Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”
Danny Manning has often been praised for his work with the Kansas University big men since being hired on as an official KU assistant before the 2007-08 season.
But exactly how much have KU's big men improved?
Let's take a look.
For this blog, I will be looking at offensive rating, which basically tells us how many points an individual player produces per 100 possessions.
First, I wanted to take a look at the big men that Manning inherited when he became an assistant coach in 2007: Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun. Manning had each of these players one season.
Before working with Manning, the three players averaged an offensive rating of 108.1; after, they averaged 116.1.
As you can see, each player improved offensively under Manning, with Kaun (9.1 percent improvement) and Jackson (11.6 percent improvement) making the biggest leaps*.
* — A note on offensive ratings: The numbers above don't necessarily mean Darnell Jackson was a better offensive player in 2007-08 than Darrell Arthur. To compare different players, you also need to look at their usage percentage — the percentage of possessions they consume on the floor.
In that year, Arthur's usage percentage was 24.8 percent, while Jackson's was 19.9 percent. Because Arthur was more of a go-to player with KU and took more shots (and tougher shots), it would be expected that his offensive rating might be a touch lower than Jackson's.
Because in all these graphs we are comparing each player to themselves, I didn't include usage percentages. All the usage percentages are listed in parentheses here if you want to see them.
Manning also has worked with six different scholarship big men from their first year at KU (I'm counting Mario Little, who played the four position during most of his time at KU).
Here is what their progression looks like.
OK, there's a lot to get to here.
• First off, there have been 12 instances in these two graphs when a player has spent an additional year at KU under Manning.
In 11 of those 12 instances, that player's offensive rating improved.
Sounds like a potential recruiting tool to me.
Cole Aldrich's junior season is the only time under Manning that a KU big man's offensive rating has gone down from the previous season. And even then, it went from an off-the-charts 124.3 his sophomore year to a still-all-league-like 116.8 his junior season.
• Here are the average offensive ratings for KU players in each playing year under Manning:
Year 1 — 102.1
Year 2 — 115.0 (12.6 percent increase)
Year 3 — 118.9 (3.4 percent increase)
From looking at this, KU's big men are making a huge jump between year one and year two. I was a little surprised that the offensive ratings for KU first-year big men were so low. This would seem to indicate that even though KU isn't bringing in elite freshmen big men that can dominate immediately (think Jared Sullinger and DeMarcus Cousins), it is getting great production out of them after a year in the program.
Also, the jump isn't as significant from year two to year three. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that KU's big men had such high offensive ratings in their second years, many times it was hard to improve much.
• This also might be a good time to temper expectations in the first year for incoming freshmen Braeden Anderson and Jamari Traylor. Recent history would tell us that KU's big men aren't usually offensive studs as freshmen (though as sophomores, they often are).
• Jeff Withey also is an interesting case study here. He had one of the highest offensive ratings from a big man during his first year at KU (109.0) but didn't have a significant increase following his sophomore season like most of the other Jayhawks have had (109.8). I'm sure injuries and limited playing time had something to do with this, along with the fact that Withey's offensive rating his freshman year was pretty darned good for a part-time player.
Just for fun, here's a look at how KU's Manning-led big men compare to other schools' big men over the same time period.
For the schools below, I pulled players out based on three criteria:
- Players had to be 6-foot-7 or taller
- Players had to join their schools in 2007-08 or later
- Players had to play at least 10 minutes per game in their final season
I compared those players' offensive ratings with those of KU's big men from 2007-present under Manning. In each graph, the dark blue lines represent KU players.
Because of the small sample size we can't take too much from these graphs, but I still thought they were interesting to look at. Manning's big men seem to fare pretty well compared to recent big men from other schools.
Note: Reader avaholic below requested a graph of KU's guards in the last four years to compare to the graphs above. Here is that graph. Please note that Tyrel Reed played just six minutes per game his freshman year, and his offensive rating is a bit inflated because of that.
A few notes for a rainy Friday ...
• So just how much do Kansas fans care about recruit DeAndre Daniels' decision?
Quite a bit, if you only go by the KUSports.com traffic reports.
Only three times during the 2011 calendar year has KUSports.com had more than 100,000 visits in one day. Those days are:
- Mon., Feb. 21 (Tyshawn Taylor suspended; 120,250 visits)
- Sun., March 27 (KU loses to VCU; 124,122 visits)
- Thurs., May 19 (Daniels, um, doesn't make a decision; 107,409 visits)
That's a lot of refreshing back to KUSports.com, especially on a day when no new story was posted on Daniels.
In case you're wondering, the latest news I've seen on Daniels comes from Inside Texas Magazine's Blake Munroe, who Tweeted, Just spoke to IMG Academy's Andy Borman who told me he has "no clue" when DeAndre Daniels' decision will be made.
• I was trying to figure out which KU player will be affected most by Daniels' decision, and the one I keep coming back to is Travis Releford.
The junior-to-be was having a solid season last year until a severe sprained ankle kept him out five games. After he returned, he never was able to fully regain his explosiveness, and KU coach Bill Self seemed to lack confidence in him during games late in the season.
Releford's offensive numbers from last year suggest that he was helping the Jayhawks while he was in. His offensive rating (basically, point produced per 100 possessions) was 119.5 according to Statsheet.com, which was fourth-highest in the Jayhawks' rotation behind Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Tyrel Reed.
Releford wasn't a huge go-to guy offensively, putting up 17.9 percent of KU's shots while he was in, but these numbers indicate that he was providing a positive contribution offensively when he was in.
Without Daniels, Releford would appear to be the Jayhawks' starter at the small-forward position, where he would have a huge jump in minutes and also would most likely be the Jayhawks' best on-ball defender, taking that role from the graduated Brady Morningstar.
With Daniels, though, I'm not sure where Releford would squeeze in. Most likely, Daniels would take a majority of the minutes at small forward, leaving Releford as a backup at that position.
Releford did play some at the four position last year, but he's undersized there and would at best be a reserve there competing with Braeden Anderson and Jamari Traylor to be one of the first guys off the bench. Playing at the four also takes away one of Releford's greatest strengths, which is his ability to shut down a perimeter player defensively.
There are other ways this could play out, too. If Daniels came to KU, he could transition to power forward, leaving the three spot open for Releford.
Either way, I'm interested to see what a healthy Releford can do both offensively and defensively in 2011-12. His numbers would suggest that he's ready to handle an increased role.
• Even with Daniels stealing the headlines, KU fans shouldn't overlook the importance of signing forward Jamari Traylor.
Every time I went back to look at KU's rotation for next year, I kept seeing one glaring weakness: post depth.
Before Traylor signed, here were KU's options in the post:
Travis Releford (not his natural position)
Justin Wesley (walk on)
With even one injury next year (and remember, three of the guys on the above list missed some of last season because of injuries), KU would have been down to a scary-thin big-man bench.
During Spodcasters earlier this week, JayhawkSlant.com's Shay Wildeboor compared the 141st-ranked Traylor to Darnell Jackson — a hustle guy and a good rebounder.
And though it's impossible to know how good Traylor will end up being, here's a list of players I found ranked between Nos. 140 and 150 on the Rivals150 in past years who were productive players during college:
2004 — DeMarre Carroll, Missouri (148th)
2005 — Taylor Griffin, Oklahoma (141st)
2006 — Desean Butler, West Virginia (147th)
2006 — Dexter Pittman, Texas (150th)
2007 — Lavoy Allen, Temple (142nd)
2008 — Jio Fontan, USC (147th)
2008 — Marcus Denmon, Missouri (150th)
2009 — Khris Middleton, Texas A&M (140th)
• For KU football fans, this link is a couple weeks old, but it's still a good one if you haven't seen it.
Owen Kemp at the blog Rock Chalk Talk once again sat down with someone "close to the program" to get his post-spring thoughts on the Jayhawks. That person "close to the program" has enough insight in the blog that I would assume it's a current player.
The most interesting thing that I saw was that, so far, KU's vocal leaders have been the offensive linemen and not the quarterbacks. Sounds like a good thing, and a bad thing, for KU.
• Finally, I had to laugh when I stumbled upon Statsheet.com's new site Statsmack.
Basically, the site is set up to help you prove to your friends that, statistically, your college is better than theirs.
I was curious about the site, so I went ahead and typed in the biggest rivalry around this area: Kansas vs. Missouri.
Statsmack listed 45 reasons KU is better than MU. Here are a few of the basketball ones:
• AP Voters think Kansas is better than Missouri (Latest AP Poll: #2 vs Not Ranked)
• Computers think Kansas is better with an RPI this season that is better than Missouri (RPI: #1 vs #37)
• Kansas is a better shooting team (51.4% vs 46.1%) than Missouri this season
• Kansas has been the favorite 32 out of the 35 times (i.e. everyone expects KU to win)
• Over the past 10 years Kansas has had more players drafted by the NBA than Missouri (13 vs 4)
And also a few of the non-basketball ones ...
• More violent crime happens per capita in Columbia so be careful if you visit (when compared to Lawrence (according to the FBI)
• More property crime happens per capita in Columbia so you better protect your valuables if you visit (when compared to Lawrence -- according to the FBI)
• Lawrence isn't as congested as Columbia (population is significantly lower)
• The Kansas basketball team is smarter with a better graduation rate than Missouri (80% vs 44%)
OK, fair enough. So I went ahead and flipped it around.
The site only came up with 10 reasons MU was better than KU. And those reasons weren't the strongest, either. Here are the first three:
• Missouri has an average margin of victory of 7 over Kansas in 24 wins since 1980
• Missouri has come back to win after being down at half against Kansas 4 times since 1996
• The Missouri blocks leader (Laurence Bowers) has more blocks than the Kansas blocks leader (Markieff Morris)
New MU coach Frank Haith has some work to do if that's some of the best Statsmack his fans can claim against their biggest rival.
An innovative partnership between The World Company and four independent, online local news providers has been awarded a grant by J-Lab at American University in Washington, D.C.
