forces KU away from its normal defensive principles. Instead of hedging on ball screens, KU — with its small lineup — is now switching all ball screens.
"It's just different," KU coach Bill Self said, "when you haven't practiced that way a ton."
Robinson is focused, though, and switches as he's supposed to. The bigger issue for KU is that this creates a mismatch, putting the point guard Jackson against Robinson, who is a foot taller but not nearly as quick.
Even with the mismatch, Purdue's plan is to get the ball to its best player, Hummel, on this final possession.
Hummel starts to come around the screen when he notices something: Releford is overplaying him defensively.
Releford anticipates Hummel's cut, so he tries to beat him around the screen to deny the ball.
In the middle of a play designed for him, Hummel reads the defense and calls his own audible.
He back-cuts Releford.
And for a few frames, he is wide open.
This is still a tough read for Jackson, who is expecting Hummel to come to the top of the circle to receive a pass.
When he doesn't see Hummel there, it looks like the point guard's instinct takes over, and in this case, that means doing what he does best: trying to drive the ball. Remember, he still has Robinson guarding him.
If Jackson would have looked up, he'd have seen an open Hummel. And if Jackson would've gotten the pass around Robinson, Hummel would have almost certainly had an uncontested layup, as Purdue's spacing would have made it nearly impossible for any of the Jayhawks to help on D.
Even though Hummel's snap decision left him open, the senior said he regretted it afterwards.
"I probably should have just come off the screen," Hummel said, "but he was on top of me, so I tried to back up for a layup."
Hummel described the next few seconds as a scramble.
With Jackson's timid drive cut off by Robinson, Hummel dashes to the perimeter to go get the ball.
When he receives it, Jackson makes a smart play and sets a quick ball screen for him to clear some space.
Remember how well Robinson did switching on the first ball screen above?
He's not as quick to react here. Robinson is late to get to the perimeter to help out Releford on the screen.
The result is Hummel getting off a clean shot on what, a few seconds ago, was a broken play.
"I got a pretty good look," Hummel said. "I thought it was going in. It felt good off my hand. It was just a little bit short. I thought Lewis did a very good job of finding me there, and that's on me to make that one. I just didn't make it."
One last interesting thing on this play: Notice that each KU player, because of Purdue's positioning on the perimeter, has good position for the defensive rebound. Tyshawn Taylor has inside position on Johnson, Conner Teahan has inside position on Ryne Smith and Elijah Johnson has inside position on D.J. Byrd.
Watch what happens, though. Taylor gets caught up in watching the shot and doesn't even attempt to box Johnson out.
With a running start, Johnson deflects the ball away from Teahan, who had kept good rebounding position by staying between Smith and the rim.
The deflected ball zips by Smith before making its way to Robinson.
And here's where Taylor's missed blockout becomes a blessing.
Robinson now has a clear lane to throw cross-court, as Terone Johnson has taken himself out of the play by (correctly) gambling to go for the offensive rebound.
Because Taylor didn't get inside position, that also means he has a head start on the rest of the Boilermakers down the floor. This gives him a two-step advantage for an uncontested dunk to put KU up three.
KU's defense definitely wasn't perfect on the above possession, but as you can see, a missed shot, a blown boxout and a good bounce ended up being enough to get the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 17.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 23
Purdue has been outstanding offensively this year, ranking sixth nationally in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency.
The Boilermakers' greatest strength is getting shots up. Purdue is No. 1 in the nation in offensive turnover percentage, giving it away on just 13.5 percent of its possessions. Opponents also find it hard to get steals, coming away with swipes on just 5.9 percent of Purdue's possessions.
Purdue is a dangerous three-point shooting team, making 37.6 percent of its shots from deep (45th nationally). The scarier part for KU might be the number of three-point attempts the Boilermakers take, as 37.3 percent of Purdue's shots are threes (45th nationally).
Defensively, Purdue hasn't been great. The Boilermakers rank 87th in adjusted defensive efficiency and thrive in few areas after playing the nation's 14th-toughest schedule.
More than anything, the Boilermakers haven't been able to limit good shots. Opponents make 49.4 percent of their twos (231rd nationally) and 34.8 percent of their threes (189th nationally) against Purdue, while the team also doesn't force a lot of turnovers (19.7 percent, 200th nationally).
