Record in close games bodes well for NCAA tournament for Kansas
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.