PVPost.com, EudoraReporter.com, GardnerEdge.com and KansasCityKansan.com have all agreed to participate in a cooperative with The World Company that allows each partner to use content from one another. The partners, known as the Northeast Kansas News Network, will also explore collaborative marketing, linking and will investigate whether the partnership could form the basis of a regional advertising network.
The grant, which is part of J-Lab's Networked Journalism project, provides $50,000 to be split between The World Company and the partners. That money is expected to be spent on equipment, promotion, marketing and staff time to develop the partnership and also to help improve the quality and amount of content being generated by the independent partners. Jonathan Kealing, assistant director of media strategy at The World Company, is coordinating the project.
“For us, this is a chance to help really develop the regional news ecosystem,” Kealing said. “These partners represent a wide variety of communities and all have as a goal to better inform their communities.”
Kealing said he hoped the grant and the partnerships that come out of it will enable these independent news sites to grow and thrive.
EudoraReporter.com is run by John Schulz, PVPost.com is operated by Jay Senter, KansasCityKansan.com is owned by Nick Sloan and GardnerEdge.com is run by Joel Johns. The partners are using StoryMarket, a new content syndication platform developed at The World Company, to share their content with each other, as well as to make it available to other publishers.
Other news companies that have been awarded J-Lab Networked Journalism grants include the Miami Herald, The (Portland) Oregonian and TucsonCitizen.com.
Who's the best starting five for the Kansas men's basketball team in the last decade?
KU fans will get the chance to decide that over the next two months, as starting Monday, we will open voting for the KUSports.com All-Decade Team.
Here are the details: After consulting with KUSports.com staffers Gary Bedore, Tom Keegan and Matt Tait, we put together a bracket and seedings to rank the top eight KU players at each position* over the last 10 years. To qualify, KU players simply had to play any time from the 1999-2000 season on.
* — Each player was placed in his "best-fit" position, or the one that we most associated him with during his time at KU.
The brackets are below.Enlarge shooting guards bracket Enlarge small forwards bracket Enlarge power forwards bracket Enlarge centers bracket
Voting will begin on Monday with the point guards. We'll open voting for two matchups per day until we reach the semifinals.
To vote, you'll only need your KUSports.com username. You can sign up here if you don't have one.
KUSports.com users will only be allowed one vote per matchup per day, meaning if eighth-seeded Christian Moody is your guy, you might be best recruiting a few friends to help his cause.
Here's the schedule for voting on the KUSports.com All-Decade Team:
Mon., May 9: Sherron Collins vs. Brett Ballard; Russell Robinson vs. Tyshawn Taylor
Tues., May 10: Aaron Miles vs. Jeff Hawkins; Kirk Hinrich vs. Elijah Johnson
Wed., May 11: Mario Chalmers vs. Josh Selby; Kenny Gregory vs. Tyrel Reed
Thurs., May 12: Jeff Boschee vs. Michael Lee; Keith Langford vs. Luke Axtell
Fri., May 13: Brandon Rush vs. Alex Galindo; Brady Morningstar vs. J.R. Giddens
Mon., May 16: Nick Bradford vs. Travis Releford; Xavier Henry vs. Bryant Nash
Tues., May 17: Nick Collison vs. Christian Moody; Darrell Arthur vs. Julian Wright
Wed., May 18: Marcus Morris vs. Darnell Jackson; Wayne Simien vs. Thomas Robinson
Thurs., May 19: Drew Gooden vs. Jeff Carey; Sasha Kaun vs. Jeff Graves
Fri., May 20: Markieff Morris vs. Eric Chenowith; Cole Aldrich vs. David Padgett
Mon., May 23: Point guard semifinal No. 1
Tues., May 24: Point guard semifinal No. 2
Wed., May 25: Shooting guard semifinal No. 1
Thurs., May 26: Shooting guard semifinal No. 2
Fri., May 27: Small forward semifinal No. 1
Mon., May 30: Small forward semifinal No. 2
Tues., May 31: Power forward semifinal No. 1
Wed., June 1: Power forward semifinal No. 2
Thurs., June 2: Center semifinal No. 1
Fri., June 3: Center semifinal No. 2
Mon., June 6: Point guard final
Tues., June 7: Shooting guard final
Wed., June 8: Small forward final
Thurs., June 9: Power forward final
Fri., June 10: Center final
Once KUSports.com users have selected the All-Decade Team, we'll take the winners at each position, put all five names in one poll, and have a two-day voting period on June 13-14 to determine the KU Player of the Decade.
So, who's the best starting five for the Kansas men's basketball team in the last decade?
Starting Monday, it'll be up to you guys to let us know.
The other day, I stumbled upon this video of Kansas freshman running back Darrian Miller's 40-yard touchdown run during a KU scrimmage this spring.
There was a reason it caught my attention: We haven't seen that type of run from KU in the last two seasons.
In 2009, KU's longest run by a running back was just 30 yards by Jake Sharp. That was the lowest mark in the conference, and Colorado (36) was the only other team whose longest running back run was in the 30s.
Amazingly, in 2010, KU was worse when it came to big runs. As Tom Keegan wrote earlier this week, the Jayhawks' longest run by a running back was just 28 yards by James Sims — again the worst mark in the conference.
To put that in perspective, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas had nine, 30-plus-yard runs all by himself last year.
KU's only run of more than 30 yards came from receiver Daymond Patterson, who had a 51-yard run way back in the first game against North Dakota State.
According to cfbstats.com, there were 22 Big 12 players that had two or more 30-yard runs last season.
Also, KU was one of only six Div. I teams (Bowling Green, Buffalo, KU, Minnesota, Washington State, New Mexico State) to have one 30-plus-yard run or fewer last season.
Those six teams, not surprisingly, combined to go 14-58.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the answer for a breakout running back doesn't appear to be someone who played last year.
Last year, we looked at a statistic called "Highlight yards" to identify which KU backs were best at breaking long runs.
The statistic is created by Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall.
Here's a brief explanation.
In general, an offensive line is mostly responsible for the rushing yards near the line of scrimmage. After all, linemen can only move so far in a short period of time and can't continue their blocks way downfield.
Connelly created "highlight yards" to help take the offensive line's impact out of a running back's rushing totals. For "highlight yards," a running back is given no credit for a run of 0-4 yards, half-credit for any yards gained 5-10 yards downfield and full credit for any yards gained 11 yards or further downfield.
For example, a three-yard run gets no highlight yards. A 70-yard run gets 63 highlight yards (3 highlight yards for yards 5-10 of the run, then 60 highlight yards for yards 11-70 of the run).
Highlight yards, then, are a good judge of how explosive a back is and how much of his production came without the help of the offensive line blocking for him.
So how did the Jayhawks fare in 2010?
Connelly posted the final highlight yard totals over at Football Study Hall, and from there, I pulled out only the Big 12 players.
The list below is all the Big 12 non-quarterbacks ranked by highlight yards per carry (only rushers with at least 50 carries are included; the first number is the player's national rank in highlight yards/carry).
2010 Big 12 non-quarterback highlight yards/carry
22. Roy Helu Jr. Nebraska 3.19 highlight yards/carry
31. Jay Finley Baylor 2.99
50. Kendial Lawrence Missouri 2.75
62. Henry Josey Missouri 2.60
78. Cyrus Gray Texas A&M 2.43
124. Kendall Hunter Oklahoma State 2.09
129. Eric Stephens Texas Tech 2.07
130. Daniel Thomas Kansas State 2.06
132. Rex Burkhead Nebraska 2.05
133. De'Vion Moore Missouri 2.04
157. Joseph Randle Oklahoma State 1.87
162. Alexander Robinson Iowa State 1.85
208. Christine Michael Texas A&M 1.60
228. Roy Finch Oklahoma 1.49
244. Rodney Stewart Colorado 1.42
246. Foswhitt Whittaker Texas 1.39
260. Baron Batch Texas Tech 1.31
261. Cody Johnson Texas 1.31
270. DeMarco Murray Oklahoma 1.27
271. Mossis Madu Oklahoma 1.27
283. James Sims Kansas 1.22
290. Jeremy Smith Oklahoma State 1.20
324. D.J. Beshears Kansas 0.84
330. Deshaun Sands Kansas 0.76
343. Tre' Newton Texas 0.63
344. Angus Quigley Kansas 0.55
(347 Div. I players had at least 50 carries)
Amazingly, out of the 26 Big 12 running backs that had at least 50 carries, KU's backs took up four of the last six spots in highlight yards per carry.
Take out freshman James Sims, and KU's other three running backs all finished in the bottom 25 nationally in highlight yards per carry.
I asked Connelly to try to make sense of the numbers above.
"Well, the good news is, Beshears was young and Sims and Sands were super-young," Connelly said. "That said, the fact that they were so much lower than the rest of the conference is a warning sign.
"Looking at the last couple years of data, the only player I saw who averaged 1.20 highlight yards per carry or lower who ended up turning out all right was Tennessee's Montario Hardesty. But even he only averaged 1.52 per carry the next season.
"It's certainly a legitimate concern, as are most concerns regarding the Kansas offense."
Sims, who enters the spring as KU's top running back, appears to be a guy that gets a few more yards than you would expect on each play, though he probably doesn't have the speed to break away for 40- and 50-yard runs.
That means players like Miller, Rell Lewis, Brandon Bourbon (now injured), Dreamius Smith and even Anthony Pierson should come into fall camp trying to win the position of breakaway running back for the Jayhawks.
Two years already is too long to go without one.
Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.
It's two days after VCU's 71-61 victory over Kansas in the Elite Eight, and honestly, the longer I think about it, the worse I think this loss was for KU.
Because it was the Elite Eight and not the first or second round, most KU fans I've read on here have been pretty forgiving and have seemed to shrug off the defeat as "one of those days."
It's just tough for me to see it that way when KU had probably the easiest path in history to the national championship game (KenPom had KU with a 49-percent chance to win the whole thing before the VCU game) before failing to even make the Final Four.