Purdue does not grab many offensive rebounds, pulling down 31.2 percent of the available caroms (211th nationally). Free throws also are a weakness, as Purdue has made just 65.7 percent of its attempts from the line (281st nationally).
Players to Watch
Even after two torn ACLs, 6-foot-8 senior forward Robbie Hummel remains as Purdue's best player offensively.
The All-Big Ten first-teamer shoots 28.9 percent of his team's shots on the floor (126th nationally) while remaining an efficient player. He's only made 44 percent of his twos this year (117 of 268) but has to be respected as a three-point shooter, making 37 percent there (65 of 175).
Hummel's greatest strength, though, is his ability to not turn the ball over. He is No. 1 nationally in turnover percentage, as just 6.7 percent of his used possessions result in giveaways. Here's another way to look at it: Hummel has more than one turnover in just seven of Purdue's 34 games, and that's while averaging more than 32 minutes per game.
Hummel is also Purdue's best defensive rebounder, grabbing 21.6 percent of the available boards on that end (113th nationally).
Lewis Jackson, a 5-9 point guard, gives Purdue its best threat off the dribble. He's made 50 percent of his twos (114 of 227) while also drawing 4.7 fouls per game. He's not a danger from three, though, where he's attempted just 26 all season (six of 26, 23 percent).
Purdue has two other deadly three-point shooters KU will need to track. Senior Ryne Smith pretty much only shoots threes (he has only 34 two-point attempts all season), but he's made 43.8 percent of his long range shots while taking a whopping 201 of them (88 of 201). His statistical profile almost exactly matches that of Baylor's Brady Heslip, if you're looking for a comparable player.
Meanwhile, Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year D.J. Byrd has made 43 percent of his threes this year (61 of 142) while posting one of the nation's best turnover percentages (8 percent, eighth nationally). He also shoots a lot, putting up 24.9 percent of the Boilermakers' field-goal attempts when he's in.
Don't let Purdue's 12 losses fool you; the Boilermakers played a tough schedule this year and have seven losses to KenPom top-10 teams.
Purdue is a gifted offensive team that is dangerous because it has few turnovers and is nearly guaranteed to get a lot of shots up.
As mentioned above, the scariest part for KU is the high percentage of threes that Purdue shoots. In a one-game setting, this can make for a wide range of outcomes.
Think of it like this: With every three-pointer Purdue takes against KU, it's buying a lottery ticket. Hey, there's the chance that you get 14 straight lottery tickets that lose. If that happens — and Purdue misses almost all its threes — KU has a chance to bury the Boilermakers and win by 20 or more.
But that's the thing about the lottery tickets ... though over time, you will always lose, on a given day, you might win.
As an underdog, the Boilermakers have the tendencies (average-to-slow tempo, high-risk, high-reward offense) that you want when facing a favorite in March.
With a lack of size, Purdue also has played small for much of the year, which included Friday's 72-69 victory over St. Mary's.
We've seen KU struggle when it's had to go small against Missouri, and Purdue could present many of the same challenges Sunday.
In short, Purdue is a scary matchup because it is good offensively and has the potential to make up points with a string of good luck.
KenPom predicts a seven-point KU victory, giving the Jayhawks a 73-percent chance of winning.
The Jayhawks will increase their chances of winning if they limit their help on drives and stick to Purdue's shooters on the perimeter to try to prevent the Boilermakers' lottery tickets.
Meanwhile, KU needs to perform better offensively against a weak defensive team; the Jayhawks posted just 0.96 points per possession against Detroit on Friday.
KU will have to be better Sunday to outscore Purdue ... though the return of guard Tyshawn Taylor to full-time duty should definitely help.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 11.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 115
Detroit's strengths mostly come on the offensive end.
The Titans get to the free throw line often, attempting 24 free throws per game. Detroit also makes a lot of the shots once it gets there (74 percent, 37th nationally).
Detroit has been solid on the offensive glass, pulling down 35 percent of its misses (68th nationally). UDM also is a good shooting team inside, making 50 percent of its two-pointers (92nd nationally).
Defensively, the Titans force turnovers on 22 percent of opponents' possessions (63rd nationally). UDM also blocks a lot of shots, swatting 13 percent of opponents' two-point attempts (26th nationally).
Detroit is not a good team defensively, ranking 178th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency measure.
