KU most balanced team in country by wide margin in one measure; Next up: Missouri
I've come away with a common thought after watching the last three Kansas University basketball games on television.
If the Jayhawks keep shooting like this, it's going to be mighty difficult to pick against them in March.
You've all seen it. The balance is remarkable, the crispness is refreshing, the depth is so clearly evident and the coaching is magnificent. The last three KU games — against Kansas State, Texas Tech and Nebraska — have ended in the same dominating fashion each time: win 90-66, win 88-66, win 86-66.
How's that for consistency?
KU's shooting clinics and sturdy defensive performances made me wonder: Just how balanced is No. 2 Kansas on a national scale? I compiled an exercise in an attempt to find a clearer answer.
Because shooting is such a determining factor in wins and losses, I added up kenpom.com's effective field goal efficiency rankings for offense and defense for each team in the top 25 of the latest Associated Press poll.
For those wondering, effective field goal percentage differs from conventional field goal percentage by taking into account the extra value of a made three-pointer. It's the same as regular field goal percentage, except that made three-pointers are appropriately given 50 percent more credit.
The statistics I used were updated after Saturday night's games.
Kansas, for instance, is ranked No. 1 in the country in effective field goal percentage offense, and No. 7 in the country in effective field goal percentage defense. Therefore, KU's total score is 8 for this exercise. The lower the score, the better.
To my surprise, the Jayhawks were the only team in the country ranked in the top 10 of both statistical categories. And it's really not close. The next-closest team to KU's total score of 8 was Duke's 39.
Kansas: 8 (Effective offensive FG percentage 1; effective defensive FG percentage 7)
Duke: 39 (offense 12; defense 27)
Utah State: 46 (offense 35; defense 11)
Vanderbilt: 49 (offense 33; defense 16)
Louisville: 50 (offense 22; defense 28)
Kentucky: 54 (offense 48; defense 6)
Washington: 54 (offense 15; defense 39)
Georgetown: 62 (offense 3; defense 59)
San Diego State: 63 (offense 49; defense 14)
Pittsburgh: 74 (offense 29; defense 45)
Texas: 77 (offense 76; defense 1)
Syracuse: 79 (offense 47; defense 32)
Ohio State: 81 (offense 5; defense 76)
Arizona: 89 (offense 7; defense 82)
BYU: 102 (offense 64; defense 38)
Wisconsin: 102 (offense 54, defense 48)
Notre Dame: 119 (offense 46; defense 73)
Purdue: 133 (offense 66; defense 67)
Villanova: 133 (offense 108; defense 25)
Missouri: 139 (offense 51; defense 88)
North Carolina: 159 (offense 104; defense 55)
Minnesota: 165 (offense 82; defense 83)
West Virginia: 208 (offense 184; defense 24)
Texas A&M: 225 (offense 156; defense 69)
Connecticut: 234 (offense 221; defense 13)
Certainly, this doesn't tell us everything about college hoops, but as KUsports.com online editor/Ken Pom king Jesse Newell said to me on the phone recently in the simplest terms possible: "When KU is shooting, it's been going in of late. When KU's defending, it's not been going in."
The Jayhawks have been unbelievably balanced this season. They've shot and defended exceptionally well, as evidenced by the above exercise.
One thing I should point out about effective field goal percentage numbers: They don't take a team's schedule into account. That's probably why No. 3 Texas was rather undervalued in the above exercise. The Longhorns had a tougher nonconference schedule than most (Illinois, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Michigan State, Connecticut to name a few), undoubtedly lowering their offensive production a bit.
Regardless of KU's schedule — we're already halfway through Big 12 play — the Jayhawks have displayed offensive and defensive balance in shooting percentages matched by no one.
Next up for Kansas (22-1, 7-1): an 8 p.m. battle against Missouri (18-5, 4-4) on Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.
No. 14 Mizzou's identity is no secret. Wreak havoc on defense. Cause turnovers. Rotate guys regularly to keep fresh legs. Cause turnovers some more.
The Tigers lead the conference in turnover margin at +5.52 per game. They are in the top 5 nationally in steals at just about 10 per game.
KU's ball movement was darn near flawless against a similarly-pesky Nebraska squad on Saturday. The Jayhawks will have to be equally as crisp on Monday. Missouri, to no one's surprise, pressures the entire length of the court, so while MU and NU have similar defensive tendencies, it's a different dynamic. NU, to my recollection, doesn't pick up full court as much as MU. I look at Missouri as a more talented, even peskier version of Nebraska.
Missouri has some quality depth. On Saturday, Kim English and Michael Dixon Jr. came off the bench. Coach Mike Anderson elected to start brothers Phil/Matt Pressey and Marcus Denmon at the guards, with Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers at the forward spots. Very similar lineup composition to Kansas with three guards and two bigs.
It will undoubtedly help KU that the game is at Allen Fieldhouse, where MU last won 11 years ago.
Kansas has won eight of the last nine meetings overall and will be favored again on Monday night.
The way the Jayhawks are playing, they'll most likely be favored for the rest of their Big 12 Conference schedule. With the balance that KU has displayed, though, this is to be expected.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.