Let's start with this: KU coach Bill Self is a victim of his own success. He took a top-15 preseason team and molded it into one of the best in the country. He won at least a share of his seventh straight Big 12 title and also led his team to a 35-2 record before its final loss.
But that amazing success in the regular season just boosts expectations for the postseason. He's his own worst enemy in that regard.
Having said all that, KU should have cakewalked to the Final Four after getting by Illinois.
I know I bring up KenPom a lot, and his projections gave KU an 88-percent chance of winning the game against VCU on a neutral court. And trust me, the Alamodome was anything but neutral, as KU fans outnumbered the other fans about 10-to-1.
The percentages for KU losing by 10? I can't think that would be better than 1 in 100.
But let's forget KenPom for a second and just look at the Vegas lines. KU was an 11-point favorite over VCU.
I've heard the argument that these same types of upsets in the NCAA Tournament have happened lately at the other big-name schools as well.
I did some research, and that simply isn't true.
Since the 2003-04 season (Self's first at KU), I looked back at all the NCAA Tournament games for the four biggest name college basketball programs: Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.
During that time span, those four teams have gone a combined 31-4 in games where they were favored by 10 points or more in Vegas.
The four losses? Take a look below.
2004 — Kentucky favored by 10 (loss to UAB)
2005 — Kansas favored by 13.5 (loss to Bucknell)
2010 — Kansas favored by 11.5 (loss to Northern Iowa)
2011 — Kansas favored by 11 (loss to VCU)
As a double-favorite in the NCAA Tournament in the last eight years, North Carolina is 10-0. Duke is 9-0. Kentucky is 4-1.
And Kansas is 8-3*.
* — It's worth noting that Kentucky and North Carolina both failed to make the NCAA Tournament during certain seasons in that stretch — something else to keep in mind. Self gets KU to the Tournament every year, which is a credit to him.
When favored by 10-12 points in the last two seasons, KU is 10-0 before the NCAA Tournament. And 1-2 during the NCAA Tournament.
It's something that can't be ignored.
On Sunday, much of KU's improbable loss was blamed on its shooting.
The best shooting team in the nation (KU had a 57 percent effective field-goal percentage* coming in) posted an eFG% of 37.1 percent — the worst shooting performance by the Jayhawks in the last two seasons.
* — eFG% takes into account the extra value of three-pointers by giving them 1.5 times the credit of twos.
KU also made just 2 of 21 threes (9.5 percent), also its worst mark in the last two years.
How bad was it for KU? Here's a typical shot chart for KU, this one from the first half against Richmond. The circled numbers mean a shot was made, while the numbers to the side of the baseline are layups.
Now, look at KU's second half against VCU.
That's right. The Jayhawks made just one true jump shot in 18 second-half attempts (5.6 percent).
Can this be explained? The best shooting team in the nation making one jump shot in an entire half?
You can call it a bad shooting day, but uncanny poor shooting is becoming a pattern for KU in its recent Elite Eight games.
Below are KU's effective field-goal percentages from Self's four Elite Eight appearances, along with KU's season average for eFG% that year.
2004 vs. Georgia Tech — 44.6 eFG% (season eFG% of 51.4%)
2007 vs. UCLA — 44.6 eFG% (season eFG% of 54.5%)
2008 vs. Davidson — 49.0 eFG% (season eFG% of 56.7%)
2011 vs. VCU — 37.1 eFG% (season eFG% of 57.0%)
The point here isn't that KU shot worse than its season average. That's most likely going to happen against a tough opponent in the NCAA Tournament.
In almost all the games, though, KU's shot significantly worse than its season average.
I looked up free-throw percentages from the Elite Eight games, and KU shot below its average in each of those four games as well.
Again, it's something worth exploring for Self. What's the reason for his team's tight play, especially in that Elite Eight round?
"It's amazing to me that we're 6-1 in Sweet 16 and 1-5 in Elite Eight games," Self said Tuesday. "That's the kind of stuff. I need to look at. ... This was the loosest we've ever been going into a game. Even our coaches said, 'Gawdang, if you're tight, no one knows it.' The loosest we've been, so that doesn't guarantee anything either."
It sure appeared to be a different Self once he stepped on the sideline.
One national media member, after watching Self on the bench during the VCU game, told me it almost seemed to him like Self was strangling his team on the sidelines with quick subouts and sharp words, and his team seemed to respond negatively because of it.
Self can't shoot shots, but he can affect the mindset of his team during those games.
Some of these NCAA occurrences don't look like flukes any more. They're starting to look like patterns.
And Self — as he promised Tuesday — will surely do some self-examination to see how his team could be better prepared in future years.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Only two KU players can even be considered for this award, and though Marcus Morris played harder, Tyshawn Taylor earns the M.O.J. for being a little bit better.
Amazingly, the junior guard was the only player on the Jayhawks’ roster to post better than 1 point per possession used against VCU. Taylor notched 1.23 PPP used while ending 17.8 percent of KU’s possessions. His floor percentage (the percentage of possessions he ended where KU scored at least one point) was a team-high 61.3 percent.
Taylor also led KU in effective field-goal percentage (66.6 percent, no one else shot above 46 percent) and assist percentage, contributing 24.6 percent of KU’s assists when he was in.
He just didn’t get help offensively from anyone besides Marcus (0.94 PPP used, 28.6 percent possessions ended).
Room for Improvement
VCU came in scoring 35.4 percent of its points from three-pointers. On Sunday, the Rams scored 50.7 percent of their points from threes.
Yes, VCU did hit some tough threes, but it also hit some wide-open ones as well.
Whether it was poor execution of the gameplan or a bad gameplan, KU unnecessarily helped way too much on dribble penetration, allowing the Rams to kick out for open shots.
It was a drastic two-game turnaround for KU’s perimeter defense. After holding 40-percent three-point shooting Richmond to 4-for-26 outside shooting on Friday (15.4 percent), KU allowed 37-percent three-point shooting VCU to hit 12 of 25 threes on Sunday (48 percent).
Coming in, three-point defense hadn’t been a KU weakness. Opponents had made just 29.8 percent of their threes against KU.
That didn’t matter much to VCU, which made 9 of its first 15 threes during the decisive first half.
Here’s a stat I picked up from John Gasaway on Twitter: In five NCAA Tournament games, VCU has made 43.8 percent of its two-pointers. And 43.8 percent of its three-pointers.
I’m not sure why KU’s defenders were so worried about helping out on drives at the risk of giving up open threes, but it definitely cost the Jayhawks.
In a game full of bad performances, Josh Selby’s was the worst.
The freshman posted just 0.57 points per possession used while ending 11.7 percent of KU’s possessions. In 15 minutes, he also had no rebounds, no assists, no steals and no turnovers.
There’s some debate on the usefulness of the plus-minus statistic, but Selby’s was so bad on Sunday that it’s hard to ignore.
During his 15 minutes on the court, KU was outscored 35-15. That also means, in his 25 minutes off the court, KU outscored VCU by 10.
The play-by-play makes things look even worse.
Selby checked into the game at the 13:38 mark of the first half with KU trailing 12-10. When he left the court at the 9:48 mark, KU trailed 20-10.
Then, in the second half, Selby checked in at the 13:11 mark with KU trailing 46-44. When Selby checked out at the 8:48 mark, KU trailed 57-47.
That’s not all on Selby, obviously. He was part of some funky rotations then, and he was one of only five players out there.
That doesn't change the fact that he was on the court for two of the most important stretches of Sunday’s game. And during those nine minutes, KU was outscored 19-3.
I often talk about players’ points per possessions used. Multiply this number by 100, and you have the statistic known as a player’s offensive rating.
Here are the final offensive ratings for KU’s rotation players this season, along with their percent of possessions ended, from KenPom.com:
Brady Morningstar 122.7 (14.9 percent)
Marcus Morris 122.1 (26 percent)
Tyrel Reed 122.1 (13.1 percent)
Markieff Morris 120.4 (25 percent)
Travis Releford 118.4 (17.1 percent)
Elijah Johnson 114.9 (13.7 percent)
Mario Little 114.0 (18.6 percent)
Jeff Withey 110.0 (20 percent)
Thomas Robinson 109.0 (26.5 percent)
Tyshawn Taylor 104.2 (21.3 percent)
Josh Selby 94.2 (23.8 percent)
Not only Selby the worst offensive player efficiency-wise for KU, he was the worst player by a good margin. He also was the fourth-highest usage player on the team, meaning oftentimes he was taking offensive possessions away from more efficient players.
When Selby became eligible in December, many wondered how much better he could make KU’s offense.
The numbers would tell us that he only made it worse.
KU scored just 0.9 points per possession, the second-worst offensive performance of the season for the Jayhawks behind the Texas loss.
Though KU's offensive rebounding was well above season average (42.2 percent offensive rebounding percentage, compared to season OR% of 36.7 percent) and its turnovers weren't bad (20.6 turnover percentage, which is a good number against VCU), it didn't matter because of the difference in the teams' shooting percentages.
VCU's eFG% of 50.9 percent was just above its season average, while KU's eFG% of 37.1 percent was its worst this season by a mile.
The Rams — coming in not even as a top-100 team in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metric — held KU to the 17th-worst shooting game from a Big 12 team this entire season.
If that's a coincidence, then some pretty unnatural forces were at work Sunday.
There's no doubt Self did a good job this year of learning from the Northern Iowa loss to become a better Tournament coach. He was more focused on dictating tempo this year, pressing Boston and Richmond to speed them up, which helped the Jayhawks pull away during both games in the second half.
The growth should continue after this game.
I heard someone say that this isn't the worst Tournament loss for KU under Self, but it was the biggest blown opportunity. And I agree with that. To make the Final Four, KU had to win four games when it was favored by at least eight points in each game. Then, to make the championship game, KU would have to had beat Butler — a game where it once again would have been about an eight-point favorite.
KU will never, in any year, have an easier road than that.
Self still seems to become a different coach in NCAA Tournament games: His screams are louder, his rants to the officials are longer, his sideline demeanor is more animated and his yanking of bench players is quicker.
