Record in close games bodes well for NCAA tournament for Kansas


Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) roars after hitting the final shot for a 77-75 win over Duke during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) roars after hitting the final shot for a 77-75 win over Duke during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

Earlier this week, Lunch Break looked at the average point margins in each of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self's 14 teams. This year's plus-5.1 margin in Big 12 regular-season games easily is the smallest of any Self team.

The Jayhawks are 21-3 and leading the Big 12 by a game over second-place Baylor, so the smaller margin doesn't bother Self.

“I think sometimes fans equate parity or closeness to not playing well, and that’s not been the case at all," Self said. "I think any win is a good win regardless of where you play. I think we’ve been behind at least eight points in five our wins, and behind double figures in at least four of our wins.”

Average margins are a decent predictor of NCAA tournament success, but not as accurate as performance in close games. For comparison purposes, let's define "close" as any game decided by six or fewer points, plus all overtime games.

In the six seasons Self's teams have advanced to at least the Elite Eight, his teams have gone 40-10 in close games (all games, not just Big 12 counted). In the seven seasons his teams didn't reach the Elite Eight, the record in close ones has been 37-32. This year's squad is 7-2 so far. Good sign. Not surprisingly, Self had young guards in the only three seasons he had losing records in close ones.

Here's how each of Self's teams has performed in close games and how far each team advanced in the NCAA tournament.

Year Rec.* NCAA

2003-04: 4-3 Elite Eight

2004-05: 7-3 First round

2005-06: 2-4 First round

2006-07: 9-2 Elite Eight

2007-08: 7-2 National championship

2008-09: 2-4 Sweet 16

2009-10: 6-1 Second round

2010-11: 7-0 Elite Eight

2011-12: 7-2 National runner-up

2012-13: 7-4 Sweet 16

2013-14: 4-7 Second round

2014-15: 9-5 Second round

2015-16: 6-1 Elite Eight

2016-17: 11-2 (updated through end of regular season)

*Record in games of with margins of six points or fewer.


Len Shaffer 1 year, 2 months ago

Those are some good numbers, but I'm still skeptical about how far they can advance, given their shoddy FT shooting. Unless they can improve on that, I can't see them going very far in the tournament.

Kyle Berthusen 1 year, 2 months ago

There is almost no correlation between these two things. This is a dumb article.

Matt Tait 1 year, 2 months ago

While this clearly is not a common statistic widely quoted and used to talk about tournament success, it is interesting (at least to me and I'm sure others) that the KU teams that reached the Elite Eight or beyond under Self have had such a terrific record in close games while those that fell short of that mark in March have been just barely above .500.

Maybe you already knew that. Maybe you don't care. Maybe both.

But I found it to be interesting while still understanding that a team could go 0-10 in "close games" and win the national title or go 10-0 in "close games" and lose in the first round.

I don't think Tom was trying to create a new metric for tourney success here, merely pointing out something that struck him as interesting.

Have a great weekend!

Ben Kane 1 year, 2 months ago

i think this is based on a kenpom blog about maryland's close game record. his point, if i recall, was that it depends on how you define a close game and tendency is to pick a number that illustrates your point. six points was what maryland used and the article questioned why 6 was chosen.

Matt Tait 1 year, 2 months ago

Perhaps. I'll have to ask Tom. Either way, though, I'm good with 6. That's 2 possessions and that seems like a pretty good place to draw the line when you consider that a bounce here or a call there could easily change the outcome of two possessions.

Again, I found it interesting, however you break it down or no matter how deep you dive into it.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 2 months ago

No reason to think we can have an off night in March. We don't scare anyone with our defense or home court this year. Most teams can hang with us until they hit a cold spell. Against the other title contenders we are a top five team in scoring, FG%, 3 point % and rebounding. We have a top line experienced team who can all shoot and be clutch in that role. We have Frank and JJ who are maybe POY and Freshman of the year. Great coach and good supporting cast. Last year we rolled until Perry was stifled by Nova. If matchups against the other 10 or so real title contenders fall our way we could go FF. If not we will probably top out at sweet 16. Right now, I know, Lunardi, has us in a second round game against Wichita State. I don't think there is a great team this year so our best should go a long way I would think.

John Fitzgerald 1 year, 2 months ago

Don't get me wrong, Self has done some amazing things, but if history repeats itself KU will win the Big 12 then make a dissapppinting early exit in the NCAA Tourney. We've seen this one to many times lately, and to be honest I don't see any reason it won't happen again this year.

Max Cannon 1 year, 2 months ago

Pointless article, many of these close games were only close because we have zero ability to finish games and we just blow double digit leads. I wish someone tracked how quickly a team lost a double digit lead and the time it took for the opponent to cut it to within 3 points. I bet KU is top ten in the inability to maintain a lead.

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