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Monday, January 23, 2012

Keegan

Numbers don’t lie: Kansas is good

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Kansas University, which lost two lottery picks and four starters from last season, will appear somewhere in the top five when today’s national rankings are released.

But are the Jayhawks really that good?

Well, yes.

How? In a nutshell, they play more sound basketball — at both ends and especially in transition — than opponents by having mentally stronger and physically quicker athletes play intensely and play together.

Basketball games aren’t often won by the team that has better shooters, rather the one that takes better shots, and few teams do a better job of consistently proving that than the one that faces Texas A&M tonight in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas doesn’t have a starter who counts shooting among his top two strengths. A look at KU’s free-throw accuracy (.655, seventh in the Big 12) indicates pure shooting touches don’t fill the Jayhawks’ roster. Yet, Kansas ranks third in the Big 12 in field-goal percentage (.487), behind Baylor (.500) and Missouri (.492).

Kansas obviously is at its best on the run, where numbers advantages lead to dunks and layups. But even in the halfcourt, KU gets good shots, either from Tyshawn Taylor driving to the hoop for buckets or to set up teammates when the defense breaks down, or by the players moving the ball so quickly with passes the defense can’t keep up.

Despite all the complaining about Taylor’s penchant for wild passes, he is the point guard for the team that leads the conference with a 1.37 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Elijah Johnson (1.92) ranks fifth, Taylor (1.3) ninth.

In an 18-point victory against Baylor in Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas showed superior offensive patience and typically waited to take three-pointers until they were wide-open shots. Baylor repeatedly jacked up threes early in the clock.

In Austin, where Kansas won by three points, J’Covan Brown launched 26 shots in his final 30 minutes on the court, a rate of nearly one per minute. In the game’s final 7:06, Brown took eight shots, the rest of the Longhorns two. Even on a Kansas team in which two players, Thomas Robinson and Taylor, clearly are the best scoring options, that sort of ball-hoggery just doesn’t take place.

Defensively, the quick and conditioned, long and strong, Kansas athletes have limited conference foes to .364 shooting, best in the conference, and .300 three-point shooting, tied with Kansas State for second behind Iowa State (.274). The Jayhawks lead the Big 12 with a plus-6.7 rebounding margin.

Bill Self’s team has become more confident and intense, winning nine in a row since the Davidson debacle. He knows how much his players can handle in terms of turning up the heat in practice and taking off the pressure during games. During a timeout with eight seconds left, KU up two on Texas, and Thomas Robinson set to head to the line for two shots, Self kept it simple.

“I think that’s hard to do when you give guys three scenarios, ‘OK, if we’re up two, if we’re up three, if we’re up four,’ I don’t think that would be smart,” Self said. “I think our guys could forget, or one guy messes up, or next thing you know, a guy clips off an open one.”

Kansas takes a lot more open ones than it allows.

Comments

Jack Wilson 2 years, 2 months ago

My .. what a few wins does to expectations. And here I was at the beginning of the season espousing my philosophical, one season change to "enjoy the ride." And now you all have spoiled it talking Final Four.

Really, the wins change the expectations.

But this is more fun, isn't it? Lower expectations. A team clearly excelling due to superior coaching and preparation(sorry KULA). A team that also clearly has more upside .. see Withey, EJ, and Releford .. who can plainly make strides to the positive.

Don't be surprised if we hit a rough patch to bring us back to earth. There are a couple tough stretches ahead. Or an early loss in the Big 12 tourney. This is not a super team. But this team has demonstrated that it has what it takes to win its last six games. There are no super teams period. No team this season is as good as any of the Final Four teams in 2008. But what team has improved more .. Kentucky or Kansas? Conventional wisdom was that Kentucky would improve in sharper manner .. I don't think so.

What we are seeing before our eyes is a team building character. Defining itself. I see it in Withey's aggressiveness, in TRob's dominance, in TT's efforts to play under control, in EJ's restraint and acceptance of his role -- while still playing with confidence, in Releford lurching reluctantly toward offensive explosiveness. With the latter three, particularly, you see unselfishness. Not saying TT and TRob are necessarily selfish, but do the other three seem to be worrying about their offensive output? That's coaching -- that's coaching a team concept. Winning over their minds.