I'm not sure why it's necessary when something else has led you to a 32-2 record.
After the Jayhawks scored the first six points on Sunday, VCU went on a 39-15 run. Think about that. How many times this season has KU allowed a team to show that kind of dominance over it?
During the stretch, KU's players looked tight. And nervous. And panicked.
No team can get to 35-2 unless it follows its coach's lead.
KU's players might have been doing that again — only this time, to their detriment.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Self says he has no idea how next year’s roster is shaping up. The guys need some time to unwind and figure out their future plans. It wouldn’t surprised Self if a couple guys or more put their name in the NBA Draft hat, but it wouldn’t surprise Self if they didn’t. It’s a situation where KU needs to have a great spring recruiting class. KU needs to sign between 2-4 kids.
• KU needs to sign a couple of guards/wings.
• Self hasn’t talked to the Morris twins about whether they’re going to the NBA yet.
• Self talks to NBA GMs for his players. The big thing is to have an open line of communication with his players and their families. Self doesn't care either way. Obviously, selfishly he wants them to return, but they have to do what’s best for their families. That might mean leaving.
• Self has spoken to GMs and owners in the business, and most of them think some sort of NBA lockout is likely.
• The twins did great this year. They both improved so much. To Self, it was the best frontcourt in the country. Marcus can stil get better. He thinks those kids are good and can play at the next level.
• Self doesn’t know if you get over losses immediately. Kids do better than adults do with getting over that stuff. With coaches, it’s just a way of life. Your whole family throws itself into the Tournament. It’s a tough deal for everybody. Most disappointing for Self is that the Tournament was set up for KU. The Jayhawks were the better team, in his opinion, but it wasn't on that day. That’s tough to stomach. You have to take advantage of opportunities in life. Self won’t get over this one for a long time, nor should he.
• Self reiterated that he thought the Tournament set up well for KU. He really thought the Jayhawks would play in the national championship game.
• Self says KU was tight against Boston. Against Illinois, KU wasn't tight. Against Richmond, KU didn't look tight. KU played pretty well in the Tournament. The last game, Self thought the more shots KU missed the harder his players tried. There are a lot of things that happened should have went the other way, like a three-second call on a lob dunk or a block/charge on Tyshawn Taylor. VCU's defense had something to do with KU's poor shooting, but it didn't have anything to do with KU's missed open shots in the first half. KU just missed them.
• Self says KU wasn't a good free-throw shooting team all year long, and it didn't cost the Jayhawks a game until the very end. If KU was 10-for-12 from the line in the first half, the game has a totally different feel.
• Thomas Robinson has as much room to improve as anybody. When he plays well, he's terrific, but he can be inconsistent. He needs to take a step like Markieff did this year. He's a terrific player, but he can become a much better player, and Self thinks he will. It's amazing to Self the type of year Robinson had with the year he went through.
• Josh Selby is a talented kid. Primarily due to injury, he wasn’t as effective late. He's a terrific talent. He’ll be fine. He’s a guy moving forward that can be a pro-type guard. This was a tough year for Josh with all the stuff he went through.
• Self feels like right now, in Selby's development, he's more of a two-guard. He has to become more comfortable with that. Many of the guards in the Final Four have experience. Selby hasn't had many reps. He hasn't had a chance to develop.
• If people use the word "choke," it bothers Self. But the reality is, KU didn't play well, for whatever reason. You've got to win a lot of big games to go 35-3. The bottom line is KU lost to a team it was favored to beat. KU just blew a great opportunity.
• This year's team played closer to the ceiling than last year's team, and last year's team was 33-3.
• Self doesn't know if he'll do anything differently in the Tournament against mid-majors. KU has had good success there over time. KU has won the most games in the NCAA Tournament the last 10 years. When you're a high seed, you're going to play teams you're favored against.
• It amazes Self that he is 6-1 in Sweet 16 games and 1-5 in Elite Eight games. That's the stuff Self says he needs to look at. It's what happened in that 48 hours to give KU a better chance in that one game. When KU has plenty of days to prepare, it hasn't been an issue. IS KU too film intensive? Does it get enough rest? That, to Self, is what needs to be evaluated.
• This is the loosest that KU has ever been heading into a game. Self's assistants even said to him, "If you're tight, nobody knows it." That doesn't guarantee anything either. The coaches are thinking about things that don’t have to do with the game. Maybe the coaches don’t let the players watch TV. Maybe the team goes to a movie. It’s one of those things KU has to do a better job of. But players have to play. KU’s whole deal was to attack and be the aggressor.
• USC approached KU to ask if it would be interested in playing the Trojans’ home game in Wichita for financial reasons. USC will get all the gate receipts. It will not be KU’s home game.
All advanced statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 26.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 58
VCU's offense is its strength, as it shoots the ball well while also avoiding turnovers.
The Rams make a high percentage of three-pointers (36.7 percent, 62nd nationally), which is more impressive considering they take a lot of shots from beyond the arc (41.1 percent of their shots are threes, 23rd nationally).
VCU also makes a high percentage of its free throws (71.5 percent) while turning it over on just 17.1 percent of its possessions (25th-best nationally).
Defensively, the Rams do one thing really well: force turnovers. VCU's defense comes away with turnovers on 22.4 percent of its possessions (51st nationally) and creates steals on 12.7 percent of its possessions (11th nationally).
The Rams don't foul much defensively, posting a defensive free-throw rate that ranks 84th nationally. They've also been playing their best defense lately, as three of their last four opponents have been held under 1 point per possession; before that, 13 of VCU's 14 opponents had topped the 1 PPP barrier.
VCU is a veteran group, with its average player having 2.16 years of experience (49th nationally).
VCU just isn't a good defensive team.
The Rams rank 106th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency; if you placed VCU in the Big 12, the Rams would rank ninth in that statistic.
The team's biggest problem is its inability to keep opponents away from the offensive glass. VCU's opponents have grabbed 36.2 percent of their missed shots this year, which ranks the Rams 318th nationally in that category.
VCU isn't good at forcing missed shots either. Opponents make 49 percent of their twos (47.8 percent is NCAA average) and 34.4 percent of their threes (34.4 percent is NCAA average).
The Rams' struggles inside also show up in the offensive statistics. VCU pulls down just 31.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds (213th nationally) while getting 11.4 percent of its two-pointers blocked (306th nationally). VCU's free-throw rate also is just below NCAA average, meaning the Rams aren't a good foul-drawing team.
VCU also has a thin bench, as only 27.1 percent of the team's minutes come from reserves (258th nationally).
Players to Watch
You'll hear a lot about 5-foot-10 senior guard Joey Rodriguez, but he's far from VCU's most efficient player.
Six-foot-9 senior forward Jamie Skeen is better, as he is a great shooter inside (56.3 percent from two-point range) and outside (38.9 percent from three-point range on 72 attempts) while also getting to the free-throw line more than anyone else on the team (free-throw rate ranks 74th nationally).
Six-foot-5 junior Bradford Burgess also is a dual-threat, as he's made 117 of 217 twos (53.9 percent) and 60 of 149 threes (40.3 percent) while turning it over just once every 22.9 minutes.
Rodriguez's strength is his passing, as he's contributed 29.7 percent of his team's assists while he's been on the floor (87th nationally). Still, he's turnover prone (committing a turnover every 15 minutes of gametime) and has been awful inside the arc, making just 65 of 192 shots (33.9 percent).
Also watch for 6-2 guard Brandon Rozzell, who provides VCU with an offensive lift off the bench.
Rozzell's usage is high (he ends 26.9 percent of the Rams' possessions when he's in), but he's been productive by making 71 of 179 threes (39.7 percent) while keeping his turnovers way down (one every 30.1 minutes). He's also quick defensively, coming away with steals on 3.4 percent of opponents' possessions (103rd nationally).
Statistically, this appears to be the second-easiest team KU has faced in the NCAA Tournament, behind Boston in the Round of 64.
Though the Rams have been better defensively as of late, their season-long numbers resemble that of a lower-level BCS conference team.
VCU's biggest weakness will be going against one of KU's greatest strengths, as the Rams struggle with defending the interior and also haven't been able to put up much of a fight on the offensive or defensive glass.
If the Rams hope to have any shot, they'll need to try to play even with the Jayhawks rebounding-wise. Even if they do that, they'll most likely need to hit a lot of three-pointers to win (which they're capable of) while slowing down KU's frontcourt scoring.
VCU does throw a lot of different defenses at teams to try to get steals, and this might not be a bad time for the Rams to try a packed-in zone. Because the Rams are so overmatched inside, that kind of defense would force KU to hit open three-pointers to win.
It might be a long shot, but at this point, so are the Rams.
Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.
After Kansas' 77-57 victory over Richmond on Friday, KU fans should take a second to appreciate just how well KU coach Bill Self and his staff prepared the Jayhawks.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino picked Richmond to beat KU, in part because he said that a few days was not enough time to prepare for the Spiders' unusual style of play.
Self and his coaches proved otherwise.
Richmond had scored 1.30 and 1.20 points per possession in its first two games of the tournament. Though the Spiders played slowly, they still were a highly effective offensive team.
That's until they ran into Kansas, which held Richmond to 0.90 PPP — its second-worst mark of the season.
Tom Keegan goes into some of the changes KU made defensively, which included playing defense a different way than it had all season.
The result was a flustered Richmond team.
The Spiders' effective field-goal percentage of 36.9 percent was its second-lowest percentage of the year.
Perhaps most impressive for KU was its ability to shut down Richmond's assists.
The Spiders, who averaged assists on 59.4 percent of their field goals coming in, had assists on just 31.8 percent of their field goals Friday night. Not only was that the team's lowest assist percentage this year, it was by a large margin; UR's previous low assist percentage this season was 43.5 percent against Charlotte.
The Jayhawks' defense also pressured Richmond. After posting just nine combined turnovers in its previous two games, the Spiders had 11 turnovers against KU.
Over the past week, the Jayhawks' coaching staff did a great job with preparations for the Richmond game, and it showed Friday.
