Blowouts not as common but experienced backcourt keeps Kansas on top
Kansas is where it almost always is in the Big 12 basketball standings, which of course, is on top. But blowouts are the exception rather than the rule this season.
KU’s depth problems, the lack of a rim protector and the absence of a go-to, low-post scorer all have played roles in other teams bringing more confidence against the Jayhawks than in typical seasons. Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending injury played a major factor in the depth and shot-blocking deficiencies and might by now have given the team more of a low-post offensive presence as well.
But nobody is going to feel sorry for Kansas losing a player to injury. The Jayhawks remain the team to beat in the Big 12.
A look at past margins in regular-season conference games — adding the points in victories and subtracting the losses — reveals, not surprisingly, that this is the least dominant of Bill Self’s 14 teams.
Kansas has a plus-5.1 margin of victory in Big 12 play. The largest margin during Self’s tenure came in 2006-07 when the Jayhawks outscored Big 12 foes by 16.9 points. KU lost to UCLA in the Elite Eight that season. The next season, when KU won the national title, was the second-largest (16.6).
Margins for Self’s KU teams in Big 12 play:
2003-04: 11.8, Elite Eight;
2004-05: 8.6, first-round loss;
2005-06: 11.8, first-round loss;
2006-07: 16.9, Elite Eight;
2007-08 16.6, national champions;
2008-09: 10.3, Sweet 16;
2009-10: 11.8, second-round loss;
2010-11: 12.1, Elite Eight;
2011-12: 11.3, lost in national-title game;
2012-13: 10.9, Sweet 16;
2013-14: 9.3, second-round loss;
2014-15: 7.7, second-round loss;
2015-16: 9.7, Elite Eight;
Self's six teams that made it to the Elite Eight and beyond averaged a 13.1 margin in the Big 12 regular season and the seven teams bounced earlier than that won by an average 10.1 points.
The declining margins in recent seasons also might indicate that the Big 12 is a tougher basketball conference with 10 teams than it was with 12.
Generally, Self’s teams that averaged double-digit margins performed better in the NCAA tournament, but experienced backcourts also tend to be important factors in the tournament for all schools and Kansas has that. This team isn’t deep enough or balanced enough to score many blowouts, but it knows how to perform late in close games, thanks largely to the poised, experienced backcourt.