The Titans haven't defended shooters well this season, as opponents are making 49 percent of their two-pointers (200th nationally) and 37 percent of their threes (294th nationally).
UDM also is foul-prone — allowing 19.9 free throws per game — and isn't a great defensive rebounding team, pulling down just 67 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
Offensively, Detroit has been abysmal from three-point range. The Titans have made just 30 percent of their shots beyond the arc (326th nationally) and average just 15 attempted three-pointers per game.
Players to Watch
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Detroit's best player is former McDonald's All-American Ray McCallum Jr.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore does almost all of his damage from two-point range and at the free throw line. He's made 56 percent of his twos this year (158 of 284) and also draws 4.9 fouls per 40 minutes (322nd nationally). Once he gets to the line, he makes 'em, as he's a 77-percent free throw shooter this year. McCallum also is a good defender, coming away with steals on 2.7 percent of his team's possessions.
McCallum's weakness has been his three-point shooting, as he's made just 25 percent of his treys this year (30 of 120).
Six-foot-6 senior guard Chase Simon is second on the team in points per game (13.5), but he's a much less scary option. Not only is he more turnover-prone than McCallum, he's also a worse shooter inside, making just 42 percent of his two-pointers despite attempting 254 of them.
Simon actually shoots more while he's on the floor (25 percent of his team's shots) than McCallum Jr. (24.8 percent), despite being the less-efficient option.
The one three-point shooter that KU needs to worry about is Jason Calliste, who has made 35 percent of his threes while attempting 4.5 long-range shots per game.
Detroit also has a pair of decent big men in 6-10 junior Eli Holman and 6-11 senior LaMarcus Lowe.
Holman's specialty is rebounding, as he comes away with 14.5 percent of the available offensive rebounds (29th nationally) and 21.4 percent of the available defensive rebounds (119th nationally). He's also efficient offensively, making 61 percent of his twos. One of the only things holding him back is playing time, as he's played in only 41 percent of Detroit's minutes this year.
Lowe, meanwhile, is more known for his shot-blocking. He's swatted 11.4 percent of opponents' two-pointers while he's been in, which ranks 14th nationally.
Detroit has an elite talent in McCallum Jr. and also is the second-best 15th seed, according to KenPom (only Lehigh at No. 86 is better).
Still, there are a few reasons to think that an upset will be unlikely against KU.
For one, Detroit plays at a fast pace, ranking 73rd in adjusted tempo. Usually, the best chance for a much-lower-seeded team to pull off an upset is to slow the pace down and limit possessions. The more possessions there are in a game, the more chances a team like Kansas will have to prove that it is the better team.
Detroit also is a team that does not make — and more importantly, does not take — a lot of three-pointers. Only 27.6 percent of Detroit's field goals are three-point attempts (293rd nationally), meaning KU shouldn't have to worry about its first-round opponent pulling off a stunner by having a lucky stretch of three-point shooting.
The numbers would suggest that the Jayhawks should have success against Detroit's defense — which is about NCAA average — if they can avoid turnovers.
Defensively, KU will need to pay most attention to McCallum Jr. while also avoiding unnecessary fouls that would give Detroit the chance at easy points.
Considering everything, expect KU to be about a 15-point Vegas favorite against Detroit, making it an unlikely upset in the round of 64.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.
• The ball moves on offense much better for KU compared to earlier in the season. Guys also trust each other more and have become more comfortable with their roles. Also, players have gotten better individually.
• Self thinks it's probably a good point that KU's players had to learn to become starters. Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey were ready to be starters because they had gotten better and paid their dues at KU. A lot people say they want to have a greater role, but they have to prove from their actions that they're ready for it. A lot of backup quarterbacks want to be the signal-callers until it's fourth quarter, and you have to go the length of the field and they're rushing six on you. It's something you have to go through and get used to.
• Self doesn't think Thomas Robinson has a huge repertoire of post moves, and KU doesn't teach him a ton. You need to be able to score over your left shoulder and right shoulder, and you need to have a counter to both of those. Self doesn't think there's an important reason to teach a post guy 14 moves. But footwork is different — catching and feeling comfortable with your footwork. Self doesn't think that coaches should cloud young kids' minds with a lot of moves.