In an Elite Eight filled with big-name coaches (Roy Williams, John Calipari, Billy Donovan, Brad Stevens, Jim Calhoun, to name a few), KU fans should take comfort in knowing they might just have the best of the bunch.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
In a close race between Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor, Morningstar takes M.O.J. after his efficient night.
The senior posted 2.00 points per possession used while ending 13.8 percent of KU's possessions. When he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point 66.9 percent of the time.
Morningstar's effective field-goal percentage of 81.8 percent was highest on the team for among who took more than two shots. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 shooting from three-point range.
The senior also contributed 23.5 percent of KU's assists while he was on the floor and came away with steals on 3.9 percent of his defensive possessions.
It was only the second time all season that Morningstar led KU in scoring (19 points at Nebraska on Feb. 5).
Room for Improvement
KU was awful on the defensive glass.
Richmond came into the game as a terrible offensive rebounding team, grabbing just 28.5 percent of its misses (288th nationally).
On Friday night, the Spiders corralled 36.4 percent of their misses — their sixth-highest mark of the season. Richmond's 16 offensive rebounds also were its second-highest total of the entire year.
For KU, neither of the Morris twins was their normal rebounding self. Marcus' 9.7 percent defensive rebounding percentage was his third-lowest since Big 12 play began, while Markieff's 5.3 percent defensive rebounding percentage was his fourth-lowest mark of the season.
Thankfully for KU, Thomas Robinson posted some ridiculous rebounding numbers, grabbing 29.4 percent of the offensive rebounds while he was in (yep, that's a higher number than Richmond's team averaged coming into the game, and he's only one guy) and 56.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds. So if Richmond missed a shot, more than half the time, Robinson was going to be the person coming away with the ball. Crazy stuff.
KU plays another weak offensive rebounding team in VCU on Sunday, so look for the Morris twins to rebound better after an off night on the glass.
After picking up two quick fouls, Markieff Morris never quite looked like himself on Friday.
The junior forward posted a team-low 0.80 points per possession used while ending 22.4 percent of KU's possessions during his 17 minutes. He made just 2 of 8 shots while posting a team-worst effective field goal percentage of 25 percent.
Markieff did have an impact on the offensive boards (grabbing 34.6 percent of KU's missed shots while he was in), but as mentioned above, he was nearly invisible on the defensive glass, which is usually his strength. Markieff, whose 25.5 percent defensive rebounding percentage ranks him 26th in the nation, grabbed just 5.3 percent of the defensive boards Friday.
Still, Markieff fired the Jayhawks up before the game then helped teammate Josh Selby clean up during the game, so the forward probably had more of an impact than the stat sheet recognized against Richmond.
Though KU didn't perform as well as expected on the defensive glass, the Jayhawks did dominate the offensive glass against Richmond.
The Jayhawks pulled down 44.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds — the third-best mark posted against the Spiders this year.
KU also did a good job of limiting its turnovers offensively, giving it away on just 14.3 percent of its possessions — its lowest mark of the NCAA Tournament so far.
The Jayhawks' 1.22 PPP was its best in its last three games, but it still was tough not to come away more impressed with the team's defense.
KU allowed just 0.69 PPP to Richmond in 32 first-half possessions. To put that in perspective, there was only one game during the entire Big 12 season where a team was held under 0.69 PPP (though that was for an entire game).
The Jayhawks now have outlasted all the other No. 1 seeds, and no matter which team KU plays the rest of the way, it will be the Vegas favorite in that game.
That has to be an encouraging thought for KU fans, along with knowing that the Jayhawks have a coach who can prepare his team for any style that might come its way.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 23.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 37
[Ed. Note — Cool documentary-style video. It's a long video, but worth watching if you have the time.]
Though Richmond has pretty good balance offensively and defensively, its greatest strength is its ability to shoot from anywhere on the court.
Richmond’s effective field-goal percentage (which gives 1.5 times credit for three-pointers, because they’re worth 1.5 times the points) of 53.6 percent ranks 20th nationally and is especially boosted by strong three-point shooting.
The Spiders have made 39.9 percent of their threes this year (ninth nationally); their three most frequent three-point shooters all are better than 41 percent from beyond the arc. Richmond also makes each possession count, turning it over on just 16.4 percent of its possessions (11th nationally).
Defensively, Richmond thrives by forcing poor shooting percentages and avoiding fouls.
The Spiders’ effective field-goal percentage defense of 44.8 percent is 16th nationally, while its defensive free throw rate (a measure of how often a team gets to the free-throw line) of 29.7 is 33rd-best in the country.
Richmond also guards three-pointers well, with opponents making just 30.1 percent of their treys (12th nationally).
The Spiders are a tall team, ranking 19th nationally in effective height (which takes into account the average height of its top two players on the court). They also are an older team, as their players average 2.32 years of college experience (28th nationally).
One final strength for Richmond is its pace. The Spiders play extremely slow, ranking 318th out of 345 NCAA teams in pace. In fact, in its first two games of the NCAA Tournament, Richmond had just 54 possessions each game. To put that in perspective, KU’s lowest possession total all season was 59 against Texas A&M. The lower the possessions, the better chance the Spiders have of pulling off an upset against a more talented Kansas team.
Richmond’s offense is relatively simple: Get a shot every possession, and be sure to make it. The Spiders’ biggest weaknesses come into play when they aren’t making those shots from the floor.
Richmond is a poor offensive rebounding team, grabbing just 28.5 percent of its misses (288th nationally). It also hardly ever gets to the free-throw line, with a free-throw rate of 32.8 — 294th-best in the NCAA.
The Spiders’ rebounding woes also are reflected in their defensive stats, as they are a slightly below average defensive rebounding team; opponents are grabbing 32.8 percent of their misses against Richmond, which is slightly above the 32.3 percent NCAA average.
Richmond doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, taking the ball away on 19.7 percent of its defensive possessions (195th nationally).
The Spiders also aren’t a deep team, as only 27.3 percent of their minutes come from their bench (253rd nationally).
Players to Watch
Six-foot guard Kevin Anderson has received most of the headlines following a 25-point effort in the Round of 64 against Purdue, but 6-10 senior forward Justin Harper is easily Richmond’s best player.
I heard Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy describe Harper as a less physical Marcus Morris, and from the numbers, it’s easy to see why. Harper is tremendously efficient, posting 1.21 points per possession used while ending a large number of Richmond’s possessions (24.6 percent). Marcus’ numbers look awfully similar: 1.22 PPP used while ending 26 percent of KU’s possessions.
Harper is a great shooter, making 58.5 percent of his twos and 45.2 percent of his threes (and he’s attempted 162 three-pointers). His effective field-goal percentage of 62.0 percent ranks 23rd nationally. Though the senior doesn’t get fouled much, he is a 79.3 percent free-throw shooter when he does get to the line.
Harper doesn’t turn it over often, averaging a turnover every 21.5 minutes of gametime. He’s also a presence defensively, where he blocks 4.2 percent of the opposing team’s two-pointers.
Anderson’s scoring is just behind Harper’s (16.7 points per game, compared to 17.8) but he’s not nearly as efficient.
Though Anderson’s three-point shooting is impressive (71 of 168, 42.3 percent) his two-point percentage isn’t (135 of 309, 42.3 percent). The KU guard assigned to him — most likely Tyshawn Taylor — would do well to stick close to him on the perimeter to force him to drive, as his assist rate is OK but not spectacular (he’s averaging a shade over three assists per game). Anderson is definitely less dangerous inside the arc than outside it.
Six-foot-9 senior forward Dan Geriot is best from three-point range, where he’s 42.3 percent this season.
Also, watch for 6-5 forward Kevin Smith, who turns it over often but makes up for it by shooting well. He’s made 55.6 percent of his twos and also is Richmond’s biggest threat to get to the free-throw line, as his free-throw rate of 63.0 ranks 106th nationally.
Richmond’s KenPom rank of 37th lies exactly between two KU opponents earlier this season: Arizona (30th) and Missouri (44th). While this won’t be an easy game for KU, it is a game where the Jayhawks will be heavily favored (10-10.5 points) and one they should be expected to win.
Much like the Boston game, KU should hold a huge advantage inside against Richmond. If the Jayhawks play to that strength and dominate the glass, then there’s no reason to think that the Jayhawks won’t beat the Spiders by double digits.
If Richmond can stay close on the boards, though, it appears that, statistically, it can compete with KU in most other areas. The Spiders’ slow-tempo and three-point-jacking style also is a good formula to win as a heavy underdog.
Perhaps the most similar team KU has played this year to Richmond was Michigan (lots of threes, slow pace, zone defense), and the Jayhawks struggled in that game before coming away with an overtime victory.
I’d expect to see the Jayhawks pressing at every opportunity, trying to speed up the game and tire out the Spiders, especially with their thin bench. The same strategy helped KU in the second half against Illinois on Sunday, as the Jayhawks outscored the Illini, 17-8, in the game’s final 6 1/2 minutes.
Kansas Women's Basketball had another disappointing season. We have been waiting until next year for a long time so you may be surprised that I am excited. Did you know that KU's recruiting class is, according to "HoopGurlz", ranked 29th? The incoming class includes two four-star and two three-star prospects as rated by "HoopGurlz". This will be Coach Henrickson’s best incoming class. Add the newcomers to a good core of returners and they should finally have their breakout season. The "wild card" will be the coaching. Can Coach Henrickson elevate her coaching to the caliber needed to challenge for a Big 12 title? She now has a chance to prove herself with a more level playing field. The only acceptable outcome next season is success in the Big 12 that will earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.
I heard countless times earlier this year that the Kansas men's basketball team's defense was going to keep it from making a deep postseason run.
So far, unlikely as it might sound, KU's defense has been its biggest strength through its first two games of the NCAA Tournament.
The Jayhawks had another impressive defensive effort against Illinois on Sunday, allowing just 0.89 points per possession — the Illini's fourth-lowest PPP number of the season.
