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Blowouts not as common but experienced backcourt keeps Kansas on top

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Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) watch a free throw during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) watch a free throw during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

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;

2016-17: 5.1.

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.

Comments

Phil Leister 7 months, 1 week ago

Tom, how does this year's free throw shooting percentage compare to past years? I feel like we're towards the very bottom nationally. I can't help but think that's a huge reason why our margin of victory is only 5.1. Up our percentage slightly, and we add 5 points per game?

Brett McCabe 7 months, 1 week ago

It's a good point and it probably has an impact. One stat I'd like to see is - how many makes on the front end of a one-and-one? This can create a point differential, and can have a huge momentum swing.

All of the reasons Tom cites probably have an impact, too. Bottom line, this year's team will have to execute at a higher level to advance in March.

Josh still has opportunity to expand. If Carlton gets serious about basketball, he still holds the key to a dramatic upswing in performance. A late surge from him would truly change the outlook for the team.

Len Shaffer 7 months, 1 week ago

You said it, Brett. Other than the obvious factor of keeping everyone healthy, the two biggest factors that will determine how far this year's team goes are FT shooting (and especially whether Josh can improve at the line) and whether Carlton can start playing closer to his potential.

Tom Keegan 7 months, 1 week ago

Good topic for a future blog. Thanks.

Zach Mitts 7 months, 1 week ago

It's so amazing to look back at how dominant that 2008 team was, including the year before (when Julian Wright was still around).

Len Shaffer 7 months, 1 week ago

Yep. Thank God they won the title, because that '08 team simply HAD to win.

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