Robinson has always had the moves he's had this year in his bag, but he's just never been able to use them. One thing that is good about Thomas: He can shoot it, but he also can drive it and catch you leaning, and if you are leaning, he can make a move off your lean. Danny Manning is good at working with those guy on certain things. You don't need a ton of moves, though; just be good at what you do. NBA players keep it simple as well in the post.
• Self says that KU can be as good on the perimeter defensively as it's ever been during his tenure here. Releford, Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor all have the potential to be lockdown defenders. KU just doesn't play that way all the time. It's not something you just do. Self gets a kick out of coaches that say, 'We're not guarding very good, so we're going to practice defense this week and get great.' It doesn't work that way. It's a mind-set.
• Withey's sweeping hook developed at KU. Sometimes, though, Withey takes himself out of a better shot because he moves himself further away from the basket when he shoots the hook. But Self does think that's an effective move for Withey. He thinks he should probably try to shoot that every game.
• Self says he doesn't care about the Big 12 coach of the year voting. Self says he voted for Missouri's Frank Haith to be conference coach of the year, because he thought he deserved it. Though Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg did a remarkable job as well. Having three different Big 12 coaches of the year this season is a tribute to the coaches in the league. There have been four teams in the league (KU, MU, Iowa State, Baylor) that far surpassed what their expectations were. You could make a case for a lot of different guys. That doesn't bother Self at all, and it's probably good for the league.
• Self didn't guess Withey would be Big 12 defensive player of the year, but he did predict that Withey would lead the conference in blocks before this season started. Withey deserves defensive Big 12 player of the year. Self doesn't think anyone one blocks or alters shots better than him in the conference. Withey has been consistent on the defensive end. One reason Robinson has had such a great year is because Withey defends the other team's best post player to keep Robinson from fouls. Withey has been great for KU. He's had a terrific year.
• Self thinks it's time for Releford to get back to being a defensive stopper. He can get it back through practice and his mind-set. The best way to keep a player from scoring is to not let him shoot it. But that's something that Releford and Johnson can do a better job of. Self is sure that Releford's foot is fine from his injury earlier this year. Self hasn't even thought about that. Self hasn't heard one complaint. He's not getting treatment for it.
• Self thinks distractions have more to do with winning and losing at this time of year than anything else. Some people say, "How can there be distractions?" Self thinks, "How could you not be distracted?" when there are so many things going on with family and people in your ear, including runners, who tell players what they need to show people to increase their stock. If you have 100-percent trust, you have fewer distractions. If a player thinks that people on the outside know more than the people on the inside, you're going to have major distractions.
Mature guys basically cut everybody off. Mature coaches cut everybody off. That's not easy to do at all. Those are the things that Self worries about as much as anything else. Before the VCU game last year, Self has never had a team any looser. It was perfect. Then you go into it, and it just has a different feel to it. Who knows how KU will react, but Self thinks the team will be prepared to react well.
• Manning has been an unbelievable influence for KU. He's been a great role model. He's a great teacher, and the guys respect him. Self can't imagine KU having a better guy coaching big men than Manning. He gets a lot of credit for KU's big men, but Joe Dooley and Kurtis Townsend are great with the guards, too.
• Self thinks that this year's team is a relatively mature group. His team isn't overly mature. KU still blows leads and things like that, but when the going gets tough, KU's guys hunker down pretty well.
• Oklahoma led KU at halftime in Norman, Okla. Texas A&M led KU at home in the second half. A&M plays more like KU, with a lot of man-to-man. KU will work against 3-2 zone in practice just in case it plays OU. The round-robin is good in that it's an easier scout for these other teams, as you've played every Big 12 team recently.
• Self doesn't think offense will be at a premium in the Big 12 tournament. It seems to Self like the second time you play a team in conference, the offense usually isn't as good, because people scout you. Everybody in the league knows all the calls and the tendencies.
• Self says it would be great to play Missouri in the final, because that means KU has won two games in the Big 12 tournament. It would also be fantastic to play Iowa State or Texas, because KU would have won two games.
• Self doesn't know enough about the process to know what KU needs to do to earn a No. 1 seed. To Self, Kentucky and Syracuse are No. 1 seeds on matter what. Also, Self thinks one No. 1 seed will be from the ACC. Maybe one can emerge from the Big Ten. Then Missouri and KU would still be in the running. Self thinks some weird things would have to happen for the winner of the Big 12 to not have a great chance at a No. 1 seed.