Not only did KU force Illinois into a bad shooting night (43.3 eFG%, seventh-worst this year), it did so without fouling. Illinois' free-throw rate (FTs*100/FGs) of 15.0 was its sixth-lowest of the season, while its nine free throws attempted tied for its fifth-lowest of the year.
KU was especially good against Illinois' best offensive player Demetri McCamey, who posted just 0.78 points per possession used — his worst showing in his last nine games.
Here's the breakdown of the teams' points per possession by half:
KU — 1.03 PPP
Illinois — 0.88 PPP
KU — 1.18 PPP
Illinois — 0.88 PPP
While the Jayhawks' offense improved in the second half, KU's defense was consistently good throughout.
It just goes to show we probably shouldn't rush to conclusions about a team in December or January when it still has plenty of time to improve before March.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Markieff Morris beats out Tyshawn Taylor to earn M.O.J. honors against Illinois.
The 6-foot-10 forward posted 1.13 points per possession used while a high number of possessions (27.3 percent). His effective field-goal percentage of 80.7 was the best on the team for players who shot more than once.
Markieff also posted a team-high floor percentage, as when he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point 64.9 percent of the time.
The junior provided value on the glass as well, coming away with 29.7 percent of the available defensive rebounds and 13.8 percent of the available offensive rebounds during his 31 minutes.
Room for Improvement
The Jayhawks made up for an awful offensive rebounding day by grabbing four important ones in the final eight minutes.
Before that, KU had just three offensive rebounds in the first 32 minutes, which would have ranked Sunday's game as one of KU's worst offensive rebounding games all season.
As it was, the Jayhawks ended with a 25 percent offensive rebounding percentage — its fifth-lowest offensive rebounding percentage of the season.
The 25 percent offensive rebounding percentage was well below KU's season average (36.2 percent) and below the average offensive rebounding percentage that Illinois allowed over the course of the year (31.5 percent).
The good news for the Jayhawks is that they took full advantage of the offensive rebounds they did get. From seven offensive rebounds, the Jayhawks scored 12 second-half points, meaning KU scored a whopping 1.71 points per possession when it was able to pull down an offensive rebound.
Tyrel Reed's tough shooting day lands him in this spot.
Reed posted just 0.85 points per possession used while ending 13.2 percent of KU's possessions. His eFG% of 21.4 was lowest on the team; KU scored at least one point on just 35.9 percent of the possessions he used.
It actually wasn't a horrible game for Reed to go cold (1-for-5 from three), as KU was able to win by double digits even without him contributing much offensively.
Reed had made 7 of his last 15 three-pointers coming into Sunday's game (46.7 percent), so I wouldn't think Sunday's struggles will carry over into KU's next game against Richmond.
The last two years, KU's NCAA Tournament losses could be directly linked to unforced turnovers, and for awhile, Sunday's game looked like it might be heading down the same path.
In the first half, KU turned it over eight times in 32 possessions (25 percent), which was much higher than its season average (19.2 percent) and the season average of Illinois' opponents (19.2 percent).
The Jayhawks corrected the problem in the second half, turning it over just four times in its final 34 possessions (11.8 percent).
By securing the ball, the Jayhawks boosted their points per possession, which allowed them to pull away in the second half.
KU has gotten an unbelievable break in its bracket and now will be a heavy favorite to advance to the Final Four.
The Jayhawks have already faced their toughest roadblock on the way to Houston: KenPom gave KU a 69-percent chance to beat Illinois.
Now, according to KenPom, KU has a 66.3-percent chance of making the Final Four and a 42.8-percent chance of making the championship game — the best odds for both of those scenarios of any team left in the field.
Kansas made some important three-pointers in the second half of its 72-53 victory over Boston.
Tyshawn Taylor made one, while Markieff Morris followed with an NBA three to put KU up 15 points with 7:35 left.
At one point, KU made nine straight shots in the second half.
Still, it was KU's defense that was the biggest key in the Jayhawks pulling away from the pesky Terriers.
KU held BU to just 0.84 points per possession — the best defensive mark for the Jayhawks since before Big 12 play began (Michigan, 0.81 PPP).
The defensive numbers look even better if you look at the second half alone.
KU — 1.06 PPP
BU — 0.94 PPP
KU — 1.22 PPP
BU — 0.75 PPP
A big reason for KU's defensive improvement was KU guard Brady Morningstar locking down on BU's John Holland, who scored 10 of his team's first 12 points.
After starting the game 7-for-9, Holland missed his final 10 shots.
Morningstar told me afterwards that it took a little while to figure out how Holland played. The KU guard was expecting more driving to the hoop from him, yet Boston continually had him run around screens to get open set shots, which he was making.
Morningstar changed his style of defense, getting more underneath Holland to force him to drive. Even if he did penetrate, Morningstar knew he'd have help defenders behind him. The key was to not let Holland get clean looks on jumpshots.
The adjustment — and execution of that adjustment — helped KU shut down BU's best player, which in turn severely limited what the Terriers could do offensively in the second half.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
For the second straight game, Tyshawn Taylor picks up M.O.J. honors after giving the Jayhawks a boost offensively.
The junior guard posted 1.51 points per possession used while ending 16.2 percent of the Jayhawks' possessions.
Quietly, Taylor has developed into one of KU's most reliable three-point shooters. In his last seven games, he's gone 8-for-14 (57.1 percent) from three-point range.
Taylor also contributed 37.8 percent of his team's assists while he was in the game, his second highest mark in Big 12/postseason play.
After facing criticism for his carelessness most of this season, Taylor has put together two of his best games at exactly the right time.
Room for Improvement
KU's gameplan in most games should be to attack the paint with its talented forwards, and the Jayhawks didn't do a good job of that, especially in the first half.
Because of that, KU's free-throw rate (FTs*100/FGs) was extremely low.
The Jayhawks posted a free-throw rate of only 14.0, its second lowest mark of the entire season.
KU finished with just eight free-throw attempts, which also was the second-lowest this year, next to the Miami (Ohio) game on Jan. 2 (seven free throws attempted).
BU's packed-in zone looked a lot like Oklahoma State's in the first half, and in some of those scenarios, KU almost will have to hit some open threes to loosen up the defense.
Still, against an overmatched team like BU, the Jayhawks should expect to force it inside enough to get more than eight free-throw attempts.
No KU player had an awful game, so we'll go with Elijah Johnson here simply based on his inability to avoid fouls.
In nine minutes, Johnson racked up a team-high four fouls. That ended up being more than 30 percent of KU's total fouls on Friday (the Jayhawks only had 13).
Johnson did contribute a team-high two steals to go with one assist during his minutes, but his impact was limited because he couldn't stop fouling.
After playing a few solid defensive games in a row late in the Big 12 season, Johnson has struggled as of late. In his last four games, he has 13 fouls in just 41 minutes. That means he's picking up a foul every 3.2 minutes of gametime.
If Johnson can't get that statistic corrected, he's going to have a hard time getting more than a handful of minutes in any NCAA Tournament game.
Though I expected KU to dominate the offensive glass against BU, the Jayhawks ended up taking control by dominating the defensive glass.
KU's 36.7 percent offensive rebounding percentage was almost right at its season average, but its 82.9 percent defensive rebounding percentage was spectacular.
BU's 17.1 percent offensive rebounding percentage was its lowest mark all season. Its previous worst in a game this year was 21.4 percent.
KU's great rebounding effort was just part of a strong overall defensive performance that carried the Jayhawks when their offense stalled in the first 30 minutes.
The Jayhawks now must prepare for the toughest Round of 32 game for any No. 1 seed (or No. 2 seed or No. 3 seed or No. 4 seed), as ninth-seeded Illinois, with its win Friday, has moved all the way up to 16th in the latest KenPom rankings.
3:15 p.m. update:
This one is from Matt Tait, for d_prowess ...
2:20 p.m. update:
Short video of Memphis's players leaving the locker room before their game against Arizona.
1:56 p.m. update:
Another Tait photo ...
12:58 p.m. update:
Matt Tait with the iPhone photography skills ...
12:25 p.m. update:
Journal-World reporter Matt Tait and I are here at the BOK Center, watching Texas and Oakland play.
Figured we'd start up a catch-all NCAA Tournament blog. Want to comment on this game? Others you're watching? Want to complain about your bracket? This is the place to do it.
We'll be posting photos and other notes up here, but we'll also be joining the conversation in the comments section below.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 16.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 24th
Though UNLV is fairly balanced, its strength lies in its defense.
The Runnin’ Rebels rank 14th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, which, if they played in the Big 12, would rank third behind Texas (first) and Kansas (12th).
UNLV likes to pressure defensively, forcing turnovers on 24.1 percent of its opponents’ possessions (17th nationally). The Rebels also force other teams into tough shots, as opponents have made just 43.8 percent of their two-pointers (29th nationally) and 32.4 percent of their three-pointers (64th nationally).
Offensively, UNLV’s strength is inside with its big men. The Rebels make 51.6 percent of their twos (30th nationally) while avoiding blocked shots and turnovers.
UNLV has just 6.6 percent of its two-pointers blocked (14th nationally) and has just 7.5 percent of its possessions end in opponents’ steals (16th nationally).
UNLV doesn’t shoot three-pointers well, making just 33.1 percent of their shots from long range (224th nationally). In fact, the Red Rebels have just two players that shoot better than 34 percent from three-point range on their roster (For comparison, KU has 10 players that shoot better than 34 percent from three, and all of them shoot at least 36 percent). UNLV also is foul-prone defensively, allowing 21.1 free throws per game.
Players to Watch
Obviously, 6-foot-8 Quintrell Thomas is a player to watch after transferring from KU two years ago. Though he’s averaging just 15.2 minutes per game and 6.6 points, he played well in the Mountain West Tournament, where in two games, he combined to score 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting with nine rebounds and five blocks in just 34 minutes.
Six-foot-4 senior guard Tre’Von Willis is UNLV’s go-to guy, posting a team-high 13.5 points to go with 3.6 assists per game.
He’s also dangerous defensively, where he posts steals on 3.3 percent of the opposition’s possessions (124th nationally).