The talk above about each of these guys playing in the NBA is not just baloney. All five can do it. And if Withey, EJ, and Releford can make positive strides heading into March ... and TT can embrace his new found control. This could be the best starting five in the country. Would you trade this starting five for any other starting five?

Depth? Screw depth. We have no other choice in assessing our depth.

But what we could get is KY going for 14 in the Elite 8 when his team desperately needs him; or Teahan drilling five three pointers against a dreaded mid-major in the Sweet 16; or Wesley droppiong 6 points and grabbing 8 boards with one foul in a magical 12 minute stretch with TRob on bench with 3 fouls.

We've seen magical runs. Magical runs are built on team character. We have a POY candidate. Another banner in the rafters. Perhaps all of that can put us in a position to challenge for the only important banner.

But still enjoying the ride .. just for this year.

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bennybob 2 years, 2 months ago

Depth is still the biggest weakness of this team and we have yet to play a game were that weakness has been properly exploited.

I'm still worried about running into teams that can effectively get the ball inside and go right at Trob. I thought Baylor would be that team, but those were some of the softness "bigs" i've seen with NBA hype in a long time.

The true test for this team will be how they respond when Trob gets into serious foul trouble

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jayhawkintx1973 2 years, 2 months ago

Tom,

You seem to have a short memory. Do you remember the headline for another article Gary Bedore wrote recently?

(Mid)major bummer: Davidson proves KU ‘not that good’

I think that most true blue Jayhawk fans are pleased with the season up to this point. I think that having 4 losses at this point of the season would be acceptable, and that get's Kansas State into the top 25. I wonder which top 25 team isn't "good".

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Steve Gantz 2 years, 2 months ago

There's a pretty hilarious thread here: espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/45784/big-12-power-rankings-6 A bunch of Missouri fans whining about their runt of the family status.

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Chris Shaw 2 years, 2 months ago

I haven't done this stat since the K-State game, but there is one stat I'm very concerned with and that's 3 point FG attempts by the Jayhawk.

If you look in the last two games, I think their numbers are right where they need to be and I would put the Baylor and Texas wins right up there with the best KU has played all season as well as probably 2 of the 5 (K-State, Ohio State, and G-Town) wins KU has had all season.


Baylor: 6-11 from 3 point

Texas: 5-15 from 3 point

That's 42 percent and right where they should be IMO.


As for the other 3 games

Tech: 9-21 from 3 point

OU: 4-19 from 3 point

ISU: 8-26 from 3 point

That's 31.8 percent for that 3 game stretch and OU and ISU played very well against the Jayhawks.


I think the number that is most disturbing is that in the first 25 minutes of the ISU game and that first 5 minutes of the second half where KU was down 9 points at home..............KU attempted 17 of it's 26 attempts during that span. Wow!

I think that stat alone says that KU is not working to their strength and allowing ISU (Just like Davidson) to push KU out of their comfort zone.

I know this sounds like a broken record and this is now the third time I've broken down these numbers this season, but for Wissox's claim just above (Final 4 Bound) to occur................KU is going to have to limit it's 3 point FG attempts.

Kansas has a smaller room for error than most teams so it's got to be more consistent, more efficient, and more focused on it's offensive possessions than past KU teams IMO. So...............limit the 3 point attempts, increase your odds or chances of coming away with a "W".

Keep it up boys! For the most part, I like the results of these last two games.

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Steve Gantz 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm now starting to believe this team has a shot at the Final 4. We've played the best, Kentucky to a first half standstill before wilting. We were a potential blown call away from beating Duke. We beat OSU obviously with the asterisk. GTown has been ranked most of the year. A strange loss to Davidson is worrisome, but we've apparently turned the corner as Big 12 play has begun. The obvious difference has been the play of Taylor. It was like Self uncaged him and let him loose. He's been unbelievable.

