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Double-take: Kansas basketball stats that stood out

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The Jayhawks come together in a huddle with little time remaining during the second half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The Jayhawks come together in a huddle with little time remaining during the second half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. by Nick Krug

Watching the Kansas basketball team throughout the regular season, some things are obvious to all observers.

Frank Mason III clearly proved himself as the Big 12 player of the year. Josh Jackson can do things that most 6-foot-8 freshmen can’t when it comes to passing and scoring.

But looking at the stat sheet heading into the postseason — KU will play in the Big 12 Tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday against TCU or Oklahoma — there were still a few things that caught my eye.

Not all of them were stunning surprises, but it took me a few moments to register these seven stats below:

Josh Jackson has five fewer defensive rebounds than Landen Lucas

Playing the four-man in the four-guard lineup, Jackson has stepped up on the glass when his team has needed him the most. He’s snagged 151 defensive rebounds this season, which is only five boards fewer than Lucas’ 156.

Jackson, a likely top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, does so many things well that it’s easy to overlook his contributions on the glass. He’s averaging 7.2 rebounds per game this season. Jackson does a good job on the offensive boards, scoring plenty on put-backs, but he's just as valuable on the defensive end.

The Jayhawks made 70.8 percent of free throws in Big 12 play, which was slightly better than last year

After shooting 58.9 percent from the free-throw line during the non-conference portion of the season, the Jayhawks put up respectable numbers against Big 12 teams. It was a slight improvement from last season (70.5 percent), though it ranked eighth among conference teams during Big 12 play.

Meeting with the media Monday, Mason mentioned shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line is a goal for the postseason. In conference play, Mason, Graham, Mykhailiuk and Vick all shot 78 percent-or-better from the charity stripe.

Lagerald Vick has a higher 3-point percentage than Devonte’ Graham

Of course it’s a much smaller sample size, but Vick (.390) is ever-so-slightly ahead of Graham (.387). When players are asked who the best the top 3-point shooters are on the team, usually the conversation starts with Graham or Svi Mykhailiuk (.396).

The sophomore sixth-man Vick is shooting 30 of 77 from the 3-point line, which is one more made three in the same amount attempts than Jackson. Vick, a former SMU commit, was actually a 47 percent shooter from deep in his freshman season (8 of 17).

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) comes in to slap hands  with Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) after an Oklahoma State foul during the second half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) comes in to slap hands with Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) after an Oklahoma State foul during the second half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. by Nick Krug

Josh Jackson has improved every month in nearly every category

Tom Keegan highlighted these stats in a recent column, but it’s worth repeating. Since the start of the season, Jackson has increased his stats in nearly every major category each month.

His points per game through the first four months of the season: 14.1/15.3/17.3/17.8. Rebounding: 5.7/6.7/7.6/8.2. Usually freshmen hit a wall at some point, but Jackson has only elevated his play heading into the postseason.

Devonte’ Graham committed fewer fouls than Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg

Graham averages 35 minutes per game and does his best to avoid foul trouble. But it’s impressive how much he avoids being whistled. He’s committed 47 fouls this season, which is fewer than reserves Vick (51) and Carlton Bragg Jr. (67).

More than just avoiding fouls, Graham doesn’t hide on defense. “I think Devonte has elevated his game in a lot of ways,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday. “We just haven't seen it through points as much. I think he's playing well, the best ball he's played all year right now, in large part because I think he's playing both ends better.”

KU's leading shot blockers in Big 12 play (in order): Landen Lucas, Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg and ... Mitch Lightfoot

It's not shocking that the 6-8 Lightfoot would be one of the team's top shot blockers. But when you consider he's only played 39 minutes during conference play, it stands out a little bit. Lighfoot has blocked six shots in 39 minutes, averaging a block every 6.5 minutes on the floor.

Lightfoot likely won't become the rim protector that Udoka Azubuike (18 blocks in 142 minutes) was or other previous KU big men, but he's not afraid to challenge shots. "He needs to have a big summer, and certainly his minutes will steadily improve," Self said Monday. "But I said all long we recruited Mitch not for his first year, but as a program guy that two years from now everybody will say, Man, aren't you glad you got Mitch Lightfoot?"

The Jayhawks posted an 8-1 record on the road during Big 12 play

Obviously if a team has a 28-3 record, it’s winning road games. But it’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment in a strong year for the Big 12 conference and the stretch of games that were included for the Jayhawks in the middle of the season. Of the eight wins, four were by four points or less.

For comparison, no other team in the Big 12 — which will likely send at least five teams to the NCAA Tournament — posted a conference road record better than 5-4 (West Virginia, Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State).

Comments

Len Shaffer 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks Bobby, interesting stuff. A few things stand out:

The way Josh has improved is fantastic and bodes very well for the tournament. I don't recall any of our OAD's playing particularly well in the Madness, but I think in Josh's case it will be different.

The improvement in the FT shooting has been a huge relief, and if Josh can at least get over 60%, I'm sure that would ease a lot of Jayhawk fans' anxiety. But I wonder how often any team has ever gone from under 60% in the non-conference portion of a season to over 70% in the conference season. I would think that's EXTREMELY unusual.

And two factors really stand out as the difference in KU being able to keep its streak of conference titles alive: the wins in numerous extremely tough environments on the road, and the wins in close games. Both of those details make me feel much more confident going into the tournament than I did even a month ago.

Dirk Medema 7 months, 2 weeks ago

The '08 team improves 10% each segment of the season. I think it was 60% to 70% (conf) to 80% in March to 13 of 14 or something like that in the NC game.

Eliott Reeder 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Another cool stat: in an SI article I read this morning about best NCAA glue guys they said Landen Lucas has the top 2pt FG% in the Big 12!!! I love Landen, but I know I can't be the only one who feels like he misses a lot of bunnies. I guess he misses fewer than we think... his play is the key to the whole championship puzzle.

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