Six-foot-8 forward Chace Stanback, at 13.0 points per game, is more efficient than Willis because of his low-turnover count (one turnover every 20.7 minutes). He also can hit shots from the outside, making 47 of 125 three-pointers (37.6 percent) this season. He’s been especially hot lately, as he made 8 of 13 threes (61.5 percent) during two games at the Mountain West tournament.
Though he plays just 18.8 minutes per game, also look out for 6-foot-3 guard Justin Hawkins off the bench. The sophomore comes up with steals on 4.0 percent of his defensive possessions (38th nationally) while turning it over just once every 26.1 minutes.
The Runnin’ Rebels record is deceiving, as six of their eight losses have come to top-13 KenPom teams.
UNLV could create problems for KU if it’s able to speed the Jayhawks up and force them into turnovers. The Runnin’ Rebels also have four players 6-foot-8 or taller, meaning they have a lot of bodies to throw at KU’s talented frontcourt.
Obviously KU has the edge if these two teams meet, but this wouldn’t be a pushover for the Jayhawks. UNLV was only a one-point underdog at home against San Diego State in the MWC tournament on Friday (a 74-72 loss), meaning KU most likely would be only be about an eight-point favorite if these two teams met in the round of 32.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 20th
Strengths Another balanced team, Illinois ranks 33rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and 23rd in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Offensively, the Illini shoot it well, making 50.4 percent of their twos (69th nationally), 38.7 percent of their threes (22nd nationally) and 72.9 percent of their free throws (63rd nationally).
Defensively, Illinois defends three-pointers well, as opponents have made just 30.5 percent of their threes this year (16th-best nationally). The Illini also block 12.4 percent of their opponents’ two-point attempts (35th nationally).
Illinois also is the tallest team in the nation, with its average player measuring a shade over 6-foot-7. The Illini play two 7-footers and four other forwards who are 6-8 or taller.
Illinois hardly ever gets to the free throw line, averaging just 16.1 foul shots per game (To compare, KU averages 23.4 free throws per game).
For being such a tall team, Illinois is only average on the offensive glass, grabbing just 32.4 percent of the available offensive rebounds (NCAA average is 32.3 percent).
The Illini don’t force many turnovers defensively, as opponents give it away on just 18.7 percent of their possessions (259th nationally). They also have the bad habit of fouling the opposition’s guards, as Illinois’ opponents have made 72.3 percent of their free throws.
It’s true that Illinois has faced a brutal schedule (fifth-toughest, according to KenPom), but the Illini still haven’t been winning many games as of late. After starting the season 13-3, Illinois has gone 6-10 in its last 16 games. The Illini have not won consecutive games since Jan. 2 and 6, and have also lost four of their last six.
Players to Watch
Six-foot-3 senior guard Demetri McCamey is Illinois’ best player, averaging 14.8 points and 6.1 assists per game.
He contributes 35.8 percent of Illinois’ assists while he’s on the court, which ranks 21st nationally, and also is a great three-point shooter, making 70 of 154 treys (45.5 percent).
Seven-foot-1 Mike Tisdale provides a boost on the offensive glass, grabbing 11.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds (201st nationally). The big man is a dangerous shooter from anywhere on the court, making 53.6 percent of his twos (103 of 192), 43.5 percent of his threes (20 of 46) and 80 percent of his free throws (56 of 70). He’s also a defensive presence, blocking 6.8 percent of opponents’ two-pointers when he’s in (88th nationally).
Six-foot-9 senior forward Mike Davis also provides some offensive punch, making 53.1 percent of his two-pointers. He’s also Illinois’ best defensive rebounder, coming away with the carom on 18.4 percent of the opposition’s missed shots during his minutes.
Not only did KU draw KenPom’s top-rated No. 8 seed in the tournament (UNLV), it also drew KenPom’s top-rated No. 9 seed in Illinois.
The Illini have suffered from some tough luck this year, posting a 2-8 record in games decided by seven points or fewer. They also haven’t performed well against elite opponents, going 1-6 against KenPom top-10 teams. An upset over KU would be unlikely, but not out of the question. Illinois was only a 10.5-point underdog at Ohio State on Feb. 22, meaning on a semi-home court for KU in Tulsa, Okla., the Jayhawks would likely be about nine-point favorites.
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 15. For a breakdown of potential KU opponents UNLV and Illinois, check back to KUsports.com Thursday or pick up a copy of the NCAA Preview section in Thursday's Journal-World.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 169
Boston looks to be a team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
The Terriers aren’t turnover-prone, as they give it away on just 19.0 percent of their possessions (NCAA average is 20.2 percent). They also don’t foul much defensively, allowing just 16.7 free throws per game (Kansas allows 19.4 free throws per game).
Though BU’s schedule wasn’t the greatest, ranking 281st in KenPom’s rankings, the Terriers were able to hold their opponents to low shooting percentages. Teams shot just 32.1 percent from three-point range against BU (52nd-best nationally) and 44.1 percent from two-point range (34th nationally) this season.
The Terriers’ style of play might also help them as a heavy underdog, as they rank 295th in tempo out of 345 NCAA teams. A game with fewer possessions gives BU a better chance at an upset. The Terriers also are a good free-throw shooting team (73.1 percent).
Boston has one huge, glaring, can’t-be-missed weakness: It has almost no size.
The Terriers’ tallest player eligible this season is 6-foot-8. And because of that, they struggle in many areas that you’d expect.
Though BU is a decent offensive rebounding team, it has major issues keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Opposing teams are grabbing their own misses 33.5 percent of the time, which ranks BU as 235th nationally in that statistic.
The Terriers also struggle from inside the arc offensively, as they’ve made just 43.5 percent of their twos this season (313th nationally). Exactly one-ninth of their two-pointers taken are blocked (299th nationally).
Because of their struggles inside, the Terriers are happy to fire away from three, as 39.8 percent of their shots taken are three-pointers (the 38th-highest split in the nation). BU also gets 34.6 percent of its scoring from three-pointers (27th-highest split nationally).
Players to Watch
Six-foot-5 guard/forward John Holland won America East Player of the Year this season, and deservedly so.
The senior averages 19.2 points per game while taking on a huge offensive load for the Terriers. He puts up 34.1 percent of the team’s shots while he’s on the court, which ranks 14th nationally. Though he’s not a big assist guy (1.6 per game), he hardly ever turns it over, averaging one turnover every 15.5 minutes.
Six-foot-6 guard Darryl Partin and 6-8 forward Jake O’Brien (done for season, foot injury) score most of their points from long range. Partin has made 62 of 171 threes (36.3 percent), while O’Brien had put in 26 of 66 treys (39.4 percent).
Six-foot-6 Marquette transfer Patrick Hazel is BU’s best defender, blocking 8.9 percent of the opposing team’s two-pointers (41st nationally) while also tying for the team-high with 5.9 rebounds per game.
Though the Terriers come in with an 11-game winning streak and appear to be one of the best 16 seeds in the tournament, they shouldn’t be able to stay close with Kansas on Friday. BU lost to Kentucky by 34 earlier in the season and doesn’t appear to have many ways to slow down KU’s powerful forwards. The big key to watch will be BU on the defensive glass. If the Terriers can limit the offensive rebounds from Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson, they might be able to keep the pace slow, hit a few threes and hang around a while. If KU gets a lot of second-chance points, though, this one has the potential to get ugly in a hurry.
It's that time of year again. March Madness is upon us.
And, that means it's time, once more, for the annual KUsports.com Bracket Contest, presented by Henry T's, Brotherhood Bank, Lynn Electric, Intrust Bank and Crown Automotive.
We've got a new twist this year: you must pick the winners of the play-in games. That means there's just two days to enter our contest, and we've already lost 16 hours! The deadline is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. If you haven't already made a bracket, do it today.
If you've never participated before, our bracket allows you to track yourself against the leaders, any friends you follow on KUsports.com, as well as against our own staff.
As Jesse Newell and I mentioned at an event in Kansas City's Power & Light District this weekend, everyone wants to know when they're beating Tom Keegan.
As I mentioned in the headline, there is a fantastic prize for the best bracketologist among us: a 42-inch, high performance plasma HDTV, courtesy of Kief's Audio/Video in Lawrence.
Get your picks in. Get your brackets set. Good luck!
Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense. Here's the KU-Colorado recap from Saturday, in case you missed it.
Pretty much all year, Texas has had the No. 1 defense in the nation according to KenPom.com.
The Longhorns' defense was ridiculously good starting Big 12 play: UT allowed less than 0.9 points per possession to 10 of its first 11 Big 12 opponents. That included a matchup against KU, where the Jayhawks mustered just 0.88 PPP.
Though Texas' defense hasn't been as dominant in the last month or so, it's still been good enough to easily hold KenPom's billing.
That makes KU's offensive performance against UT in Saturday's 85-73 victory all the more impressive.
The motivated, ready-for-payback Jayhawks posted 1.25 PPP against the Longhorns on Saturday — the most PPP given up by the Longhorns all season. Only two UT opponents have mustered more than 1.16 PPP against the Longhorns (KU and Colorado) this year.
If KU can score like that on Texas, it can score like that on anyone in the nation.
Using a combination of fast-break points, ball movement and perfectly picked set plays by KU coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks had one of their best offensive performances of the season Saturday, especially considering the opposition.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
This award could go a lot of different ways, as five Jayhawks finished with at least 1.26 points per possession used against Texas.
In the end, though, Tyshawn Taylor is the choice for M.O.J. after picking up his first start in four games.
Playing a season-high 37 minutes, Taylor put up 1.54 points per possession used while ending 19 percent of KU's possessions. When he ended a possession, KU scored at least one point 64 percent of the time.
The junior's eFG% of 80 percent was tops on the team, as was his free-throw rate (FTs*100/FGs) of 70.
Taylor was able to drive effectively and under control against UT, then also finish at the rim, which he's struggled with this year. He also benefited most of any Jayhawk when Texas forward Tristan Thompson sat with foul trouble, as many of his drives might have not finished with layups had the disruptive Thompson been in.