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BucknellJayhawk3 2 years, 2 months ago

Saw on nbadraft.net that Withey and Johnson are projected 2nd rounders. I wonder if Taylor will get some love in the draft if he continues to play this way. If he's putting up 20pts, 5 assists, and only 1-2 turnovers maybe he could make the tail end of the 2nd round.

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manginorh00lz 2 years, 2 months ago

In case anyone cares, kenpom ratings are now free of preseason influence.

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William Blake 2 years, 2 months ago

Rankings at this time of year are nothing but fool's gold.

Rankings come April are pure gold!

Keep your eye on the ball, Hawks. We have something to prove this year and it doesn't relate to mid-year rankings. Let your adversaries get caught up in the fluff, while you focus on the prize at the end. Lots of hard work left.

Keep it real... keep it real good!

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Tony Bandle 2 years, 2 months ago

2011-12.................2012-13..............2013-14 Taylor - SR.............####..................#### Teahan - SR...........####..................#### Robinson - JR.........####..................#### Releford - JR...........SR....................#### Johnson - JR...........SR....................#### Withey - JR.............SR....................#### Young - JR..............SR....................#### Wesley - SO...........JR.....................SR Tharpe - FR.............SO....................JR Lindsey - FR............SO....................JR BenMac - RS...........FR....................SO Traylor - RS.............FR....................SO Ellis#######............FR....................SO White######...........FR.....................SO Peters#####............FR.....................SO Adams#####...........FR.....................SO Lucas######...........FR.....................SO Frankenkamp############...............FR Greene#################................FR

Just a current snap shot of our recruiting but as you all can see, we're going to be really, really good next season and really, really young the season after that!!

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Kyle Neuer 2 years, 2 months ago

Talk to me after the Mizzou game. Until then, it's all guessing/projecting.

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REHawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Whatever happens with the rankings today, or the final conference or national outcome, at the moment I am a very proud and gleeful Jayhawk fan, relieved at last to be pounding a bass drum on Tyshawn Taylor's bandwagon, hoping beyond hope, perhaps, that this squad can remain free of lingering injury, once again amazed at the coaching acumen and iron will which Bill Self has instilled in his troops. These Jayhawks are taking us on a merry ride.

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Mike Barnhart 2 years, 2 months ago

Had Elijah and Travis progressed a little faster, either one could have taken minutes from Tyrell and Brady last year. That may have made a difference against VCU!

My point is, some of the surprise talent on this years team was also here last year, just not quite ready for primetime.

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newmedia 2 years, 2 months ago

Keep up the hard work kids. The rest will take care of itself. It's the best times of your lives!

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Robert Brown 2 years, 2 months ago

Maybe this is a new trend, but I think the high ranking for KU is also an indication there are no elite teams in college basketball this year. At the beginning of the year, I thought it was UNC, but they have underachieved. Kentucky looks real good and I haven't seen enough of Syracuse to make an assessment. All other schools have flaws including KU. With that said, going into the season, I would have been happy to make the Sweet 16 thinking it would take some time to get to the level we were the last two years. The combination of the competitive landscape of college basketball and great coaching tha t has optimized then talent on the team, makes a trip to the Final Four very achievable.

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Dee Shaw 2 years, 2 months ago

Who cares about rankings and Top 25's. All I care about is winning 6 games in a row at the end of March. That's what ALL KU fans should worry about.

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Ben Kane 2 years, 2 months ago

"rankings are effectively meaningless."

this will be my mantra of the day as every kentucky fan in the world is going to stop by my office to make sure i know that they are the new number 1.

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Andy Tweedy 2 years, 2 months ago

Somebody help me out here, on a slightly different basketball question. We have five guys committed for next year. Assuming Robinson leaves, that would free up three scholarships with Teahan and Taylor graduating. I realize the talk is that Langford will be paying Wesley's tution next year, but that would mean we have four scholarships to give. We have five players coming in next year, providing they are all eligible. Am I missing something, or is the assumption that somebody will either transfer or be shown the door?