Taylor also didn't force things, putting up just 18.6 percent of KU's shots while he was out there — ranking sixth on the team. He contributed 21.2 percent of KU's assists during his time on the floor while turning it over just twice.
I can't remember a better game for Taylor during his time at KU.
Room for Improvement
One big concern for KU heading into the NCAA Tournament will be its inability to turn teams over defensively.
The Jayhawks showed no ability to force turnovers in the Big 12 tournament. Though KU has forced teams to turn it over on 20.3 percent of their possessions this year (which is almost exactly the NCAA average), the Jayhawks forced turnovers just 16.1 percent of the time against Oklahoma State, 14.3 percent of the time against Colorado and 10.3 percent of the time against Texas.
Texas' 10.3 percent turnover percentage was the third-lowest recorded against KU all season. Seven of the last eight KU opponents have turned it over on fewer than 18 percent of their possessions.
The Jayhawks could still stand to crank up the defensive pressure a bit. Even with great defense, it's going to be hard to keep an opponent's point total down when it's getting a shot on nearly every possession.
This is splitting hairs between Josh Selby and Mario Little, who nearly had identical lines, but Little is the pick because of fouls.
Little was 0-for-3 from the floor while racking up three personal fouls and a turnover in just seven minutes. He did add a steal and a defensive rebound and made a couple nice passes to the perimeter for shots that his teammates didn't make.
Selby also wasn't good Saturday, missing his only shot while posting two turnovers a rebound in seven minutes.
Self's rotation appears to be shaping up for the NCAAs, with the bench players most likely appearing in this order: Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson, Little, then Selby.
Though KU didn't force many turnovers, it was still able to limit Texas offensively (1.07 PPP) by dominating the defensive glass and limiting free throws.
KU came away with 73.2 percent of the available defensive rebounds; UT's 26.8 percent offensive rebounding percentage was its third-lowest this year.
The Longhorns' free-throw rate of 22.7 also was its second-lowest of the season.
Offensively, KU used great passing to get easy shots. The Jayhawks outscored the Longhorns, 38-18, in the paint.
KU's eFG% of 62.9 percent also was the highest the Longhorns had allowed since the 2007-08 season.
The Jayhawks end the season as fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency and 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Only three teams rank in the top 15 in both categories: Ohio State (first offense, 10th defense), Duke (fifth offense, fifth defense) and KU.
If you're searching for national championship favorites in your bracket, look no further than those three.
Colorado will finish this season 0-3 against Kansas after Friday's 90-83 loss, but it won't be because a lack of offensive production.
The Buffaloes, following Friday's 1.19 point-per-possession performance, now have posted two of the top four offensive games against KU this year. CU also posted 1.20 PPP against KU at home on Jan. 25 in an 82-78 loss.
If only the Buffs could find some way to slow down KU, even just a little.
After posting 1.26 and 1.24 PPP in their first two games against CU, the Jayhawks did one better Friday and notched 1.29 PPP against the Buffs.
It was the most points per possession scored against CU all season.
KU now has three of the top five PPP games against the Buffs.
CU coach Tad Boyle (nice guy, by the way) told me afterwards that KU simply was a bad matchup for his team because of his squad's lack of size. He went on to say that teams like Kansas State and Iowa State, with fewer true (and big) post players, were much better matchups for his team than teams like Nebraska and KU, who can repeatedly throw big bodies at the Buffs.
After 120 minutes playing against the Jayhawks, the Buffs didn't appear to be any closer to finding a way to stop KU than the first minute of the first game.
Still, with the right matchup in the NCAA Tournament, I could see the Buffs winning a couple games, especially if they are matched up against smaller teams that don't create matchup nightmares inside.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Marcus Morris showed great leadership for KU on Friday, but for the second straight day, Markieff Morris earns the M.O.J.
Though both brothers scored 20 points, Markieff was more efficient. He posted 1.43 points per possession used (compared to 1.11 for Marcus) while ending a well-above average 25.1 percent of KU's possessions. When Markieff ended a possession, KU scored at least one point 80.5 percent of the time — a team-high.
Markieff also scored 10 straight points for KU during a crucial stretch of the first half, helping turn a 24-17 deficit into a 27-26 lead.
The 6-foot-10 center also was KU's best offensive rebounder, grabbing 26.6 percent of the Jayhawks' misses while he was in. He made 6 of 10 field goals and 7 of 8 free throws while turning it over just once.
His final line of 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks once again was made more impressive considering he did it in just 25 minutes.
Room for Improvement
KU's defensive performance ranked as one of its worst of the year.
Colorado scored at least one point on 57.5 percent of its possessions — the second-highest percentage against KU all season (Kansas State's 57.8 percent on Feb. 14 was the worst).
CU also shot the ball well, as its eFG% of 57.1 was the third-best against KU all season.
Though Alec Burks played well and scored 23 points, guards Nate Tomlinson and Levi Knutson that were the reason that CU was so efficient.
The two combined to make 8 of their 11 three-pointers (72.7 percent), as KU did a poor job of getting out to spot shooters after Burks (six assists) drove the lane.
Not many good candidates for this, as most of the Jayhawks played well offensively, but we'll give the tough-luck, "Tough-Luck Line" to Josh Selby.
The freshman posted just 0.81 points per possession used while using a monstrous 31.1 percent of KU's possessions during his 11 minutes. When he ended a possession, KU scored at least one point just 41.0 percent of the time.
Selby made 2 of 6 shots and 1 of 3 three-pointers while posting no assists and two turnovers.
His one positive was rebounding, as he pulled down 24.2 percent of the available offensive rebounds and 19.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
He's oftentimes still a liability for KU with his carelessness, and he's running out of time this season to prove he should get additional minutes in the NCAA Tournament. During Selby's 11 minutes Friday, KU was outscored, 30-23 — one of the factors KU coach Bill Self uses to determine playing time for bench players.
KU won Friday by outscoring Colorado, and it wasn't only because of good shooting; the Jayhawks also thrived by getting to the free-throw line often and dominating the offensive glass.
KU's free-throw rate (FTs attempted*100/FGs attempted) was 60.0, the third-highest mark of the season. It didn't hurt that the Jayhawks made 87.9 percent of their free throws (29 of 33); their 29 free throws made were a season-high.
The Jayhawks also grabbed 50 percent of the available offensive rebounds against the Buffs — the highest percentage allowed by CU all season. KU turned its 15 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points.
In three games against KU this season, CU proved to be more than capable of putting up points.
The Buffs still finished 0-3 simply because they couldn't stop the Jayhawks: not even for a game, not even for a half.
It's a bit ridiculous when you realize what Kansas pulled off Thursday in its 63-62 victory over Oklahoma State.
The Jayhawks trailed by six points at halftime, scored only 28 points in the second half, and still were able to win in regulation.
Obviously, foul trouble hurt OSU in the second half, but the Jayhawks still should be commended for their defensive effort in the final 20 minutes.
Let's take a look at the half-by-half, point-per-possession numbers:
KU — 1.03 PPP
OSU — 1.21 PPP
KU — 1.0 PPP
OSU — 0.75 PPP
As you can see, KU's offense didn't change much Thursday, staying consistently below average in both halves.
It was mostly KU's defensive effort — dropping OSU's production by nearly a half-point per possession in the second half — that allowed the Jayhawks to escape with the close win.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Tough call on this one, as almost all the Jayhawks had an off morning offensively.
We're going to go a little outside the box here and award the M.O.J. to Markieff Morris, even though he was hampered by foul trouble and only played 18 minutes.
Really, he was about the only efficient Jayhawk. He posted 1.21 points per possession used while ending 25 percent of KU's possessions; that's more impressive considering that out of KU's top seven in the rotation, only one other player posted better than 1 point per possession used (Brady Morningstar, 1.09).
Markieff finished 3-for-5 from the floor and also helped foul out OSU's big men, getting to the line five times himself (making four). He came down with 27.7 percent of the available defensive rebounds and tied with Tyshawn Taylor for the highest eFG% on the team (60 percent).
Markieff's 10-point, five-rebound stat line is impressive considering he didn't play much. During his time on the floor, KU outscored OSU, 33-27.
That's enough on this day to earn him an M.O.J.
Room for Improvement
The Jayhawks did a lot of things well against the Cowboys, but they just couldn't shoot a lick.
KU's eFG% of 39.8 percent was its second-worst of the season behind the Michigan game. The Jayhawks' 20-percent shooting from three-point range also tied for their second-worst effort this year, while their 25 threes attempted were their third-highest this season.
KU needed someone — anyone — to hit a couple open long-range shots in a row, as OSU was daring the Jayhawks to shoot it from deep.
Instead, KU's guards combined to go 3-for-20 (15 percent) from three-point range — a number that's almost hard to fathom considering KU's accomplished shooters.
Tyrel Reed just never could get his shot going on Thursday.
After making his first three-pointer just 2 minutes, 55 seconds into the game, Reed missed his next seven long-range tries. Most of those were open shots as well.
The bad shooting killed his stat line. He posted just 0.81 points per possession used while ending 14.5 percent of KU's possessions. Not only that, his eFG% of 18.7 percent was his lowest all season.
He also struggled from the free-throw line, making just 3 of 6 shots there.
Reed appeared to move fine with his foot injury, and he still was able to play 31 minutes against OSU, so for now, we'll just chalk this one up as a bad shooting game.
On a day when shots weren't falling, KU performed well in other statistical categories to come away with a win.
The Jayhawks were above their season average in offensive rebounding percentage (39.1 percent, compared to 36.4 percent), thanks to an outstanding effort from Marcus Morris, who posted a season-high nine offensive rebounds.
KU also took care of the basketball, turning it over on just 12.9 percent of its possessions — its third-lowest percentage this season.
Though shooting is the biggest determining factor in which team wins or loses games, it isn't the only factor.
On Thursday, the Jayhawks' rebounding, sure-handedness and second-half defense saved them on a day when the shots simply would not fall.