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ParisHawk 2 years, 2 months ago

It's never a down year for high expectations from board rats!

I can see it from here: we'll have a better season than anyone had a right to expect in October, and people will complain and say it wasn't enough.

Foul trouble or an injury, any injury, to a starter and we go from a top 5-10 team to a 15-20 team at best. How many times can we expect a starter to have surgery and not miss a beat, much less a game?? The Texas game showed how this team is walking on the razor's edge: we were so lucky to be able to play our starters at the end...

I'm enjoying this terrific ride as we all are, but I'm trying to keep an even keel.

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Jeffery Barrett 2 years, 2 months ago

"......ball-hoggery,,,,,,," Really?

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

I growing quite fond of "rebuilding" years.

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Andrew Washington 2 years, 2 months ago

I really enjoy watching KU play this year.. this is turning out to be one of my favorite teams to watch! I love the tough non conference schedule and the experiences we've had in Maui and The Garden. A strong sense of team chemistry has developed since the start of the season and people around the country are starting to notice. It was mentioned that KU leads the nation in dunks with around 5 or 6 a game.. alot of people are saying that Kansas is playing great this year. I think that we've beat more ranked opponents than anyone else so far. We have a pretty rapid rise in the polls as well... this is the type of rise that I remember with some of Roy's teams here. The best part is that we are playing with passion and Taylor is starting to show his REAL potential. If EJ were to develop into a more consistent threat then we could be a threat to win the national championship! T-ROB is the leading POY candidate and Bill Self should win COY if we win the big 12 outright. Combine that with a potential national championship ( as well as a big 12) and this team could go down as very special. I just get the feeling that this is a special team..even with that close win over Texas! (Its never easy for us to win in Austin) I haven't had this feeling about one of our teams since the 02 and 03 squads as well as the 07 and 08 teams. Let's continue playing with a purpose!

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Kenny Nall 2 years, 2 months ago

Not to undersell this team because I was honestly thinking to myself earlier today that this has for the most part become another well-oiled machine under Bill Self. But that's just it though, it's a Bill Self coached team with a load of talent that naturally comes to KU. So the notion that KU is a good team that's probably getting better in the second half of the season is not very newsworthy but is nonetheless something that KU fans really should be continually proud of and grateful for.

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ParisHawk 2 years, 2 months ago

"the talent level from top to bottom is down from what we are used to with Self's teams."

Disagree with the "from top". Self has not always had two starting bigs better than TRob and Withey, and his best guard is better than last year's best guard (TT both years).

Or else you just mean "overall" in which case you're right.

With the way the top 5 have all improved, add our ineligible freshmen to the mix and you've got a typical Self team.

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manginorh00lz 2 years, 2 months ago

I don't care at all what some meaningless rankings say. Final Fours are what matter and Bill Self has 1.

KU is also a half game behind Missouri in the REAL standings, for those of you that follow proper statistical analyses.

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Jeeveshawk 2 years, 2 months ago

"Kansas University, which lost two lottery picks and four starters from last season, will appear somewhere in the top five when today’s national rankings are released."

Im not sure how likely it is we will be in the top 5. I see the ESPN rankings being:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Syracuse
  3. Missouri
  4. Ohio State
  5. Duke
  6. Kansas
  7. Baylor
  8. North Carolina
  9. Michigan State
  10. Murray State
  11. Georgetown
  12. Conneticut
  13. Florida
  14. Indiana
  15. San Diego State
  16. Mississippi State
  17. Creighton
  18. Virginia
  19. UNLV
  20. Michigan
  21. Marquette
  22. Saint Mary's
  23. Louisville
  24. Harvard
  25. Kansas State
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KU_Alumn_2000 2 years, 2 months ago

Number one in the convergence in confining the oppositions field goal percentage to .364...and number one in the conference with a +6.7 rebounding advantage.

We play dam good defense...and we rebound like pissed off wild animals. That's Bill Self basketball at its best...and that's why we win.

Keegan - you're right...we are good. It's time people stop saying that this is a down year.

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